Interview by Liam Poach
Aaaaaaand the Tundra Summer Series continues. This time, we're traveling (metaphorically speaking) to the Pacific North West, where capped Eagle Peter Tiberio was a part of the championship-winning Seattle SeaWolves, who were able to topple the (now former) Kings of American Rugby, the Glendale Raptors.
Even though our communication was over email, I got the feeling that Peter was a genuine rugby guy. You know, someone who just embodies both the friendly culture and dedication that the sport inspires. The kind of guy who will put a few people on their ass out on the pitch, but then be all smiles on the sideline while asking the rookies how they're liking the game.
So this week, we have the pleasure of getting some insight into the first succsesful championship run in MLR history, from a man who helped make it happen. READ NOW!
Liam: What was it about the University of Arizona’s rugby program that helped instill in you such a love for and dedication to the game?
Peter: I think it had to be Dave Sitton and the tradition he built. The University of Arizona Rugby program was a family, you could feel the tradition throughout the program. I owe a great thanks to the program and Dave for the platform he built which afforded me some pretty incredible opportunities in rugby. I don't think there are many programs in the country where I could have walked-on with no rugby experience whatsoever and be given the opportunities that I received.
Liam: The years between 2011 and 2012 were huge for you in terms of your name gaining recognition on the national stage. You were a two time College All-American, you were chosen for the USA Under-20s team at the IRB Junior World Trophy tournament in Nairobi, Kenya, you helped team USA bring home the Bronze at the Pan-American Games, chosen for the CRC All-Tournament Team, and to cap it all off, you were awarded the title of 2012 College 7’s Player of the Year by Rugby Magazine. What was it like dealing with a nearly full time rugby schedule along with being a student? And, how did that experience prepare you for the life of a professional rugby player?
Peter: 2011 and 2012 were pretty crazy that's for sure. It definitely wasn't easy, but I think being so young and probably not realizing exactly how crazy it was to be a full time student playing full time rugby on the World Series and elsewhere. I think some pretty understanding professors and a bit of ignorance helped me through.
I was lucky that I was able to switch my courses online and pursue a college degree as a full time student while living in San Diego and training with the national team full time. Being immersed into the full time training environment at 20 years old is the base of what I see as a professional athlete. My early years with the 7s team only echoed off of what I had taken from Dave and the UofA program, and further instilled a good work ethic.
Liam: How has ample experience in the 7’s game positively translated into XV’s?
Peter: It has been a big change getting back into 15’s full time. Before the SeaWolves season, I hadn't played a full 15’s season since college. I had played with the Saracens here in Seattle, but never a full season. With a background in 7’s, I was able to take a lot of the 1 on 1 skills, both tackling and attacking, into 15’s with me. Along with the 1 on 1 skills, the ball skills, and being able to pass at a full sprint off either hand is a skill that translates well into the back three of 15’s.
Liam: What’s your preferred position in XV’s?
Peter: Ideally, I would like to play in the centers. I like to mix it up in the midfield a bit more than I'm able to on the wing. Fortunately, with the SeaWolves, we had some very strong centers this season, so I was happy to play on the wing.
Liam: The SeaWolves faced some early adversity with the loss of your original coach ahead of the season due to immigration issues. How do you think Phil Mack handled the responsibility of being a player/coach given the circumstances?
Peter: I think Phil did a great job. Obviously, it was quite the curve ball for him and the team, but credit to him as he and some of the other players did a great job in stepping up and leading us through this season. As much as I hate to give credit to Phil, as he was an opponent of mine for so long, I'd say he far exceeded my expectations being thrown into the coaching role as he was.
Liam: Many in the rugby media (unfortunately, myself included) thought that Seattle’s lack of an exhibition season would hinder them early on in the regular. Was that doubt used as any sort of Bellichickian-‘white board’ material to fuel your fire?
Peter: I can't say I blame them. Going into the first game vs San Diego, I don't even know if we knew what to expect. But yes, I'd be lying if being preseason-ranked second to last didn't light a fire under us. It certainly felt good to look back on that ranking at the end of the season.
