2024 Player Highlights: The best of rounds 1 – 4

by | Mar 30, 2024 | Blog, Featured News, News | 0 comments

Player Highlights: The best of rounds 1 – 4

As Round 5 of the 2024 MLR season heralds the Free Jacks’ first bye weekend of the year, fans may find themselves yearning for the thrill of watching their favorite team in action. However, amidst the temporary hiatus from on-field battles, the team welcomes a valuable opportunity for rest and reflection. With four games already etched into the season’s narrative, let’s delve into the standout players that have illuminated the Free Jacks’ journey thus far.

danyon morgan-puterangi

The Breakaway Threat

In the realm of rugby, fresh talent often emerges to captivate audiences and invigorate teams, and Danyon Morgan-Puterangi is no exception. Joining the ranks of the Free Jacks in 2024, his debut against Anthem R.C. in Charlotte on March 3rd marked the beginning of a promising journey.

From the outset, Morgan-Puterangi showcased remarkable speed and a keen eye for exploiting defensive gaps. In his first three games with the Free Jacks, his presence on the field injected a new dynamic into the team’s play, leaving opponents scrambling to contain his threat.

Despite only featuring in 56% of available playing time this season, Morgan-Puterangi has already left an indelible mark on the league. Leading the pack in clean breaks, his ability to carve through opposition defenses has been nothing short of electrifying. Moreover, with an impressive 275 meters gained, Morgan-Puterangi finds himself among the league’s top ten in this category—a testament to his impact even with limited playing opportunities

Morgan-Puterangi’s statistics speak volumes about his potential and the value he brings to the Free Jacks. As he continues to acclimate to the rigors of professional rugby and further integrates into the team’s structure, the sky’s the limit for this rising star.

Stats and Data Provided by Major League Rugby

  • 275 Ball Carry Meters Gained Morgan-Puterangi’s explosive pace and agility consistently trouble opposition defenses, earning him 8th place in the league.
  • 5 Clean Breaks: Leading the league in this category, Morgan-Puterangi’s ability to slice through defensive lines creates numerous scoring chances for the Free Jacks.

Ben LeSage

Work Rate Machine and Clinical Finisher

Certain players become synonymous with grit, determination, and a willingness to sacrifice for the team. Ben LeSage embodies these qualities. A vital member of the 2023 Championship-winning team, LeSage returned this season with the same unyielding spirit and ferocious playing style that has endeared him to fans and teammates alike.

Renowned for his bone-crunching tackles, defensive leadership and fearless approach to the game, LeSage’s presence on the field is a source of inspiration for the Free Jacks. With each match, he exemplifies the ethos of rugby, leaving everything on the field in pursuit of victory.

This season, LeSage’s impact has been felt on both ends of the field. With four tries to his name in as many games, he stands as the second-highest try scorer in the league. Only overshadowed by teammate Reece MacDonald. LeSage’s ability to run superb lines and punch holes in opposition defenses has been instrumental in the Free Jacks’ success so far. 

In a sport that demands physicality, courage, and unwavering commitment, Ben LeSage stands as a shining example of what it means to be a true rugby warrior.

Stats and Data Provided by Major League Rugby

  • 4 Tries Scored: Lesage’s line running and nose for the try-line places him second in the league, showcasing his ability to finish scoring opportunities. 
  • 48.61 Average Meters Gained through in-play kick per game: His strategic kicking game provides valuable territory gains, giving the Free Jacks an edge in field position battles.

Reece MacDonald

Breaking and making it

Hailing from New Zealand, Reece MacDonald captured the hearts of fans during his inaugural season with the Free Jacks in 2023. MacDonald is a force to be reckoned with on the field, combining aerial prowess, bravery and blistering speed to devastating effect.

In his debut season, MacDonald elevated the standards of excellence in the 15 jersey, leaving an indelible mark on the team’s performance. Now, in the current season, his impact remains as potent as ever. Leading the league as the top try scorer and topping the charts in meters carried, MacDonald thrives off half-opportunities and broken play.

As MacDonald continues to dazzle on the field, fans can’t help but marvel at his ability to consistently deliver standout performances. With each match, he reinforces his status as a game-changer, inspiring fans and striking fear into the hearts of opponents.

Stats and Data Provided by Major League Rugby

  • 5 Tries Scored: Leading the league with his try-scoring prowess, Macdonald is a constant threat in the opposition’s 22.
  • 1.25 Average Scored Per Game: With an average of 1.25 tries per game, Macdonald’s impact is felt consistently throughout the season.
  • 497 Ball Carry Meters Gained: Topping the league in meters gained, Macdonald’s powerful runs often leave defenders trailing in his wake.

Jayson Potroz

The point scoring playmaker

When Jayson Potroz joined the squad in 2023, his arrival signaled a new era for the New England Free Jacks. Instantly making a significant impact, Potroz’s influence was felt across the team. By the end of his inaugural season, he not only helped secure the MLR Championship but also claimed the title of ‘MLR’s top point scorer’ and ‘League MVP’. Now, with just four games into the current season, Potroz finds himself once again among the top three highest-scoring players league-wide.

Potroz’s journey with the Free Jacks illustrates the essence of a true game-changer and experienced game manager. With each match, he continues to showcase his ability to read the game, exploit opportunities, and deliver under pressure.

With his sights set on further glory, Potroz remains a key figure in the team’s pursuit of excellence, proving that old habits indeed die hard for this standout player.

