Houston SaberCats & Sam Windsor
The Houston SaberCats have re-signed former Ulster PRO14 Rugby player Sam Windsor as a fly-half and backs coach. Windsor is 31-years-old, 6’1″ and 215 pounds.
Sam leadership was evident since his arrival in Houston. He actively developed connections with other SaberCats coaches and players with the media, clubs, colleges, youth rugby organizations, as well as the community. He also had a stellar first season with the team and was among the MLR statistical leaders in several categories. He was the scoring leader with 103 points, was 2nd in conversions, penalty goals, and penalty goals attempted, and 3rd in conversion attempts.
Sam Windsor, Education, and Early Life
Windsor was born in Bungendore, New South Wales, Australia. He played youth soccer from ages 5-6 and began to play rugby at age 7 with the Queanbeyan Whites before going to High School. While at St. Edmund’s College in Canberra from 2000-2005, he captained the first XV rugby team and the first XI cricket team.
His education, although important, was impacted by his pursuit of rugby. He enrolled in a Bachelor’s Degree in Sports and Exercise at the University of Canberra in 2013, but “as he chased his rugby dream overseas,” his plans changed.
Sam is interested ins more than rugby, He enjoys tennis, golf, water sports, especially surfing, really anything where he can be physically engaged. He also enjoys coffee and has future dreams of owning a Coffee shop of his own.
He also finds that being involved with rugby is a balancing act. His fiancée is supportive of his pursuits and a major consideration on moving to the United States in 2017 was to join her in her home country.
Sam also experienced a major life event last month when he married his fiancée Becca in New South Wales.
Sam Windsor and Rugby
The Queanbeyan Whites have been an important rugby club for Sam. He began playing youth rugby with the team and rejoined them from 2006-2008. During the same period, he joined the Brumbies Academy in Canberra, before playing with Eastern Suburbs in the Shute Shield in 2009.
His rugby journey had him moving to the United Kingdom where he played two seasons with Blackheath in London from 2010-2012. In 2013 it was back to Australia with the Brumbies wider training squad and also with the Queanbeyan Whites. His time playing Rugby Union from 2011-2013 was part of a highlight YouTube video.
Sam’s 2014 year was spent traveling, as he began the year in Dublin, Ireland with Leinster, playing for their A side. He also played club rugby with DUFC (Dublin University). He then returned to Australia to play with the NSW Country Eagles in the National Rugby Championship.
Dublin University (DUFC) congratulated Sam on his signing with Ulster. They said, “Sam spent the second half of the 2013/14 season with Leinster while also representing Trinity with great passion and distinction. He played a huge role in both the turnaround of that season for Trinity and in the development of the younger players in the club (Thanks to his considerable ‘experience!’).”
However, before 2014 ended, he was back in the United Kingdom after signing a contract with the Aviva Premiership Rugby Worcester Warriors. Unfortunately, in his Cavaliers debut in an A-side match against Bristol United, he sustained a dislocated shoulder while scoring a try. This effectively ended his playing with the team as he decided to sign with Ulster for the following Guinness PRO 12 season.
Prior to leaving the Warriors, Windsor said: “Unfortunately injury and surgery have prevented me from playing with Worcester since my arrival in December, but I can’t thank them enough for everything they have done for me.”
“They’re a class club, with top quality coaches and backroom staff. Dean Ryan is taking them in the right direction and I can’t see anything but success for them from here on.
“I am truly grateful for the care and respect they have shown me. Hopefully, I can still play a part in helping them to the playoffs and ultimately winning the Championship.”
Sam looked forward to playing with Ulster. BBC Sport spoke with Ulster team manager Bryn Cunningham, who said “Sam is an intelligent and very professional individual and it is his control of the game that we have been most impressed with.
“At 27 he has the experience to make an impact within the squad right from the off and we are fully expecting him to challenge for a starting position within the squad.”
His rugby career with Ulster lasted from July 2015 to December 2016. He had high hopes of contending for the first side fly-half position, but with the prominent play of Paddy Jackson, he played 3 matches for Ulster, with the remainder with the A side. This did not meet his expectation and Windsor and the team parted ways in December 2016. Both playing time and having a fiancée from the United States were both factors.
You always remember your first start. With Ulster, it came at home on Feb. 16, 2016, against the Glasgow Warriors.
Sam elaborated more about his reasons to leave Ulster. His early release from his contract with Ulster was further elaborated in the 42, with Sam indicating that “I got engaged about a month ago and my fiancée is over in America so it was a personal decision to join her over there.”
“I’ve loved it here in Belfast; I probably didn’t expect to love it so much. It’s been a great city to live in, the people here are amazing and I’ve forged some life-long friendships with the boys at the club. I’ll be keeping an eye on Ulster’s results and I think they will have nothing but success this season and beyond.”
Justin Fitzpatrick, Director of Rugby for the Seattle Saracens lured Windsor to play and coach with the Seattle Saracens. They worked well together and decided to team up again when Fitzpatrick was named the Head Coach of the Houston SaberCats and his first signing was Sam Windsor as a fly-half and backs coach.
The Belfast Telegraph caught up with Windsor after his signing with Houston was announced. In addition fo Windsor, there is a strong Ulster connection with the team in Head Coach Justin Fitzpatrick who played for the 1999 European Cup-winning team, and in Adam Macklin.
Windsor indicated about Houston that ‘”With the high number of ex-pats in Houston for the oil and gas industry, we hope to form a solid supporter base of our own and get good turn-outs for our games. Already the requests for season tickets and merchandise is through the roof.”
He also reflected on his time in Northern Ireland, saying “he loved every minute”.
In 2017 Windsor was also recognized with an award by the Queanbeyan Whites, where he received the Jeff Townsend Shield (Rugby Achievement).
Sam Windsor & Houston SaberCats
Since he joined the team in April 2017, the Houston team has held clinics, done numerous promotional appearances, and had several combines. Despite the longest pre-season in the League with a 12-2-2 record, the team lost a number of close matches in the 2018 MLR season and finished out of the playoffs.
The team continues to be very active in the community and has been active in adding to the core of the team’s existing players. The League will be a stronger one in 2019 and Sam’s leadership will be invaluable. The team will have a new home in Aveva Stadium for 2019 and the Stadium will also host Brazil on February 23 for an Americas Rugby Championship match.
How did Sam spend part of the Summer offseason for the SaberCats?
Sam Windsor Comments
Sam has cooperated in clarifying his involvement with rugby and his other interests. He was also asked about his juggling of player, coach and team responsibilities and how they are balanced.
Sam discussed balancing player/coach responsibilities saying that “I am slowly adapting to the player/coach role. I want the boys to see me as their team-mate first and foremost and hopefully, the coaching respect will come naturally. They’re all very eager to learn and better their game and I am always looking to develop parts of my game as well.”
In discussing the organization, Sam said “It’s been a fun journey helping to build this team. I have been tasked with responsibilities I wouldn’t have imagined ever getting into. We have a great group of investors and executives and we are all looking forward to seeing the success we have had a small taste of off the field, transferred to success on the field.”