Wilson talks serving as captain ahead of Atlanta game
HERRIMAN, Utah — As Bailey Wilson approaches his 50th cap in Major League Rugby play he reflects on his remarkable three year stint as an unlikely team captain for the Utah Warriors.
The 6-foot-3 flanker from Australia was approached with the prospect of becoming a team captain just prior to the 2021 season when he was merely 21 years old. And as could well be imagined, taking on that responsibility was initially difficult.
“At first I was a little bit shocked, to be honest,” Wilson said. “It took a little bit of time to think about it. It wasn’t an easy decision, obviously…It’s not always easy for the senior guys to take orders, but in the end I came around to the decision and it was the right one.”
It didn’t take long for Wilson to rise above the age differential and present the aspects required to be a true team leader and effective captain.
Wilson isn’t perhaps the most verbose member of the Warriors team, but he presents strong leadership qualities that first-year Warriors coach Greg Cooper recognized, making the decision to keep Wilson a team captain an easy one.
“Talk is valuable, but the actions are what’s really important,” Cooper said. “You really want to get out there and lead by example, and (Bailey) does just that, so that’s the most important thing.”
For Wilson, leading the team at a relatively young age has been all about providing a good example, mixed with other aspects.
“It’s just doing my job first and helping the boys do their job,” Wilson said. “There’s nothing really too special about it. It’s just making sure guys are doing their job and I have to do my job first before I can ask them to do it. It’s a little bit of talk, but actions speak louder than words.”
Indeed Wilson has provided a special influence with his teammates and whatever success the Warriors have built over the last three seasons, which made his sudden absence from last week’s 34-28 win over Houston SaberCats so concerning, initially.
Wilson came down with a virus, along with teammate Thomas Tu’avao, just prior to the match, forcing both to be pulled from the lineup in what was a crucial game.
“It was really tough not being able to play in that one, but I had confidence in the boys and we got it done, fortunately,” Wilson said.
Willson has recovered and should be a full go this week as the Warriors turn to take on Rugby ATL at home. As preparations have unfolded this week, there’s a new feeling amongst the team as they’ve finally procured third place in the Western Conference standings, which includes a spot in the postseason should they hang onto it.
“I think there’s been a slight change of mentality this week because we’re now third after a good win against Houston,” Cooper said. “You can almost feel that now — the excitement, the energy that now, if we win, that destiny is in our hands when it wasn’t like that previously.”
As for Rugby ATL (5-6-1), they’re right on the cusp of a playoff berth in the Eastern Conference, and currently sit just five points away from third-place New York. Given that prospect, players and coaches understand they’ll receive a stiff challenge come Saturday.
“Defensively they bring a lot of line speed and try to suffocate you and force you into making the wrong decisions,” Wilson observed. “We just have to know that it’s coming and have a little variation in our attack. And then defensively we have to just keep doing what we’ve done all year and keep shutting teams down.”
As for Utah (8-4), it has hold on third place, sure, but due to being tied with Houston in points with 38, it leaves little to no margin of error for the final five games of the regular season. Sure, the team has left some valuable bonus points on the field in too many games played this season, but that can’t be even a thought for them as they approach the final stretch, focusing instead on the positives.
“There’s a lot of ands, ifs and buts, but the reality is that we’re in third place right now,” Cooper said. “So we’ll leave everything behind us now.”
UTAH WARRIORS VS. RUGBY ATL
DATE: SATURDAY, MAY 27
TIME: 7:30 PM MT
WHERE: ZIONS BANK STADIUM
BROADCAST: KMYU, TRN, 92.1 KOOL FM, ESPN960, ESPN700, KSLSPORTS.COM
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