TASC Exclusive! – Up Close and Personal with Arrows Captain Dan Moor
Smart, talented, and funny, too!
By Karen Gasbarino
The Toronto Arrows will emerge from their Bye week with two matches left to go in the regular season, and a hope that they will be looking at a playoff spot. Currently they sit 5th on the table just outside of contention, but there are only three points separating teams second to fifth, so it is entirely possible that Arrows can find themselves in the MLR Playoffs in their inaugural season. That said, the next two games are of UTMOST importance, a fact not lost on Captain Dan Moor or the rest of the squad.
But…..our Toronto team has achieved the near-impossible: 3 wins in 8 days, and taking 26 points out of the 30 available since they came home for their 8 straight on April 7. They have it in them to get the job done, they just have to dig deep.
The Toronto Arrows Supporters Club has been so fortunate to enjoy chatting with the players after the matches at the after-parties. We have heard firsthand how pleased each of the players is with their contributions to the squad and their performance as a team. But we thought it would be good to sit down with Captain Dan Moor and have a conversation about the season so far, the final two matches, the bye week, and the potential for a post-season.
Oh, and what he and the players feel about their 16th man.
You come from club rugby in Ontario….how old were you when you started playing?
I had my first introduction to playing rugby when I was 12 years old in junior high but my first taste of club rugby was with the Beach a couple years later. At the Beach, I was really lucky to experience great coaching from the volunteers at the club that helped me develop a lot as a player and fall in love with the sport. I am so thankful for all the Balmy Beach RFC coaches and teammates that taught me a game that has added so many experiences and adventures to my life.
What are your fondest memories from your younger playing days?
My fondest early memories are playing with the Beach in age-grade rugby and just enjoying the competition, the road-trips, and the friends I made. For example, I met Liam Underwood (Canada 15s/7s) through the Beach and he remains one my closest friends to this day.
I also have many fond memories from playing at Queen’s. At a campus university like Queen’s, you have a unique situation where all the players on the team live within a couple blocks of one another, are at a similar stage of life, and have the capacity to really throw themselves into their athletic pursuits with a bit of discipline. These elements make for incredibly close bonds between teammates when you’re training, living, eating, studying, and (admittedly) partying together.
“I think the time together and the physical sacrifice for each other that is required in a game like rugby leads to uniquely strong friendships and connections that I haven’t really experienced in any other realm of life. “
At Queen’s RFC there was also a special culture and attitude that bred success with championships on the field but also demanded you act with character and perform [well] academically. The Head Coach during my time there, Pete Huigenbos, not only taught us to how to be better rugby players, but better men. It was an experience that helped me grow a lot as a young man.
Funnily enough, I think the culture we have with the Arrows most mimics what I experienced at Queen’s and is a big part of some of the success we are having. It is a group of humble, hard-working guys that are appreciative of the opportunity to play rugby professionally in Canada. As a result, you see a team that is willing to put their bodies on the line and play for much more than a paycheck, which is not the case in all pro environments I have experienced. Although we are professional, I think the fact that we still possess some of the “amateur values” is a real asset for us.
How was your time playing professional rugby for Yorkshire Carnegie in the English Championship? How do the supporters there compare to the Arrows supporters?
I really appreciated the opportunity I got with Yorkshire Carnegie. The English Championship is a quality competition and I felt I developed a lot as a player there. However, the draw to come home to the Arrows, in my hometown, was something I couldn’t pass up. Yorkshire is a club with longstanding tradition and fans, but I don’t think it touches what we have experienced as a team this year. Despite our team only officially coming into existence in November, we have felt and seen incredible support. It was a big ask to get people behind a team that previously was not in existence but the support has been incredible. Even with the epic road-trip to start the year, as players we could feel the excitement building at home and then to come back and play in front of our fans has been a surreal experience. I think even more enjoyable beyond the support has been the opportunity to chat with supporters pitch-side after a game or at the post-match function. I’ve enjoyed meeting some interesting and amazing people in the Toronto rugby community that I hadn’t met previously.
How does it feel playing for your home town?
For me, it’s a dream come true. Something that I wasn’t sure would come to life in my playing career. So, it is an opportunity that I truly appreciate and am so grateful for. In equal measure, it is an opportunity I don’t take lightly and want to make sure I am doing everything I possibly can to help the team win a championship.
Aside from on-field leadership, what are the team captain’s responsibilities?
I think a captain wears many different hats. However, at the core, it’s about helping drive a team of players with diverse backgrounds, personal aspirations, lifecycle stages and personalities toward a common goal. You are never working in isolation and have to liase with both the coaching staff and the player leadership group to get a feel for how to best prepare the team for the next game. But in the Arrows case, we have such great leaders and personalities already within our team that it makes it quite easy. I just try to show up everyday and lead by example with positivity, being prepared, and a hunger to work.
Have your first 6 home matches exceeded your expectations?
“Yes!!! The support has been phenomenal up to this point and I think is a big reason why we have been able to close out some vital wins in the last 20 minutes.”
In particular, the San Diego Legion game and Utah Warriors games come to mind, where the home crowd energy really carried us across the finish line. I am hoping we can continue to build the fan momentum down at Lamport to help us get two great performances to finish the season and put us in the playoffs.
What are your impressions on winning the 3 matches in 8 days?
Firstly, massively proud of our squad for showing the mental and physical toughness to get the job done in all three matches. Having to play three professional rugby games in 8 days is no easy feat and to get the results we really needed to be playoff competitive is massive for us. It was a great week to continue to build belief and confidence as we head into two crucial home fixtures to end the regular season.
