Ex Seattle Seawolves coach sues MLR champs for pay

Tony Healy, the former coach for the Seattle Seawolves rugby team, has filed suit to recover pay, damages and attorney fees and costs from the new champions of Major League Rugby.

Download suit here: Healy suit

Healy alleged in his suit, filed at King County Superior Court on June 28, 2018, that he was hired in September 2017 as head coach of the Seawolves.

Negotiating with Adrian Balfour, the chief operating officer of the Seattle Rugby Club, Healy said he was to be paid $43,000 from January 1, 2018, to June 30, 2018. After that the contract was to be automatically renewed for six months until either party gave two-months notice of ending it.

Healy, 48, played rugby himself, representing Canada 15 times and playing professionally in France and England. He has been a coach for 14 years and in 2017 led the British Columbia team to the Canadian national championship.

Healy, who lives in Victoria, B.C., said Balfour told him that his immigration status would be dealt with and he would be given a worker visa to cover his employment.

Balfour said July 24, 2018, there was no basis for the suit.

“He never worked for the Seawolves,” Balfour said. “We tried twice to get him a visa but were turned down both times by the INS.”

The Immigration and Naturalization Service, according to Balfour, said that Healy’s time as a coach in an amateur competition did not make him a professional coach.

“We would have been up for him as our coach, but the INS said no.

“It’s black and white,” he said. “We’ll let the facts play out, but it’s up to Tony now.”

Healy quit his job at the end of 2017, made six trips to Seattle to select players, build a training routine and assemble a staff. Between Jan. 22, 2018, and March 30, 2018, the suit said, he was not paid because his visa had not been approved. Balfour paid $7,500 to Healy’s wife in February after Healy complained, the suit said.

In March 23, 2018, Balfour informed Healy that his visa had not been approved, and a week later Shane Skinner, another investor in the team, said his employment was ended and he would not be paid.

Healy did not respond recently to efforts to reach him for this story.

The 2018 season was the first of Major League Rugby, with seven teams competing from April 21, 2018, to the championship game on July 7, 2018. The Seawolves won six of eight games, losing twice to the Glendale, CO., team, which they beat in the championship game.

 

Pro rugby arrives in Seattle Sunday

Predicting the outcome of a game between two rugby teams in their first regular- season pro games in a new league’s first ever weekend of competition is a foolhardy task to attempt, something that would only occur in the mind of a journalist restless on the night before the game.

I plead guilty. Here goes:

The Seattle Seawolves have sold out Starfire Stadium in Tukwila for their game Sunday at 5 p.m. against the San Diego Legion. For Seattle, it’s the first pro rugby ever played in the city.

San Diego had a taste of Pro Rugby – in capital letters as a proper name – in 2016 when that effort had a one-year existence. The San Diego Breakers were part of that league, and Matt Hawkins, who has been a highly visible part of American rugby for more than a decade, was an assistant coach. He reappears in the Legion organization as the general manager. Anyone who has seen Hawkins play knows he is likely to have a hard-nosed team at Starfire on Sunday.

It’s hard to get a sense of the Legion’s roster from the team web site, which is by far the worst in Major League Rugby, but from reading the match reports of their pre-season games, some names stand out. Cam Dolan at Number 8 appears to be a forward who can run in the open and score. Nate Augspurger at scrum half, Ben Cima at center and Taku Ngwenya on the wing are described as backline “firepower.” Tadhg Leader, the place kicker, looks steady. The Legion beat Austin Elite, 32-24, and lost 33-17 to the Houston SaberCats, led by former Seattle Saracen coach Justin Fitzpatrick.

Seattle comes into game under player-coach Phil Mack, known up north as “The Little Magician.” He took over coaching duties after Tony Healy, also from Canada, ran into visa troubles. Whether three weeks running the team has been enough time for Mack to mold a winner gets put to the test Sunday. Pre-season competition has been limited to a 47-7 trashing of the Prairie Wolf Pack, apparently a team of masochists out of Calgary as they traveled on to an 80-12 drubbing Friday at the hands, feet, shoulders and whatever else MLR’s Utah Warriors chose to apply to the Pack’s backsides.

A track meet like the Seawolves’ win over the Wolf Pack has the benefit of showing what every move, play and stratagem looks like in perfect execution against little defense. It has the disadvantage of lacking the kind of competition that reveals what happens when opponents disrupt perfection and your team must pick up the pieces and innovate – the real beauty of rugby.

Asked to make a prediction about Sunday’s game, Seawolves co-owner and operator Shane Skinner was at his political best: “The guys have trained incredibly hard so I predict they are going to put out their best possible effort – 100% confident on that!”

Having seen the Seawolves at practice, I know Shane is correct. They are a hard-working bunch. Shane sets a good example that even a journalist should follow:

I predict both teams will play at full speed and will not disappoint the 3,500 plus fans at Starfire on Sunday. See you there.

 

Seawolves preview and rugby primer at https://www.seattletimes.com/sports/other-sports/rugby-anyone-seattle-seawolves-begin-play-in-new-pro-sports-league/