Former Lopes ink free agent deals with MLR teams
By: Mack Drake/GCU Staff
Photo Credit: Jeff Dalton Photography
If you would have asked a young Cam Dodson what he wanted to do when he grew up, you wouldn’t have had to wait long to hear an answer.
“I wanted to play professional rugby,” said Dodson, who grew up in Staffordshire, England, where rugby and soccer are king. “My parents got me started in rugby from a young age, and playing professionally was something I always thought about as a kid. It’s one of those things you dream about over and over.”
After years of training, Dodson’s boyhood dream was realized on July 2, when he signed a free agent contract with Austin Gilgronis of Texas – one of 12 Major League Rugby franchises.
Dodson and teammate Lincoln Sii – who also signed as a free agent in July with Rugby ATL based in Atlanta, Georgia – are the latest Grand Canyon University Men’s Ruby players to make it to the big leagues in a sport that has steadily increased in popularity in the United States.
“To continue my career in rugby is very humbling and rewarding,” said Sii, a Temecula, California native. “It made me so happy to see how proud and happy my family was for me. They supported me in every way and sacrificed a lot for me to be in this position. I’m going to give it my all so I can start to give back to them.”
Growing up on opposite ends of the world, it should come as no surprise that both players took far different paths to reach the pinnacle of rugby.
A rugby player through and through, Dodson played for Stoke-on-Trent RUFC in England prior to arriving at GCU in 2017. Standing at an intimidating 6-foot-7, some-225 pounds, Dodson made an immediate impact with the Lopes, using his rare combination of size and speed to bulldoze defenders.
“Playing here at GCU was huge for my development,” said Dodson, who graduated with a degree in business management. “The facilities here are top-notch, so I was able to really work on building my body and physicality. The coaching here has also been top drawer. Both Coach (Cam) Wyper and Coach (Sean) O’Leary have been really helpful in getting me ready to play pro rugby.”
Growing up in California, football was the game of choice for Sii, who didn’t play a second of rugby until he arrived at GCU. Sii’s football skills allowed him to make a seamless transition to a prop position under Wyper and, eventually, O’Leary.
“GCU helped me grow into the player I am today,” said Sii, an electrical engineering grad. “The coaching staff’s belief in me drove me to get better. I learned how to have fun and enjoy my time with the boys on the team. The program also taught me how to watch film correctly, and how to take care of my body from a nutritional standpoint.”
Despite delivering solid careers with the Lopes, both Dodson and Sii had their pick of the litter after going undrafted in the 2020 MLR draft. The MLR is still a relatively new league, entering just its fourth season of operation in 2021.
“Austin was a perfect fit for me,” Dodson said. “It’s a really cool city with a lot of things to do. I really fell in love with the city and I loved what I saw from the team. There was mutual interest from both sides.”
Sii is heading to Atlanta on a developmental contract. He will rejoin Wyper, who departed his head coaching position with the Lopes to pursue a coaching position with Rugby ATL in 2019.
“I’ll be playing for Atlanta’s academy team, which is where teams send players that they wish to develop before sending them to the senior team,” Sii explained. “I expect the workouts and practices to be brutal to beat us into shape, but I also expect to learn a lot from one of best coaching staffs in the league.”
Interested in joining GCU Men’s Rugby? Learn more about the program here!