The Seattle Seawolves signed Mat Turner for the 2021 Major League Rugby season in a dual role as Assistant Coach and player. The South African fullback is from Cape Town, is 32 years old (33 in Jan.), 5’9″, and 190 lbs.
Mat initially signed with the team in 2017 and had a dual player role and served as the Director Of Operations for the Seawolves. In 2019 He appeared in 15 of the team’s 18 matches, including winning the MLR Championship for the second time. He averaged 12.5 carrying meters per in 2019, running 1,358 meters & scoring 8 tries. He is a team leader, as well as a catalyst in the team’s attack. What is also apparent is his defense prevented numerous tries during the season. In 2020 he started all five matches at fullback.
Turner attended Western Province Preparatory School in Claremont, a suburb of Cape Town, and then transferred to Bishops College. While at the latter, he played first XV rugby in 2006 and finished as the top scorer in school rugby in the country, scoring 286 points.
After finishing high school, he joined the Western Province Academy and represented the Western Province in the 2007 Under-19 Provincial Championship. In 2008, he played for the University of Cape Town Ikea Tigers in the Varsity Cup competition. That year, he also was selected to the South Africa Under-20s training squad, as well as the Western Province squad for the 2008 Under-21 Provincial Championship.
In 2008, Turner moved to England to join Premiership side Bristol and made an instant impact by scoring his first try within three minutes of coming on to the field in that year’s Anglo-Welsh Cup. He also made his debut in the English Premiership against the Northampton Saints.
In 2009, Turner played for the Southern Kings in their first-ever match against the British and Irish Lions on 16 June 2009 during their South Africa tour.
Turner qualified to play internationally for England through his English mother and was selected for the England Sevens team and played int he first two legs of the 2009-10 IRB Sevens World Series. He became a regular for England and eventually went on to play a total of 34 Sevens World Series tournaments between 2009 and 2013, scoring 92 tries. In 2012, Turner was also nominated for the IRB Sevens Player of the Year award and was top try scorer of the series in the same year with 37.
In 2012 and 2015, Turner played for the Central Kings in Sri Lanka at the Carlton International 7s tournament. In August 2015, he was appointed as the head coach of the Sri Lanka national rugby sevens team, leading them to 2nd overall in the Asia Nation 7s for the first time.
Following his first season with the Seattle Seawolves, Turner played rugby sevens for Tiger Rugby at the Rugbytown 7s with the team making it to the finals in 2018 and was a Pool winner in 2019. He played for the Washington Athletic Club in the USA Rugby Club 7s Nationals in 2018 and 2019.
Seattle Seawolves Release
Turner will be assisting head coach Kees Lensing with coaching duties including overseeing the backs while also continuing his role on the pitch as a fullback, as the team looks to return to Championship form in 2021.
“We are excited to elevate Mat Turner to the role of player-assistant coach. Mat has been with the Seawolves from the very beginning and he brings significant rugby IQ and coaching experience, on and off the pitch. Most importantly, he understands our culture and what it takes to win MLR championships,” said Seawolves General Manager Adrian Balfour.
Mat Turner is a certified Level 200 World Rugby coach and was the head coach of the Sri Lanka National Rugby Sevens team in 2015, leading them to second overall in the Asia Nation 7s for the first time ever.
“I’m extremely excited to get going in this new role and to be working with Kees to build another Championship caliber team” said Turner. “We are focused on further developing our players and continuing to build onto the foundation of success already established by our coaches and players.”
The team’s 2020 assistant coach and former Seawolves player, Phil Mack, will not be returning to the team’s coaching staff for the 2021 season. Mack was an instrumental part of the Seawolves Championship seasons, including his role as player-coach during the inaugural 2018 Major League Rugby season, which made him one of the few player-coaches in North American sports history to win a Championship.
“Phil has been a major contributor to our success to date and he will be missed by our entire organization. He is a fierce competitor, passionate teammate, and beloved friend to our rugby community. His tireless commitment has helped build the Seawolves into the world-class sports organization that we are today,” said Seawolves President and Owner Shane Skinner. “Phil leaves behind a legacy that no Seawolves fan will ever forget and we wish him the utmost success in his future. He is a true Champion on-and-off the field and we thank him for his contributions.”