With the end of winter near, Oakland’s club rugby team played the opening game for their spring season with a 53-10 win at home against Wayne State March 16. The team has already gotten a head start by getting the team together to practice and to discuss the schedule for the new season.
Behind the scenes
The rugby team at Oakland began in 2005. The team had a couple of rough years and was dying down by 2010, according to Ted Tansley, President of the team. The club was able to rebuild their player base in 2011 and kept going.
“Some of the older guys were a big part of keeping the team going,” Tansley said. “I joined right away and instantly fell in love with the sport.”
Rugby is a highly aggressive sport combining a mixture of football and soccer. Game play features 15 players on the field at once.
“We have a special motto that we use on the team: 15 as 1,” captain Frank DeLong said. “Each team is only as strong as their weakest link.”
“My favorite part of the game is that it’s a very team oriented sport,” DeLong said. ”There are no superstars out here, only a great team.”
Not just a man’s world
Oakland currently only has a men’s rugby team, but the team has high hopes to start a women’s team as well. Even though rugby is a high contact and aggressive sport, it doesn’t have to stop women from getting involved.
“We really hope to get a women’s team started up,” Tansley said. “It’ll be nice to have diversity brought to the sport.”
To play on the team, there is a $45 registration for each player as well as club dues. However, anyone is encouraged to get involved with the team.
“The great thing about rugby is that really anyone can play,” Tansley said. “It doesn’t matter what body build you are, we’ll find a spot for you on the team.”
Many of the current players have backgrounds in the sport but those who do not have previous experience are welcomed to try something new.
“I started playing rugby my junior year of high school,” DeLong said. “When I got word that Oakland’s team was looking for some new players, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to continue playing.”
The team has a table in the Oakland Center that students can go to for information about joining or when the next game will be.
In the zone
Like many other sports, rugby has a mindset all its own. Players get deeply involved in the game, suffering through injuries and a number of other obstacles.
“The team plays in all sorts of weather and other condition,” Tansley said. “We play year round so it’s interesting to see how each game plays out.”
The team plays in the Upper Pioneer Fields and the season also continues into the summer months.
“Rugby can get pretty rough,” Tansley said. ”But it’s tons of fun, so it’s more than worth it.”
Rugby combines a mix of mental and physical ability to create such a challenging game. This challenge gives its players their connections to the field.
“When you’re on the field, you get an emotional connection to it.” Said Tansley. “As soon as you get pulled out all you want to do is jump right back in.”
A new kind of sportsmanship
Sportsmanship is important in any game, but rugby takes the game to a new level. After the game is over, the home team hosts and sponsors a social. These events feature food and good conversation for both the home and opposing teams.
“It’s nice to just be able to be in good company after a game,” Tansley said. “It’s a great way to end such a great game.”
Rugby teams everywhere host socials, making them a staple to any game. Events like these help to promote not only sportsmanship with another team but healthy competition, as well.
Building a brotherhood
The players enjoy spending time together on and off the field. Going out to eat and sitting together watching matches to pick up strategies are some of their most common activities.
“My favorite part of being on the team is the bonds I’ve formed with my teammates,” DeLong said. ”Each and every guy on this team is a brother to me.”
The team welcomes anyone who is willing to play and wants to join an exciting and interesting sport.
“We like to think of rugby as Oakland’s version of football,” Tansley said. “Since we don’t have a team ourselves yet, it’s nice to still bring excitement to the students.”
Contact Staff Reporter Lilly Reid via email at firstname.lastname@example.org