The Dallas Jackals have announced the team’s 2023 season draft picks, including two players with local ties. The Jackals finished the inaugural season with a dismal 0-16 record, which gave Dallas the first overall pick in the draft, a spot the team used to select Sam Golla.
Golla is a native of Arlington, Texas, and returns home to begin his professional rugby career after a successful collegiate career at the University of California, Berkley. Golla was a Top 3 Finalist for the Rudy Scholtz Award given to the best college rugby player in the nation. He was also selected to the All Pac-12 1st team all four years and helped lead his team to a 27-1 record in his senior year.
“Any time you get the number one pick overall in any sport, it’s an opportunity to really make a statement and draft a player who will not only be an impact on the pitch but off of it as well,” said Jackals’ president Steve Violetta in an interview with The Dallas Express. “Sam seems like the type of player that can have an immediate impact both on and off the field.”
The Dallas Jackals also selected Jason Tidwell, a North Texas native that began playing rugby at age 10. Tidwell attends Texas A&M where he is the rugby team captain. Tidwell’s family is so excited that he has been drafted by the Jackals that they have already reached out about buying season tickets, Violetta said.
The Jackals made seven selections in the draft overall. Joining Golla and Tidwell are Ethan Hagar, one of eight Canadian players selected in this year’s draft, Matias Caramuti, who comes from Argentina, and Mazvita Nyamrebvu from Zimbabwe. The Jackals also selected Americans Kyle Fuller and Nolan Buckley.
“Whether we are talking about Sam [Golla], or Kyle [Fuller], or Ethan [Hagar], we are talking about players that have a lot of experience in college programs,” said general manager Santiago “Santi” Sodini in an interview with The Dallas Express.
“We are thinking about maybe some of them start a few games, some will be on the bench, and who will be playing two years from now. We are seeing they have a lot of resources, and they can be useful at the MLR level already.”
Sodini said the team was not looking to fill any holes or address specific positions through the draft but rather looking for players who can help the program grow in the years to come. Sodini said the ability to draft several local players is part of a long-term strategy to develop talent.
“Our plan is to create an academy, so we are going to be working with local rugby teams and the universities as well,” Sodini said. “I think we have a great opportunity to develop local talent. College rugby is growing a lot. Our plan is to help them get better and to get more players into the college programs.”
Violetta added that having the ability to pick up two players with local ties may help continue to grow the Jackals’ fanbase.
“When you get a number one pick like Sam who was born in Arlington or Jason who went to Texas A&M and has local ties, there is a story to be told there,” Violetta said.
“It always helps from a business and marketing point, when you can tell that story, and the local fans can relate a little bit. There is always a great story to tell there if you are lucky enough to get a player who has those local ties.”
The young new draft class adds to the depth of talent the Jackals developed last season. Sodini said that the team’s youth will be a benefit going forward as the players will be more energetic and likely will suffer fewer injuries than some other teams.
In the coming days, the Jackals are expected to announce a new head coach as the team continues to rebuild after the first season’s difficulties. With the Major League Rugby season beginning in February, the team still has several months to put together coaches and players who can help the team earn its first franchise win.
Violetta invited fans to check out the Dallas Jackals website for details about players and information on tickets and games when the 2023 season begins.