Inside the Scrum: Conner Mooneyham on Having His First Year Being on Camera
Having been the first overall pick in the inaugural Major League Rugby Draft, Conner Mooneyham was always going to have a lot of focus on him in 2021.
Picked by the Dallas Jackals, after the franchise deferred their first season of professional rugby to the following season, Mooneyham remained in Texas, but to wear the burnt orange of the Austin Gilgronis.
In his debut season, Mooneyham registered three tries in his 12 appearances for the team and even caught the eye of USA Eagles coach, Gary Gold, ahead of their tour to Europe.
On top of all this, the 25-year-old's first season of professional rugby was documented as part of Inside The Scrum.
A docuseries following the team's fortunes in the 2021 MLR season, Inside The Scrum's first episode will be broadcasted on FOX Sports 2 at 7:00 PM ET on Sunday.
Born in California, Mooneyham moved to Magnolia, Texas, during high school and has called the state home ever since.
Like so many of the players and staff during the season, Mooneyham welcomed camera crews into his home to allow the American public to learn more about him and the game of rugby.
"It seemed like my pick was an easy one, just because my family is in Houston," Mooneyham laughed.
"So, it was easy for everyone to drive to Houston and get to know more about me. There is a lot of pressure on you because the camera is on you at all times.
"But once you are in the moment, once you are practicing or in a game, you are not thinking about those things anyway.
"I always thought as a player it would be weird if they did a documentary on our team, but as it started to roll-out, it felt like it was a part of our everyday thing."
Mooneyham is by no means the only AGs character to be under the microscope, with new head coach, Sam Harris, former All Black, Jamie Mackintosh, and former college football player, Rodrick Waters, all getting screen time.
Mooneyham's journey on its own was a series of peaks and troughs. Missing four games of the regular season because of two concussions sustained while on the field, the 25-year-old's progress was followed closely by the camera crew.
As the team prepared to break up for the holidays, the players, coaches and staff were able to have an early look at the docuseries, renting out a cinema to watch the first two episodes.
"The last thing we saw in the second episode was me getting concussed against New England," Mooneyham said.
"It was just so weird. It brought up so many mixed emotions. Because for me, I don't really remember much after the concussion. I just remember waking up in the hospital.
"I saw myself and things I don't remember at all, things on camera that were really weird because they didn't unlock any memories at all.
"There is one particular scene when I was in the locker room and they were doing tests on me, making me move my neck and things I don't remember anything of to this day.
"It's an emotion I don't think I've experienced in my life. It's weird just thinking about it."
Austin had perhaps their most successful MLR season in 2021, finishing with a 9-7 record, Sam Harris' team missed out on a place in the playoffs by 10 points, Shawn Pittman's Utah Warriors winning one more game and picking up six more try scoring bonus points.
It was an extremely positive turnaround for a team that had experienced a winless 2019 season and the closest that the team had come to postseason rugby since 2018, where Austin were once again pipped to the post by the Warriors.
For six consecutive Sundays, fans can watch how the team's season unfolded and get to know the players who commit to playing professional rugby in North America and have come from far and wide to do so.
With FOX Sports 2 in 40 million households across America, Inside The Scrum will be widely available to people that are already fans of rugby, but also to those who are possibly new to the sport.
As a result, the potential for the docuseries seems almost limitless and that is something not lost on Mooneyham either. Having grown up playing rugby, the back three player says that he hopes the game's unique culture is translated on the small screen.
"I hope that people see that rugby is its own sport," Mooneyham said. "It is very distinct in the way we do things, and the camaraderie is different and the way we engage with our fans is a lot different to other sports.
"It is a lot more intimate. At the end of last year, we had a party for all our season ticket holders, we got to know everybody, and they got to know all of the players and the coaches.
"That was a really cool experience that I don't think many sports take part in. I just think that is a totally different vibe from any other sport in the world, which is something that we need to grasp onto, because it is a lot better than any other sport."
Inside The Scrum will broadcast on FOX Sports 2 for six consecutive Sundays starting December 26 at 7:00 PM ET. The series will conclude January 30 at 10:30 PM ET, one week before the 2022 MLR season gets underway.
Written by Joe Harvey
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Major League Rugby Stories from December 26, 2021
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