Tampa Mayhem moves into their fourth year in 2017 and launched their pre-season training on the 20th May with a special guest addition to the coaching staff. Former World Cup winner and Super League Grand Final winner Lance Hohaia was on hand to help the club start 2017 with a bang. The Mayhem went in to pre-season later than rival clubs, with the focus on being fresh come the year end. One of the Mayhem’s owners Chris Dickenson commented “A lot of our boys had a successful Rugby Union season that went on longer than most clubs. We felt it was important that those players receive adequate rest ahead of what can be a gruelling Rugby League season. We’ve experienced first-hand in recent years that the USARL South competition is all about how you finish and not how you start so our primary focus is to build and improve as the season goes on”.
Hohaia’s methods in training have been conditioning, wrestling in the tackle and attacking and defensive structures. Conditioning was aimed at testing speed endurance. This consisted of repetitive 100m sprints on the minute and 50m shuttles (out and back). “Needless to say in 95 degree heat it is tough going but the guys have been great and no one gave up,” said Hohaia. “In the wrestle, I focused on impact site with the shoulder and two take down moves which will give the tackler control of the ball carrier. If the attacker can be controlled on the ground this gives the defensive line time. We finished with some one on one wrestle conditioning. The aim was to wrestle their partner until one of them was on their back.”
On having Hohaia coaching the side returning former captain David Ulch said “it was a privilege and an honor to have Lance come to our training camp. He was able to teach and educate us on techniques, drills, and conditioning that will help us improve now and throughout the season. Ultimately, the goal is to make it to the championship and bring a national championship to Tampa.”
The Mayhem opened their season, as all USARL South sides did at the Southern 9’s on Saturday 27th May with the Mayhem finishing fourth on the day, albeit only a week after beginning pre-season. Owner Billy Neilson commented “Lots of positives to take away (from Saturday). Kevin (Curtis, import player side-lined with injury) and I were very pleased with how the guys played. We were actually pleasantly surprised. With a lot of guys not being available due to holiday weekend work commitments we went up with a short side, but they played their excellently. Ulch looked great at hooker, we got Joel a lot of minutes at half, and we had two brand new players get good minutes as well. We went against the full strength sides from all the clubs and held the lead in every game, but just couldn’t close it out. The boys had a lot of fun and walked away real positive about the day. I think their enthusiasm will be infectious through the rest of the guys.”
The Mayhem’s first game of the season is against local rivals Central Florida Warriors (June 3rd; 5pm k/o) before facing Atlanta Rhinos at home on June 10th (5.30pm k/o). Mayhem Utility forward and 2016 North V South representative Justin Branca was asked after the first week of pre-season about the upcoming year. The military veteran had this to say about the upcoming season “I’m really looking forward to just getting back on the field. I love Rugby League and getting to play with my brothers every Saturday is a blessing. I hope one day to pull on a USA jersey even if it’s just the one cap. It would mean everything to me; being able to tell my family and future kids one day that I was fortunate to represent my country in the army and on the pitch would be an incredible achievement”. Judging by Justin’s performances in his first full season of Rugby League in 2016, we wouldn’t bet against it.
Another Mayhem player hoping to achieve huge things this year is Center Jon St John. Jon hopes to be a part of the USA World Cup squad in 2017 that will tour Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea. Jon already has USA caps to his name but will have to impress the selection panel with a huge 2017 for the Mayhem if he hopes to be named in the squad. The Mayhem’s leading try scorer in both 2015 and 2016, Jon started his Rugby League career with Rhode Island Rebellion before relocating to Tampa prior to the 2015 season. In 2016 Jon scored the winning try for the USA against Canada and commented about the upcoming season “Going into our 4th season, the boys are at a point where they have a strong grasp of Rugby League. I am excited to see what we will do.”
Off the field the Mayhem continue to grow with increased season ticket sales, vastly increased merchandise sales and an online presence that is spreading across the Rugby League world. Chris Dickenson said “It was important this year that we increased awareness in three key areas: Local following, Sponsorship and Player base and we appear to have had success in all three. Ultimately on the field is the sport but you must have an established and successful business otherwise the rest won’t follow. 2017 is all about Stability for us and we must thank our new sponsors Orthopaedic Medical Group of Tampa Bay, Greaves Construction and Mad Graphics for coming on board along with our established sponsors The Patio, Titan Spine and Sports Medicine and TSA for re-joining us for another season.”
The Mayhem roster has been improved in the off season with the addition of imports Brogan Jackson and Kevin Curtis from New Zealand and latest arrival Matthew Cook from Australia. The Mayhem’s new Half back Brogan was keen to pass on his thoughts about the opening weeks “My first interaction with the Mayhem was an awesome experience. Starting off with a pre-season camp coached by Lance Hohaia; the boys and myself included took a lot of knowledge from this and is only going to benefit us for the season. We have just finished playing in the first ever 9s tournament and even know the results didn’t go our way, with a draw and few narrow losses we have a good platform to build on for the rest of the season”.
We wish the Tampa Mayhem every success for the forthcoming season both on and off the field.