We spoke with Lions’ Men’s Captain Matt Mullen at the close of the year to reflect on 2015 and look ahead to the spring

Mullen Tunneled Off

Things really seemed to click this fall, what do you attribute that too?
The most prominent reason is the change in coaching staff. It really was a group effort and Andrew did a wonderful job in utilizing Keith Friedlander and Quentin O’Brien to have some the most effective training sessions I’ve experienced with the Lions.
I think this change also feeds to the return of veteran players that were not around last year and the continuity of players turning up week-in, week-out all season. This was critical to us becoming a unit.
Which players found their form this season?
There are so many. We had the most consistent starting 23 that I have been a part of for any team I’ve played with. I think everyone played their best this year because we were playing for each other. We cared about our mates and wanted to win for those guys that have shown up all year.
I think the return of one Patrick Mcjury was a key addition to our offense. His veteran leadership was apparent on and off the field.
What did we do differently to prepare for the season?
I don’t think we did anything terribly different. We only had one, maybe two tune up games before we rolled into the season. I think the guys coming of a great sevens season helped carry momentum to our 15’s campaign. I think our backs play was directly affected by a majority of them playing sevens.
Can you comment on winning back the Village Cup?
I have been a part of a few Village Cup victories, some much harder than others. Every time you win that trophy it makes your heart feel good. NYRFC has been a consistently good squad and bench mark for how we as the Lions are going to do. The win this year really helped set a tone for the rest of the season, though an opening day win over Old Blue was maybe just a little bit sweeter.
Which newcomers left an impression?
Well our Chilean contingent has been a wonderful and knowledgeable addition. Some of the guys I am about to mention aren’t necessarily new, but new to 15s. Brian McCorkle, Ra-Ra, and of course Gaga Maisuradze from Georgia (the country, not the state).
What has been the contribution of the coaching staff?
They have contributed everything to this success.  Training sessions were always planned and run very effectively. The ability to have enough coaches to split backs and forwards and have meaningful drills and skills worked through was a key element to our success.
Between the three of them – Andrew Britt, Quentin O’Brien, and Keith Friedlander –  they offer a wealth of knowledge and tricks from a broad background. Nothing like having an ex referee as your GM.
I thought I was in a flashback reading a tweet that McJury had put Adil away for a try. Adil has been playing for the Lions since 1997 when he was 16. What role did the return of veterans play this season?
I touched on this in an earlier answer. The return of Mcjury and the continued play of Adil is a testament to the club as whole. Lions run deep and if called upon, always step up. Having that kind of support from old boys and semi retired guys just makes you love this game and this team even more. It makes you proud to wear the black and white and take the pitch each Saturday.  
What are your expectations for the playoffs?  
I expect and plan to go to championship. I do not see why we cannot take this thing and run with it. I feel that we have something special amongst the guys right now and we can do great things.
Offseason training and workouts will be key as well as getting everyone to trainings once they pick up again. We still have three league games and those will determine final seeding. We need to stay in the groove we were in at the end of the fall.
There’s no hiding that our D3 side did not produce. What can you comment on about that? How will things turn around?
The biggest thing I can say is that guys new to turn up to training. Our D2 side is doing well because everyone who gets named turns up every week. Success starts at training and we need everyone there.
Congrats on a successful fall campaign. Any last comments?