A clear policy to sign the best of California’s young rugby talent has snared explosive winger Mika Kruse as the latest signing for the LA Giltinis.
Today’s announcement of a two-year deal is another positive step to building a sustainable club that blends top homegrown stars with dynamic international players on the roster.
Kruse, 22, is part of American rugby’s new wave, a player on the rise because of all the development benefits from three years in Major League Rugby with the Glendale/Colorado Raptors.
He is a strong-running winger, at 220lb (100kg) and 6’1” (1.85m), with the potential to be a regular try-scorer on the end of the Giltinis’ creative backline.
The oldest of six siblings is Fresno-raised less than four hour’s drive from the MLR club’s new base at Venice Beach.
“I’m a kid from California playing professional rugby and proof you can do it as a local kid from a lesser-known place on the map,” Kruse said.
“To be playing in Los Angeles so close to home is very important to me and there’s a crowd right there as supporters in my family and friends.
“Getting to start fresh as a club and say who we are as the Giltinis is a big deal and you want to be a part of making big waves straight away.”
Kruse’s father Cedric saw a poster advertising the school rugby club, Bullard Knights, when he was at Bullard High School in Fresno and the rest, as they say, is history.
Touring France and Belgium in 2015 with the High School All-Americans (Under-17s) team quickly hooked Kruse on the amazing international scope of rugby.
“That was a big opportunity early in my rugby career and being able to learn from the international players and coaches at the Giltinis is going to be awesome,” Kruse said.
“I have had three seasons in MLR and I’ve learnt a lot in that time.
“When I started, I could only focus on what I had to do but now I see the part I can play in the bigger picture of the game.
“The MLR is getting immensely better every season.”
Kruse was one of the youngest players (19) in the first season of MLR in 2018 and is a poster boy for the exponential difference a well-run professional rugby competition is having on American and Canadian talent.
Kruse played a few minutes off the bench for the USA Eagles against the Maori All Blacks in their non-Test international at Chicago’s Soldier Field in 2018.
Off the field, the musical Kruse is going to be popular with his ukulele at team gatherings.
“Mika was our first pick (in the dispersal draft when the Raptors folded) because he’s big, athletic, can jump and catch and there’s so much upside as he keeps developing,” Giltinis head coach Darren Coleman said.
“He’s got a big spinnaker with that hair of his and we just see his potential as a tryscorer with a well-rounded game.”
The Giltinis will kick off their MLR campaign on the weekend of March 20, 2021, with tickets being available by the end of this year.