Secondly, I think it’s a testament to the depth that we have in the squad. A few younger and less experienced players came into the lineup and had really strong performances – both Mitch Richardson and Pat Lynott come to mind. It is going to take our whole depth chart and squad to win a championship, so it was really important to give those guys opportunities as we will need them over the coming weeks.
How did you think Sam Malcolm did as Captain for the May 12 match? Did you have advice for the young man? (Supporters certainly hope NZ doesn’t come calling for him anytime soon, we selfishly want to hold onto him longer!!)
Sam is a very capable fella and did a terrific job leading us out on the day!
Sam is such a talent for us but I think even greater than his tactical awareness or technical ability is the attitude he plays with every time he pulls on the jersey. He is not the biggest guy on the pitch, but the heart of a lion beats inside his chest. He is fearless in defence and is always making the unsung effort plays that cumulatively enable us to win games.
He never gets enough credit for how he helps our team, so I was pumped for him to get a chance to captain. He did what he does best and led us by example to a result.
Can you tell us what the boys have planned for the Bye week (which awesomely falls on May 2-4 weekend, which is a pretty special weekend for the team to be “buds”)?
One of the boys’ family was incredibly generous to invite us up to Pointe Au Baril for a bit of cottage country R&R over the long weekend. I think it speaks to the culture and closeness of our team that 16 of our guys wanted to spend even more time together during a rare break in the season grind. The rose of the weekend was Leandro Leivas and Gaston Mieres treating the group to some traditional Uruguayan barbeque lakeside. The thorn of the weekend was most definitely Spencer Jones’s weak chat – snooze fest.
What is the plan for the final two matches in the regular season May 26/June 2?
We know these will be massive games with significant playoff implications, so we will have to be at our best as a team. However, the best way to prepare is to take one game at a time and focus on the ‘controllables’. I’m a big believer that preparation is the single most important driver to outcomes, so ensuring the boys do all the proper work during the week – whether that be medical treatment, mental prep, film review/study, nutrition, recovery and sleep – so we can be at our best on the weekend.
What are the hopes for a post-season and what would that look like?
Our goal is to win an MLR Championship. Period. It would be amazing to host a semi-final but I think we have the confidence and ability to go on the road to any team in the league and get a result with the right performance. The key thing is that over the last 5 games we have put ourselves in a position to control our own destiny and get into the playoffs by winning out. We have a pair of huge challenges ahead of us, so we will need to be switched on and ready to play some of our best rugby of the season before turning our attention to the post-season.
How much does it mean to you as Captain to have an Arrows Supporters group always in the same place at the matches and post matches? What does it mean to the rest of the team?
For me personally, its been a great experience to build relationships with the various members of the TASC and get to know them on an individual level. I think rugby is such an incredible game for the community that it builds – I truly think it is like no other sport in how rugby people connect with one another almost simultaneously and how accepting it is of diversity of people and personalities. For that reason, it has been so great to see the Arrows building a core group of fans that are as passionate about the game as we are and setting the foundation for an inclusive Arrows fan community for years to come!
Not to mention the additional conversationalist options at the post-match function, you can only listen to some of the boys poor attempts at banter so many times…
Looking ahead, what are the Arrows’ plans for community outreach?
I think as club rugby season across Ontario is beginning to ramp up, we are planning to have a bigger presence at the various junior club programs across the province. It is so important for us as players to provide some visibility of squad members to the next generation of fans and players. Hopefully being able to inspire them to participate in a game that teaches valuable lessons and skills that translates to many facets of life.
Thank you for the brilliant ambassadorship you all are so excellent at. Is this expected of you or is it just genuinely the personalities of the great group of guys that makes up the Arrows squad?
I honestly believe that we have a uniquely strong locker room – full of genuinely good guys and strong characters. I think all the players have an interest in meeting and thanking our fans, and giving back to the Ontario club community when possible. Also, we realize as players that we need to work hard to try and win over non-rugby fans and the Toronto rugby community alike to ensure that the franchise itself is financially sustainable. For that reason, we need to work hard to get out, grow the game and spread our own Arrows brand.
Are there any plans for your dedicated supporters to formally thank you post-season for being such a great team?
Haha I think surely the thank you has to be the other way around! I am not sure what the plans are, but I know Bill Webb is likely hatching a way for us to say thank you to our fans for the tremendous support in our inaugural season. The best way to say thank you would be with a trophy in hand, so that is our goal!
What is your next focus? Will you train with Rugby Canada – is the hope a place in the national squad for World Cup in Japan this Fall? You’ll likely have teammates along with you.
For me personally, my dream is to make the Canada Team for the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan. It is the pinnacle of our sport and has been a personal Everest I have been working toward for the better part of 10+ years. Even better would be to experience it with my Arrows teammates as I believe our guys are making a strong case for their selection. However, the immediate focus is on the challenge we have with the Arrows and hopefully good performances will put our guys in strong positions to make the team.
Finally, it has to be asked….. What are your thoughts about Arrows season two looking ahead? Sticking with us awhile, Cap’n Dan?
I think the most exciting part of Season 1 is still yet to come! But I have no doubt, Season 2 will be that much bigger as the league and our own organization continues to grow and improve upon itself.
Of course, it is something I hope to be a part of!
The final two matches of the Toronto Arrows regular season are at Lamport Stadium in Toronto’s Liberty Village. 2:00 this Sunday versus the Glendale Raptors, and next Sunday June 2 at 1:00 pm against Rugby United New York. Both are having very successful 2019 seasons, and it’s looking like Arrows are setting up to have a great rivalry with our fellow debutant team from the east, RUNY. We also have unfinished business with them.
Toronto Arrows Supporters Club proudly sits behind the Arrows bench on matchday. We would be delighted for you to join us there and at the post-match celebration where we enjoy chatting with each other and the Arrows squad. Please join us!