Strength, strategy, toughness: OURFC prepares for 10th season

The Oakland University Rugby Club held their first practice on Sunday, August 20th, 2015.

By Kristen Davis

From popular and well-known sports like hockey and volleyball to more unique ones like ballroom dancing and fencing, Oakland University offers 25 competitive and non-competitive club sports for anyone to join, even non-Oakland students.

One of the lesser-known club sports offered is rugby — a sport that evolved from football in the 1800s — and the Oakland University Rugby Football Club (OURFC) is preparing for its tenth year of competition this fall.

The game

Rugby is traditionally played with 15 players from each team on the field. Players try to advance the rugby ball by running it or passing it laterally or backwards up the field to score.

It’s a free-flowing game, meaning that play doesn’t stop even after a tackle is made. Players don’t wear any protective equipment either, although it is a full-contact sport.

Rugby is also one of the fastest-growing sports in America. According to a study posted on this past May, the sport has seen a 10.7 percent growth in core participants, or those who played the sport multiple times a year, from 2012-2014. The statistic placed sixth amongst the top 15 fastest-growing sports.

OURFC has been classified by the recreation center as a Tier 1, or a competitive gold, team for the past few years. Although that is the highest ranking for a club team at Oakland, climbing the hill to reach that ranking hasn’t been easy.

“When the club started, we weren’t doing very well. We weren’t winning many games,” team captain Hunter Michaels said. “It wasn’t until 2011 that the program really took off.”

2011 was also the year the team place second in the state in Division II.

Despite the ups and downs the program has faced over the last decade, they’ve stuck together.

“Honestly, we’re really determined and we’re really persistent and we’re a family. We stick through it no matter what, we’ll do whatever we can to make it through it,” Michaels said.

What’s next

Coming off a 4-2 fall season, the team is expecting big things for this season, which started on Aug. 20 with their first practice on the upper fields.

The team is voluntarily coached by Oakland student Pete Conan, who has played for the Detroit Tradesman Rugby Football Club, which went undefeated in their division. This year’s team has over 30 members ─ many of which are international, coming from countries such as France and Australia.

Some have played rugby before, like Michaels, who specifically came to Oakland for the club. Some have played sports before, but it’s their first time playing rugby. And then there’s the few who have never played any sports before joining OURFC.

“You’d be surprised, the ones that have never played sports before pick it up really fast and become really good,” Michaels said.

Get involved

Michaels added that they’re always accepting new members and joining can be done at any point in the season by either showing up to practice or speaking to a current member.

The team practices every Tuesday and Thursday from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on the upper fields and also frequently tables in the Oakland Center.

This year will also mark the first time in OURFC history that Oakland will host matches on campus. The first three matches of the season will be played on the upper fields.

The team will play their annual alumni game on Aug. 29, which they’re working to make bigger than previous years to celebrate the ten-year milestone.

The fall season kicks off on Sept. 12 when they host Ferris State University. They will face Grand Valley State University on Sept. 19 and Saginaw Valley State on Sept. 26 at home before traveling to Grand Valley State on Oct. 3.

They will round out the season with a bye week on Oct. 10 and two road games at Ferris State on Oct. 17 and at Saginaw Valley State University on Oct. 24. They will get another bye week on Oct. 31 before playoffs begin on Nov. 7.

ORFC has been thriving and growing in recent years, and the club is looking forward to continuing the positive momentum this upcoming season.

“This is going to be such an exciting year for OURFC. We’re really excited about stepping up our community involvement, so expect to see us around campus at things like the student move-in and the upcoming carnival,” Vice President Rael Graham said.

“Our membership has been growing in the last couple of years, giving us a greater competitive edge on the field. This team will be amazing this year and it will be a great opportunity for sports fans to come check out something new and exciting,” Rael added.

For more information on OURFC, visit