Finally, we move to the front front of the pack, taking a look at the hookers. There's a lot of turnover at the position again this year, so expect a different look. It's not all good things, however - Old Glory is taking some risks, with limited depth being a very real potential problem.

ReturningNewLeaving
Facundo GattasNic SouchonRob Irimescu
Koi Koi NelliganMo Katz

Take two for Gattas

Facundo Gattas was technically signed last year, but he had a blink-and-you'll-miss-it season. The Uruguayan international arrived in DC halfway through the season, then played less than 80 minutes before picking up a season-ending injury. He is coming back for a second shot, though, and hopefully this one goes better for him.

Last year's duo depart

Rob Irimescu and Mo Katz, the duo who played almost all of the minutes at hooker last year, aren't staying with the team. Irimescu was a new addition last year and fell almost immediately into the starting role. He was a backup on New York's roster for years and seemed to handle the transition to starter reasonably well. He's now training with the Romanian national team, a life-long dream of his, and lined up for Romania A against Italy A this weekend.

Mo Katz, meanwhile, was a long term project who had been with the team since the beginning. While he was never quite reliable enough to take the starting role, his athleticism made him a promising prospect. After all, how many front rowers also play sevens? It seems his time in the professional ranks have come to an end, however.

New blood

A couple of players will be joining the team at hooker. Nic Souchon, a New Zealander who has floated on the fringes of the NPC for several years, comes in as the primary backup. Old Glory also traded for Army grad Koi Koi Nelligan, who was originally selected in the draft by San Diego. Nelligan was a flanker in college, but is expected to switch to hooker in the MLR. Hooker is one of the most specialized positions on the roster, so we'll see how quickly he picks it up. He might struggle with the finer points of the role in his first year.

Notably not joining the team is Jack Manzo, who Old Glory took in the second round of the draft. We don't know the reason why he wasn't signed by OGDC, but his absence is likely what prompted the team to pick up Nelligan.

Predicted depth chart

Gattas is by far the most experienced hooker on the team and will likely get the majority of the minutes. Behind him will probably be Souchon, but whether he will fit in the matchday lineup given Old Glory's limited foreign slots remains to be seen. Nelligan is the clear third choice until he can prove that he has what it takes to be a hooker at this level.

Expectations for 2023

Old Glory is taking some risks with this lineup. Having just three hookers is already a risk, as it only takes one injury before the team has to play every available hooker in the lineup, and just two injuries before the team is short a hooker. In the past, this was ameliorated by the presence of Dante Lopresti, who was a decent enough hooker in a pinch and provided a fourth option in case of emergencies. With him gone, Old Glory is on shaky territory.

There's another potential angle of risk, though: What if Nelligan isn't good enough at hooker? Every unproven player straight out of college has a chance on not working at the professional level, and even the ones who eventually make it might take a season or two to get there. And Nelligan is riskier than most rookies since he's in a new position, one of the most technical positions on the team. It wouldn't be surprising if he takes a season or so to get used to everything. Which would be find, if he wasn't the third choice hooker. Just a single injury and the team won't have a choice: they will have to play him, whether he's ready or not.

Something similar could be said of Souchon. He failed to break through in the NPC, averaging just over three matches a season off the bench and just two matches in the last two years. While I expect that the coaching staff has done their research, there is no guarantee he'll be at the level Old Glory needs. What if he isn't performing to expectations? The team might not have anyone else to turn to.

This is all theoretical, of course. Souchon and Nelligan might turn out fine and it's possible no one will get injured. But Old Glory is on thin ice. Not much has to go before the hooker position becomes a real problem. I'm hoping for good things, but this position is a real area of concern for me.


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