Liam: Once mid-season came around, people had wised-up to the fact that Seattle was a dominant squad, and a collision course with Glendale in the final was deemed by many to be inevitable. How did you guys handle the pressure of those expectations in order to sustain your success?
Peter: We did a very good job of taking every game as it came and not overlooking any opponent. If you go back and look at the stats, away teams really struggled against us, especially at the beginning of the season. We saw right away that no game was going to be easy and we would have to fight through each game. I had an inkling that our close games throughout the season may help us in the final.
Liam: Seattle became known for its intensely vocal fan base. Were you and the other players surprised at the reception you got in what was only your first season? And, do you think the stadium atmosphere provides you any kind of advantage during home games?
Peter: I was absolutely blown away when we saw how well the community came out and supported us. It goes further than the amount of fans we had show up to the stadium but also how engaged they were during our matches. Maybe it's my background in 7’s, but I'm used to fans being rather disengaged.
But here in Seattle, when we win a lineout the fans go nuts, we win a scrum and they go nuts. I've been lucky to play in some pretty cool rugby stadiums, but I can genuinely say that playing here in Seattle in front of the Seattle fans is my favorite place to play.
Liam: In the playoffs, considering San Diego had been the one team to topple Glendale, did you guys feel confident that if you could beat them, your chances at the championship would be that much better?
Peter: I don't think we ever doubted ourselves this season. Facing a much different San Diego than we had met week 1, we knew it was going to be a test. I don't know that we thought our chances would be better to beat Glendale if we were to beat San Diego, we knew that was going to be a big-ask regardless. I think this goes back to taking every game as it came at us. Setting a game plan and executing it on the field. Credit to Phil for instilling a solid platform for us to work from each week.
Liam: So…the championship. The comeback. What was the week leading up to it like? How did your preparation translate to the game? What did it take mentally to comeback and raise that big-ass shield at the end of the night?
Peter: The week leading up to the final was pretty light in terms of volume actually. At that point in the season, we knew what we were capable of, and at that point it was more about figuring out our plan for the week, and making sure we had the discipline to stick to whatever plan it was we decided on.
We wanted to play fast and expansive all season, we had a great backline and some very mobile forwards. That plan was no different for the final, and I think in that final there were some great passages of play that were a treat to watch. That style of play obviously fits my game, so it keeps me happy.
Mentally, I think it was our attitude the whole season, we knew we were going to win. When we went down 11 with 20 minutes left and I looked at the boys, I still had no doubt we were going to win that game. It speaks volumes to our team’s character to march right back down the field twice and take the lead in 4 or 5 minutes.
Liam: Who’s an uncapped player that you think deserves a call-up to the National Team (US or Canadian)?
Peter: The easy answer is Riekart (Hattingh) as he is US eligible soon, and I think he deserves every chance at the US side. But I'll go with an American, Taylor Krumrei. He did very well for us in the second row. He put his head down and worked hard all season. I don't think he missed but a few minutes the entire year.
Liam: Italian food or x? (Apparently, there was no need for a B-option)
Peter: Italian, all day, every day! I think I eat pizza 4 times a week. Can't tell you how many times I stopped at Dominoes on my way home from training.
Liam: Would you rather be a Jedi or a Wizard?
Peter: I may take some heat for this, but I've never seen a star wars movie nor a Harry Potter movie. I'll go with a Jedi though because Harry seems like a punk.
(Upon learning that Peter had never seen an HP or Star Wars Movie, I fainted for a brief time face down on my keyboard.)
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Penguin Tundra Sports Blog was created in 2016 by a very bored college student who was obsessed with Rugby and Football. That same college student knew how to write pseudo-intelligently, so what better way to show off than to create a blog. Along your journey though the Tundra's domain, you may come across outlandish opinions, horrible spelling errors, and some shit that is just outright wrong. Well then, you should comment, give my blog more attention, and we will have our day in internet court. Otherwise, I hope you enjoy talking about sports as much as I do.
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