Stats and Data Provided by Major League Rugby

  • 40 Points Scored: Potroz’s accuracy with the boot and ability to exploit gaps in defense make him a formidable threat to the scoreboard.
  • 241 Meters Carried: As the first flyhalf in the league for meters carried, Potroz consistently breaks through opposition lines, setting the stage for attacking opportunities.
  • 9 Conversions Made: His precision kicking places him second in the league, ensuring the Free Jacks capitalize on scoring opportunities.

Wayne van der Bank

An Attacking Allstar and Defensive Dynamo

Originating from Pretoria, South Africa, Wayne Van der Bank brings the classic South African winning ways to the Free Jacks, and his impact on the field is undeniable.

Known for his relentless ability to break through defensive lines, Van der Bank has established himself as a linchpin of the Free Jacks’ attacking strategy. This season, his commitment and reliability remain unwavering, evidenced in his 100% playing time utilization. Leading the league in defenders beaten and tackle breaks, Van der Bank consistently puts opposition defenses on the back foot, creating opportunities for his team to flourish.

Van der Bank’s contributions extend beyond his attacking prowess. His relentless work ethic is exemplified by his top-three position in average tackles made per game, demonstrating his commitment to making an impact on both ends of the field.

As the Free Jacks look to conquer new challenges in the 2024 season, Van der Bank’s presence provides a steady foundation upon which success can be built.

Stats and Data Provided by Major League Rugby

  • 30 Defenders Beaten: van der Bank’s elusiveness and agility make him a nightmare for defenders, topping the league in this category.
  • 25 Tackler Entry Breaks: His ability to disrupt opposition play is unparalleled, setting the tone for the Free Jacks’ defensive efforts.
  • 63 Tackles Made: Combining defensive prowess with an unwavering work rate, van der Bank’s contributions extend far beyond attacking play.

Wian Conradie

The Defensive Enforcer

A cornerstone of the Free Jacks’ lineup since 2021, Wian Conradie‘s presence on the field incites fear in opposition teams. Recognized by the recipient of the MLR Forward of the Year award in 2023, Conradie played a pivotal role in the Free Jacks’ championship triumph, leading the league in ball carry meters and dominant tackles.

With a career enriched by experiences such as representing Namibia in three Rugby World Cups, Conradie brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the team.

Affectionately known as “the Bus,” Conradie’s nickname reflects his formidable presence and physicality on the pitch. Leading the league in dominant tackles—a testament to his ability to drive opponents backward with sheer force—Conradie is a a defensive enforcer. Additionally, his third-place ranking for total tackles underscores his unmatched defensive prowess and tireless work ethic.

As the Free Jacks embark on their journey through the 2024 season, Conradie’s on-field tenacity  will be important in shaping the team’s success. With each bone-jarring tackle and selfless display of commitment, he inspires those around him to strive for greatness, driving the Free Jacks ever closer to their championship aspirations.

Stats and Data Provided by Major League Rugby

  • 8 Dominant Tackles: Conradie’s physicality and technique make him a force to be reckoned with in defense, leading the league in dominant tackles.
  • 63 Tackles Made: Combining dominance with reliability, Conradie’s defensive contributions are instrumental in stifling opposition attacks.

In summary, the New England Free Jacks have showcased an impressive array of talent and determination through the start of the 2024 MLR season. From the prolific try-scoring abilities of Reece MacDonald and Ben LeSage to the defensive tenacity of Wayne van der Bank and Wian Conradie, each player has left an indelible mark on the team’s performance. Jayson Potroz’s precision kicking and Danyon Morgan-Puterangi’s electrifying runs further highlight the depth of talent within the squad. With the season’s first quarter behind us and a bye weekend offering a moment of respite, the Free Jacks find themselves well-positioned to continue their pursuit of success in the league.

As the team regroups and reflects during this brief hiatus, they can draw confidence from the standout performances that have defined their campaign thus far. With their eyes set firmly on the prize, the Free Jacks are poised to return to the field with renewed vigor and determination. With each player bringing their unique skills and contributions to the table, the Free Jacks remain a formidable force in the MLR, ready to overcome any challenge that comes their way. As the season progresses, fans can look forward to witnessing more thrilling moments and unforgettable performances from this talented group of athletes, as they continue their quest for glory in the 2024 MLR season.

GLOSSARY OF TERMS

Tries Scored

Total number of tries scored by a player this season. 

Average Tries scored

The average number of tries scored by a player, per game.

Defenders Beaten:

Total number of defending players that an attacking player evades in open play while in possession of the ball.   

Average Defenders Beaten

The average number of defenders the attacking player evades while in possession of the ball, per game.

Tackles Made

Total number of successful tackles made on an attacking player while they carry the ball.

Average Tackles Made

The average number of successful tackles made on attacking players while they carry the ball, per game

Tackler Entry Breaks

The number of times an attacking player breaks through a defending player’s tackle, leading to the defending players’ failed tackle attempt.

Clean Breaks

The total number of times that a player breaks the defensive line resulting in a clear break up the field of the attacking player. 

Average Clean Breaks

The average number of times an attacking player breaks the defensive line, per game.

Ball Carries Total number of times the attacking player is in possession of the ball and covering ground. 
Ball Carry Meters

Total number of meters made by an attacking player while they have the ball in hand. 

Average Ball Carry Meters

The average meters made by an attacking player while they have the ball in hand, per carry.

Points Scored

Total number of points scored.

Conversions Made

Total number of conversions made.

Meters Gained through in play kick per game

Total number of meters gained by a player that kicks the ball from hand in open play.

 

For more opportunities to engage with the Free Jacks community, stay updated on future Free Jacks matches, festivals, and announcements through the Free Jacks’ news page: www.freejacks.com/news

Written By:

Oliver Gilpin

Director of Brand and Creative @ New England Free Jacks

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