2022 Men’s Club Player Of The Year: Washington DC Truck Stop’s Rowan McDonnell

McDonnell pulled from every part of his long career to reach new heights in 2022.

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Ultiworld is pleased to announce our annual Club Awards, starting with the Club Player of the Year in each division. While we consider both regular season and postseason performance, because of the nature of the Club Division, we weight success in the Series and at Nationals above all else. The Club Awards are voted on by Ultiworld reporters, contributors, and editors.

Our Player of the Year winner is the best overall performer of the 2022 Club season and is our highest individual award. The winner is not eligible for consideration in any of our other individual awards. The runners-up will be identified as the second and third vote-getters when the All-Club Teams are revealed in the coming days.

Player of the Year Award
All-Club First Team
All-Club Second Team
Offensive Player of the Year Award
Defensive Player of the Year Award
Breakout Player of the Year Award
Coach of the Year Award
Club Awards Voting Breakdown


2022 Men’s Club Player Of The Year

Rowan McDonnell (Washington DC Truck Stop)

Washington DC Truck Stop's Matthew 'Rowan' McDonnell. Photo: Brian Canniff -- UltiPhotos.com
Washington DC Truck Stop’s Matthew ‘Rowan’ McDonnell. Photo: Brian Canniff — UltiPhotos.com

“Rowan just wants it more than everyone on the field at all times,” said teammate Jonny Malks at the end of the 2022 season.

And that’s just it, isn’t it? There was not a Truck Stop game all year, up to and including the team’s ultimate loss in the final, when McDonnell was not the most focused, the most intense, the most driven player on the field. It was extraordinary – it was borderline abnormal – the way he seemed to sweat blood and bleed effort.

McDonnell’s profuse contributions did not always show up on a stat sheet. As just one of many weapons in a famously balanced Truck Stop attack, he did not throw or catch a huge share of the O-line’s goals, or even receive the centering pass. He operated most often in the middle fifty yards of the field – between the bricks, and then some. There, he undertook the grunt work of flooding toward the disc at speed, assessing the relative positions of the mark, his own defender, and the nearest help, and accelerating toward the biggest possible window.

Did I write ‘window’? It was a peephole as often as not. As defenses came to terms with the idea that the chapter on hucking was missing from the Truck Stop game plan, they hounded every first, second, and third little under into a cupboard. And then? Nothing in 2022 could be more dazzling than to watch Rowan under duress. Light of finger, swift of foot, he rescued dozens of discs from certain doom. The trust the rest of the O-line placed in him to make every high-wire, buttonhole play was often repaid with interest: not only did McDonnell make the catch, he usually managed to turn a hazardous situation to Truck Stop’s advantage by the next pass. In that sense, he was the ultimate system player for the most systematic offense the division has seen in some time.

When the situation called for it, though, McDonnell was happy to split the defense like a log, with one hefty stroke. Think of the universe point forehand he served high on a platter of air for Cole Jurek to advance to the Pro Champs final. Or the one he dropped softly ahead of Christian Boxley’s fast break to maintain a break’s worth of breathing room against PoNY at half of the National semifinal. Only a player who, over the course of years, has invested so much of his energy in the peculiarities of a disc in flight, and into his own fitness, will come up with the throw to suit the moment with such uncanny consistency.

Speaking of years: perhaps the most remarkable aspect of McDonnell’s marvelous run in 2022 was the way it seemed to combine different pieces of his storied career. He was a trick throw artist around the line of scrimmage; he was a rampaging hybrid in the biggest spots; as one of the most explosive athletes on the team, he was even the defensive goon he had been in his earliest Ironside days. He was all of it at once and in exaggerated form, a caricatured mash-up of Rowan’s greatest hits. Not a bad renaissance at all from a legend of the sport.

Edward Stephens

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    Ultiworld is the premier news media site dedicated to the sport of ultimate. This article includes the work of a number of our staff or contributors that have been identified within the piece.

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