The Vancouver Nighthawks’ Brendan Wong has certainly made his mark in his first season of Major League Ultimate, collecting no fewer than three awards: the Scoring Title; Western Conference Rookie of the Year; and Western Conference Most Valuable Player.
(Since there is no inter-conference play, MLU bestows separate awards for each conference. Also, the rookie award does not take into account play outside MLU, so Wong was eligible in spite of his vast experience at the game’s highest levels. As well, by MLU rules, winning MVP made him ineligible for the Western Conference Offensive Player of the Year award , or he would have won that too.)
“I am deeply honoured and flattered to be the recipient of these awards,” says Wong. “I am also very humbled by the fact that enough people voted for me to be rewarded such great awards. Coming into the season, I never expected to get such recognition. Winning these awards definitely keeps me motivated to continue working hard so that I can be the best that I possibly can and hopefully have continued success on the field.”
Wong made his mark as an unstoppable offensive force, scoring almost a quarter of the Vancouver’s goals in spite of the fact that the Nighthawks’ offence was the second most potent in MLU, and that by only a four-goal margin. He obliterated the single season MLU goal scoring record with his 48 goals and added 16 assists for 64 points on the way to breaking the single season point scoring record. Even if you didn’t count his assists, his 48 goals would have won him the scoring title by a single point over second leading scorer Jeff Graham‘s 47 points, and those 48 goals were a full 16 more than the 32 collected by second-leading goal scorer Donnie Clark.
It took only till the eighth game of the 10-game regular season for Wong to break the goal scoring record. Let’s take a look at that goal, because it epitomizes why Wong did so much scoring in spite of never making a play spectacular enough to win him a Play of the Week award. Some players thrive on making the spectacular plays; Wong eschews the spectacular in favour of being in the right place at the right time, making the difficult look easy.
At first glance, the play is nothing special. If your eyes follow the disc down the field while you watch the play, Wong is nowhere in sight until he trots into the end zone to make an easy catch from fellow O-line cutter Mark Leduc. But if you take a closer look, you can see Wong’s genius at work. Watch again from the beginning, as the Nighthawks pick up the disc after forcing a turnover near their end zone. At the bottom of the screen in black leggings, there is Wong heading up the field as his teammates work the disc. Just as the second pass of the series is completed to Gagan Chatha near midfield, Wong has the smarts to spot the opportunity that will occur a few passes later, and suddenly turns on the speed to break past a defender and into the clear.
As Chatha moves the disc to handler John Norris, Wong continues his cut. Meanwhile, Leduc has also spotted the opportunity to break into the clear, and Norris throws him a nice sidearm that he catches just before the end zone. Leduc immediately turns and puts it on a platter for Wong to make an easy catch for the goal. “I was not at all surprised to see Brendo there,” says Leduc, “as evidenced by the fact that the disc was out of my hand less than a second after I caught it. In fact, I can recall several instances this year when that exact same situation has occurred. Here’s a perfect example. He won’t stop running until someone has the disc in the end zone.”
This was a seemingly routine goal that illustrates perfectly the smarts, anticipation, and physical skills that have propelled Wong to setting the MLU scoring record. He knows where to go on the field before anyone else, and has the speed to get there before anyone else has even realized what was about to happen. And above all, he just loves to score. Here’s another example of his relentlessness.
This is from earlier in the same game. A hammer aimed at his teammate in the end zone gets deflected, but there he is to make a huge layout and come up with the disc. Meanwhile, the opponent who had been marking him has given up on the play, resulting in the defender just standing there watching him score. Some of the best strikers in MLU are not great throwers, so if you can shut them down on strikes, they don’t have much to contribute to their team’s offence.
Wong, on the other hand, also delights in coming under with his cuts to keep the Nighthawks’ offence, which emphasizes cutter-to-cutter throws, moving the way it is designed to do. “It’s hard to justify backing someone substantially when they can also throw as well at Brendo does,” says Leduc. No one is better suited to comment on Brendo’s skills than his Nighthawks teammate Morgan Hibbert, who won the Western Conference Defensive Player of the Year award, the only unanimous choice for the end-of-season awards this year, and is no doubt very glad he doesn’t have to face Wong on the MLU field. “Brendan is a special talent. At the beginning of the year John and Greg from the John&Greg show asked me about him, and where he came from. ‘He’s always been here,’ I said, as I have had the pleasure of competing with and against Brendan for over a decade now. In training, he always provides the stiffest challenge for me; his combination of athleticism, skills, and smarts makes him uniquely challenging. He can hurt you in so many ways.”
“Whenever the team needed a big play or a clutch goal this year, Brendan was the one who would step up. Many times this year he put the team on his back and carried us to victory, all while always putting the team first. He is true class and a deserving MVP. It’s quite an honor to roll alongside him as he leads us into Saturday’s MLU Championship game.” As with the rest of his teammates, for Wong individual achievements like winning awards are meaningless without achieving team goals. “I am content with being a contributor to the team in whatever way that I can without seeking to be in the spotlight. It is a pleasure to play with all of my fellow Nighthawks. We push each other to play to the best of our ability and support each other at all times.”
“With respect to getting the scoring title, the guys were very supportive of me during our final regular season game in San Francisco. They let me play more than my fair share of points just to give me the opportunity to capture that scoring title. That made me laugh and smile!”
To learn more about the game day festivities and to purchase tickets to the Championship Game at PPL Park in Chester, Pa., click here. For fans that will be in Vancouver on game day, come out to Mahony & Sons in downtown Vancouver to watch the game at Nighthawks Live!
Even if you can’t travel to Philadelphia or make it out to Mahony & Sons, you’ll still be able to watch a live stream of the game on MLU Live.