Gradyn Bowd – Old Glory DC’s Canadian Fly-Half Hoping To Lift A Shield
Written by Joe Harvey | Photos by Paris Malone
At the halfway point of their 2023 season, Old Glory DC sits third in the Eastern Conference. When they take on the Dallas Jackals this Saturday evening in Arlington, Texas, Josh Syms’ side will be two weeks removed from their 36-22 win over the Utah Warriors.
With that victory over the Western Conference team, Old Glory surpassed their overall points total from the season prior.
Finishing at the foot of their division, it has been a sharp turnaround for the team and puts them in a prime spot to secure postseason rugby for the first time.
Gradyn Bowd has started three of his team’s last four matches. This includes starts at fly-half for the recent wins over Utah and the Rugby New York Ironworkers, his efforts going a long way to putting the side in playoff contention.
— Major League Rugby (@usmlr) April 16, 2023
“Team morale is pretty high after that win before our bye week,” Bowd told Major League Rugby. “Just those little things are starting to click, and those details look slightly better in that sense.
“As a team, we put our goals together and started moving forward in the small areas. Utah is a big team, and they were coming in with physicality, so we had to work around that and be able to still play our game against them.
“I think we weathered the storm, and after half-time, teams are going to keep coming at you, and then to defend that and get points afterward was a big part of our game plan.
“In the past, we have been able to score and let teams back in. So, holding that line was a big part against Utah.”
In his first year with Old Glory, Bowd is unencumbered by the goings on a year ago. But, he is not alone in that either.
The arrival of a new head coach in the form of Josh Syms and a host of new faces, including All Blacks Sevens legend Kurt Baker, contributed to DC’s stunning form.
Many of the team’s core characteristics have remained the same, with Jamason Fa’anana-Shultz leading by example on the field, while Danny Tusitala has continued to excel at scrum-half.
— The Rugby Network (@therugbynetwork) March 19, 2023
“From talking with the boys, they had a good squad, a good group of athletes last year and were able to put a lot of points on the board, so I am not sure I have the answer for the biggest change,” the Canadian international said.
“Some of those leaders from last year have really stepped up this year, been able to steer the ship in a little bit of a different direction, individually and as a team, at least from my perspective.
“We have been able to have guys buy in as a group and put the team first. That is a huge difference here the past few weeks for sure.
“Maybe that’s sacrificing the individual for the team, maybe that is a cliché thing to say, but I think definitely the last two wins we have put together have been a good team effort.”
Hailing from Red Deer, Alberta, Bowd made his Test debut for Canada in 2016, but after a series of shoulder injuries and back-to-back surgeries, he could not maintain a spot with the national side.
In the meantime, Bowd’s primary focus was his career as a teacher in British Columbia while playing elite club rugby in his home country and having a spell in Spain two years ago.
That time certainly came with its rewards. Bowd earned an international recall at the end of 22 and enjoyed every second before signing terms with Old Glory for an entirely new adventure.
“I have wanted to play in MLR for the past couple of years, and it is good to give it a shot,” Bowd said. “When I talked to DC on the phone, a big part of what they were trying to build was a group of guys willing to work hard and put the effort in.
“Which is something I had to prove. I had a rough go of injuries and had to work my way back through the club scene. It just fit my mold of ‘get your head down and work hard and hopefully get the best results out of it’.
“That peaked my interest and it is a bit of a move across North America, but I knew a few of the boys playing here from Canada, so I talked to them about it, and they had good things to say about the group and the organization.
“It was pretty easy once I got down to it, and I wanted to take the opportunity and run with it. One of my goals was to make a career out of playing rugby, so I jumped at it.”
With a business trip to Dallas this weekend, it is another chance for DC to keep the good times rolling as they hope to end the regular season with playoff rugby waiting for them.
Of course, there is still plenty of rugby to play, but for Bowd and his teammates, their objective is crystal clear to them, the opportunity to finish their season in Chicago this summer, is foremost in their mind.
“We as a team have a few goals for this season,” Bowd said. “One of them, obviously, is to win it all. That’s kind of the big picture of it all, being able to lift that big shield up at the end.
“I think for us it is about the process of how we get there and how we break it down week to week and what our team goals are, what our individual goals are going into each week.
“It may change, it may look a bit different every week and that is where we have got to put our mindset because it is easy to get caught up in that big picture at the end.
“To be able to be there and get to be there in the championship game is where we want to be. It is about the process rather than the outcome right now, I think if we can follow along with those process goals, at the end of the year we will give ourselves a shot at maybe being in that Championship game.”
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE MENTAL FITNESS?
As a teacher and a rugby player, it is kind of similar. For me it is kind of being able to show up every day and give it your all.
I know some days you are going to have your highs and lows, not even throughout a season, throughout a week, throughout a day you will have your highs and lows, I think being able to shut off and take time when you need it, whether that is in the afternoon, watching the TV or going for a walk, you just need to be able to switch the brain off.
When you are teaching, you have got 30 kids in front of you, so when you go home, you need to be able to go and flip that switch and walk away from it, go back, and reflect on the day but not let it eat you up and take it into the next day.
You will burn out a lot quicker. So finding those little things outside of rugby for me is a big thing. Back home, I have got a puppy that I normally take for walks and stuff like that, so that is a big part of mental fitness and mental health for me, getting outside.
We train at a great facility in St James, but we are inside all day for a half hour and go for a walk, that’s big for my mental fitness.
(Nov. 27, 2023) – Major League Rugby (MLR), which represents the highest
Written by Joe Harvey | Photos by Davey Wilson When Jayson Potroz
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