Rugby to Host Playoff Game
If you do not know about the Colby rugby team, you should get to know about them. The Mules have a winning record of 4-2 and are ranked third in their conference. Moreover, earlier this season, the men beat the top ranked team, University of Maine, Farmington. On Saturday, October 31, Colby will host a playoff game, and the outlook is good for the Mules.
The Colby Rugby Football Club (CRFC) webpage features a quote that is recognized by many rugby football players as the meaning of the game. The quote reads,
"In our country, true teams rarely exist...these rugby players, with their muddied, cracked bodies, are struggling to hold onto a sense of humanity...The game may only be to move a ball forward on a dirt field, but the task can be accomplished with an unshackled joy and its memories will be a permanent delight. The women and men who play on that rugby field are more alive than too many of us will ever be." (The author of this quote is debatable, but often cited to Victor Cahn.) The Mules are no less inspired by, and dedicated to, the sport of rugby than this quote implies.
The "muddied, cracked bodies" perfectly describes the team last Saturday, October 24, in their 27-5 victory over St. Anselm College. Tries were scored by Collin Anson '11, Camden Fernald '13, Ken Cambell '12 and Niko Lehman '10. The freezing rain pelted down on the players as the two teams bombarded each other, and the field turned into a muddy pit. The new field looked like the old Colby rugby pitch, which was nicknamed "The Swamp." Moreover, the description "unshackled joy" flawlessly embodies the look on each of the players' faces when the game came to an end. "I picked up rugby because I wanted to stay in shape and I liked the idea of getting to hit some people," Co-captain Peter Serina '10 said. "It has since become the best part of my life at Colby.
The rugby squad has two coaches, Tony Fletcher and Bob "Doc" Laurence. Fletcher has coached the Colby rugby team for 11 years. Lawrence could be considered a legend in New England rugby. Every year, the "Robert Laurence" award is given out by the New England Rugby Football Union (NERFU) to a college administrator for their support of rugby in New England.
Colby rugby is a club sport; however, the team takes themselves very seriously. "We constantly work to improve ourselves mentally and physically, and set a positive example in the Colby community," Bangura said. The team practices three times a week. Two practices are coach-led practices, and one is a captains' practice. The practices are understood by the team members to be mandatory, and unless there is a good reason, missing a practice means that person will not start in the next game. "Most of the team is very good about it, and they show up promptly, give us two hard hours of practice, and work their butts off," co-captain Sam Brakeley said.
This year, the team has reinvented itself to turn Colby rugby into something it is proud of. This has obviously been a success for the Mules; the team did not win a single game last season and is now one of the strongest teams in the division. "Losing last season had a lot to do with our attitude of apathy and lack of commitment as a club. This year, it is like we have been playing for a different team and I think it has a lot to do with the strong senior leadership. [The team shows] a new focus on showing up for practice, supporting teammates and acting as a club in general," Serina said. The Colby squad has 15 seniors this year.
"The energy of the club has been enormous ever since the weeks even before returning to campus," Nate Bangura '10 said. "We are only as strong as our foundation and the real power does not lie in our build or our solid frames. No, the real power is subterranean. It rumbles from deep within the core of the team." The energy of the Mules has absolutely materialized, as they won their first three games, are ranked third in their division and are heading into the playoffs. This squad has come together to rebuild and redefine Colby rugby.
Rugby is a physically demanding sport, and every time the players step onto the field they are faced with a punishing brutality. They sacrifice their bodies in suit of winning each game, and with the vision of a playoff championship never knocked from their minds, no matter how hard they are hit. Serina believes that dedication and time spent on teaching everyone how to play the game will help prevent injury. Dedicated to safety, CRFC has submitted a proposal that would give the Colby rugby teams, women included, a preseason and a rugby-specific trainer. The rugby club has the support of trainer Timothy Weston and Dr. Berkner. The team, though rugby is arguably the most brutal sport played on campus, does not have direct access to the athletic trainers. They have to go through the health center before they can see the trainers through a referral, just like any student on campus would need to. The proposal has been submitted to the Director of Athletics, Marcella Zalot, and is under consideration.
The vast majority of the team never played rugby before coming to Colby, including Serina and Brakeley. Only three current members played prior to attending Colby. Many of the men on the team played competitive sports in high school, and they wanted to continue a competitive sport in college. Rugby was recently added to the Olympics, and the Rugby League is expected to go pro in the United States in March. Moreover, rugby can be someone's favorite thing about Colby, and gives athletes an outlet to continue what they love beyond Mayflower Hill. "I have played on summer men's teams, including the Boston 13s, and when I studied abroad in London," Serina said. "
"We demand a lot from the team, but we recognize this is a club sport and put emphasis on having a good time as well," Brakeley said. In addition to an athletic team, the squad is a close-knit group of guys who often eat meals together and host social events for both the men and women rugby teams. They also enjoy singing rugby songs such as "Jesus Can't Play Rugby."
If you want to play rugby, they would love to teach you how. The team is looking for "anyone who shares this love of the sport, is interested in joining a club which promotes high standards of morality, athletic and academic excellence, or wants the chance to wear Mule colors and triumph over some of the rival New England Small College Athletic Conference [NESCAC] schools," Bangura said.
The Mules will host their first playoff game this weekend against New Haven Rugby Club or University of Hartford, if this past weekend changed current standings listed. Finishing third in the Division III Northern Conference places them in the top seed in the division playoffs, and with last weekend's victory, they earned home field advantage. The rugby teams hope for support down at the Rugby field on Saturday. "In freezing cold rain, through mud and blood, nothing rekindles the flame of desire in a rugby player like the feeling he has when he looks to his sideline and sees fans standing in puddles with umbrellas and cameras cheering us on," Bangura said.