MITCH’S MILESTONE MATCH: Original Free Jacks’ Winger Set for 50th Cap in MLR Championship Rematch

by | May 18, 2024 | Blog, Featured News, News | 0 comments

MITCH’S MILESTONE MATCH: Original Free Jacks’ Winger Set for 50th Cap in MLR Championship Rematch

Long-time Free Jacks’ winger Mitch Wilson will make his 50th Free Jacks’ Cap on Sunday, May 19 against the San Diego Legion. Known on-field for his brave and abrasive playing style, Mitch has made a career of surprising opposition and pundits, punching well above his weight. An intelligent communicator, defensive leader, and versatile in his skill set, Mitch has excelled within MLR and was the first Free Jack to earn the call-up to the USA Eagles. 

The New England Free Jacks will travel to San Diego’s SnapDragon Stadium to face the Legion in their first rematch since the 2023 MLR Championship Final. The match will mark an important milestone in Wilson’s immaculate rugby career. 

“Congratulations to a great Free Jack man,” says Free Jacks’ General Manager Tom Kindley. “Now in his fifth season, Mitch has played a critical role in defining the DNA and paving the on and off-field success of the club.”

Born in Sydney, Australia, Mitch grew up playing rugby league for Emu Plain Rugby League Club. He started playing footy at the under-six level and continued at Emu Plain until he was 14 years old. The next year he eventually tried out rugby union and played at Hawkesbury Valley Rugby. Not long after his code switch, Mitch and his family moved over 9,000 miles to Oviedo, Florida. 

Image featuring: Mitch Wilson in Houston TX

In his new Floridian town, Mitch was an exemplary player with Orlando Youth Rugby Club, where he first caught the attention of USA Rugby scouts. Nearing the end of his high school career, he earned All-American honors in 2014. Wilson continued his player pathway to Life University in Marietta, Georgia under the helm of coaches Scott Lawrence and Blake Bradford. In 2016, Mitch won his first D1A National Championship with the Life Running Eagles. He was named captain of the team and led Life to two more championships in 2018 and 2019. Mitch represented the Collegiate All-Americans all four years of his post-secondary career. 

Succeeding his consecutive national titles, Wilson played for the USA Select team in America’s Pacific Challenge, hosted in Uruguay. The Selects faced the hosts along with Tonga and Argentina. Once back in Georgia, Mitch was an Assistant Coach for Atlanta Youth Rugby. He made his way up to New England shortly after in the fall of 2019 and coached at Dartmouth College.  “Mitch continues to contribute significantly to the New England rugby community at the grassroots level,” states Kindley. “He has played locally for Mystic River and coached with Dartmouth and Harvard, as well as the Free Jacks academy and community system.”

Image featuring: Mitch Wilson at Union Point Stadium in 2021

As Free Jack #11, Mitch Wilson debuted for New England in their first MLR match versus Rugby New York in Las Vegas. Mitch made history for the Free Jacks, scoring the first-ever MLR try for New England in the seventh minute of the match. The Free Jacks went on to win 34-14 against rivals New York. Wilson is one of five Free Jacks on the current roster who played in their inaugural 2020 season.

When MLR returned in 2021, Mitch started in every match that he was rostered and dotted down three tries. His tenacity as a hustle player was quickly recognized by fans, matched with his aggressive line speed. Mitch showcased himself as a utility back; playing at left wing, right wing, and fullback. Throughout his professional career, he has been featured as right wing 63% of the time, 27% at fullback, and 10% at left wing.

Image featuring: Mitch Wilson at the 2023 MLR Championship Final

The following year, Mitch boasted seven tries on the season, including a famous hat trick versus NOLA Gold. He also stepped to the occasion in clutch moments kicking for points, slotting four conversions from the tee as well as two penalty kicks. Highly respected by his peers, Mitch was the winner of the prestigious Minuteman Award, which commended him for his team-first attitude. 

Mitch’s impressive 2022 season caught the attention of the USA Rugby and he was selected to debut for the Eagles in the Rugby World Cup 2023 Final Qualification Tournament in Dubai. The Free Jack started at fullback in all three matches versus Kenya, Hong Kong, and Portugal. Mitch assisted winger Nate Augspurger against Kenya following a shifty sprint up the left wing. Facing Hong Kong, the utility back followed in support close to the try line and scored off of a quick offload from No. 8. Jamason Fa’anana-Schultz.

Back in New England, 2023 was a historic year for the Free Jacks and Mitch Wilson. In the first round of the 2023 MLR season, Mitch was on the receiving end of a stunning set piece and scored just before the half. During Round 14, Mitch scored a brace against NOLA again in a huge win that inspired the Free Jacks to finish the 2023 season with an eight-game undefeated streak.

Image featuring: Mitch Wilson at Veterans Memorial Stadium, Quincy MA

In his first try, he scooped up the pill and darted 60 meters up the pitch, somersaulting over the try line. Later on in the second half, Mitch followed fullback Reece MacDonald in support, creating a two-on-one situation that sent him sprinting and diving towards five points. New England went on to win their first MLR Championship versus the San Diego Legion. In this spectacular finale to a hugely successful season, Mitch started at right wing and was a fundamental part of halting San Diego’s attack.

After the Free Jacks’ Shield-winning campaign ended, Mitch was invited back to the USA Eagles camp for the summer international test matches facing Romania and Portugal. He was also selected the next fall for La Vila International Rugby Cup, where he defeated Spain. This season Wilson has been a stalwart at right wing for the Free Jacks. He finished what could be one of the tries of the season, assisted by MacDonald who received an insane, no-look, behind-the-back pass from Paula Balekana.

Image featuring: (left to right) Mitch Wilson , Spencer Jones, Le Roux Malan, Ben Lesage, Isaac Olson raising the MLR shield. 

“We are super proud of Mitch’s accomplishments and are excited for him to pull on the crest for the 50th time this weekend,” expresses GM Kindley. “Mitch, on behalf of the Free Jacks, thank you.” If you want to see more of Magic Mitch, his explosive speed, and the rest of the Free Jacks crew, make sure to tune into Sunday’s match versus the San Diego Legion kicking off at 4:00 PM EST on The Rugby Network, NBC Sports Boston, or KUSI (for San Diegan viewers). 

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:

Colin Elliott

Staff Writer, Intern, @ New England Free Jacks

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