Ross Braude: “Having Fans Cheering For Us Was Awesome”
Written by Joe Harvey | Photos by Erich Eichhorn
With a trip to NOLA Gold coming up on Friday night, Toronto Arrows scrum-half, Ross Braude, spoke to Major League Rugby correspondent, Joe Harvey, about the Canadians’ start to the season and how the group are looking to move forward after two losses to start the season.
HOME AWAY FROM HOME
Braude is just a couple of days removed from Friday nights 16-31 loss at the hands of the LA Giltinis at Starlight Stadium in Langford, British Columbia.
Toronto’s first game on Canadian soil in 985 days, the game was a five-hour flight from the Arrows’ home city but was important for a variety of reasons.
Described as ‘iconic’, the clash was the first MLR game to be hosted in BC, with new Head Coach, Peter Smith, selecting 11 full Canadian internationals in his matchday squad. Coming up against the reigning MLR champions, LA, Toronto were unable to pick up their first win of the season.
In their opening game of the 2022 season, the Canadian team went to Washington to face the Seattle Seawolves, the two-time champions picking up a 21-8 in front of their home crowd.
“Obviously there is some disappointment after the first two games, not being able to get a win,” Braude told majorleague.rugby. “At the same time, we have also been able to take a lot of positives out of those two games, especially from our defense.
“There is definitely a big improvement, and we can see it, and we know it. Now it is just to take that and implement our attack in the way we know we can.
“We haven’t been together too long as a team, we know we have got the talent and the systems to be the best team in the league, now it is about implementing all of that and being accurate in what we do.”
Having spent the entirety of last season in Atlanta, Georgia, last weekend was Braude’s first taste of playing a domestic fixture on home soil.
With the Langford crowd behind he and his teammates, for the 22-year-old it has only created further anticipation for when Toronto play Rugby ATL at York Lions Stadium at the start of April.
“The game in Victoria and having fans actually cheering for us was awesome,” Braude said. “We had the crowd really behind us, and I have got high expectations and an anticipation for my first game in Toronto.
“I know the fans back here really can’t wait for us to play a game here. I know all the fans here wish we could have played our first home game since 2019 and I can’t wait to see how It will be. It is going to be great.”
USING THE FOUNDATIONS OF 2021
Last season, Toronto finished at the foot of the Eastern Conference. Their time south of the border was a challenging one, the group living out of a hotel for the entire 2021 season.
In the offseason, there have been plenty of comings and goings, a coaching staff shakeup and an excitement of getting back to normality following the challenges of the year prior.
Although the side had their mettle tested, moving forward, Braude believes that the teams’ experiences will serve them well moving forwards.
“It wasn’t an ideal or good situation,” he said. “But in a sense, it was really good for relationship building.
“I know a lot of the payers much better, because we were cooped up in a hotel, so in the evenings we would get together and do something, because you didn’t want to be lying in bed all day watching Netflix.
“So, we would just play cards, play golf and that definitely helped build relationships within the team.”
Just prior to the new season commencing, Mike Sheppard was announced as the team’s new captain. Taking on the role previously shared by Lucas Rumball and Ben LeSage, the latter now having joined LA, several new players have entered the fray in Ontario too.
Amongst others, former Australia Sevens international, Matthew Hood, has come to Toronto, Kyle Baillie was traded from the NOLA Gold, Spain international Andrew Norton arrived from Aparejadores and Isaac Salmon joined from Tasman in New Zealand.
With some players new to the environment, some relationships are still in their infancy and will no doubt blossom as the weeks go by.
Their next challenge comes this weekend in Louisiana, with the Gold Mine the next venue that Braude and his teammates will be visiting. After consecutive losses, the challenge to reach the postseason is certainly on the Arrows minds.
NOLA will enter round three with back-to-back losses too, their season having been opened with defeats to the New England Free Jacks and Rugby ATL. One of five games between now and their first home game of 2022, Braude believes that by starting winning now, Toronto can still contend for a top three finish in their conference.
“Our short-term goal has to be to win every game on the road, and even though it is going to be tough and the travel days are a little harder because of crossing the border, there is a little bit more of a challenge for us, but that is the job we signed up for,” the scrum-half said.
“We should use last year as a building block. We have had the most difficult season that I think any team will have in MLR and we should use that to build on, so we know what is tough and we should stay positive.
“Our attitude is going to play a big role in how we play our away games, so if we have got a positive attitude going into an away game, that will contribute to our success.”
COMING TO CANADA
When Braude first came to Canada, the world was shutdown. His time with the Blue Bulls in his native South Africa had come to an end, the chance to play international rugby enough to entice the 22-year-old across the world, leaving his family and the South African summer behind.
Two weeks in a quarantine would soon follow, taking part in a Canada training camp in late-2020 thanks to his father having been born in Montreal, a contract offer from the Toronto Arrows coming shortly thereafter.
As MLR’s youngest scrum-half in 2021, Braude’s performances for a displaced Toronto resulted in an international call-up in early summer and the opportunity to impress at Test level.
“In the beginning, it was really scary for me, because I had to sacrifice a lot; leaving my whole life behind to start something new,” Braude said.
“I wasn’t really sure if it was the right call or not, but as soon as I got over and in the mix of things with the Arrows, I started to feel at home and I really enjoyed it.
“My goal for last year was to get an opportunity and get as much time on the field as possible. I achieved that goal and that was my main plan.
“My longer-term goal for last year was to get a Canadian cap, and to be able to do that and be accepted in that environment and be given the opportunity to express myself was amazing and hard to describe.”
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