It’s the 40th anniversary of the men’s rugby club team! Established in 1977 the club team was created here on UNCG’s campus for rugby lovers: rookies and experienced players alike are welcome to join. The team competes against other colleges’ and universities’ club teams. Appalachian State University was the first matchup of the season on Friday.
Contrary to popular belief rugby is very different from football; “it’s way more fun than football to me. It’s a continuous play, that’s what I like about rugby,” said freshman player Don Hopewell who played rugby in high school only his senior year but loved it so much he joined the club team.
Some joined the team for other reasons.
“It’s fun. You get to hit, tackle, no passes like football,” said sophomore Daniel Verhaagen. “It’s a real man sport. That’s why I love to play.” Chris Connell sophomore and team captain says he has been playing for over 10 years so it’s natural for him now.
Palmer Anderson, a veteran of the team, says, “It is a very good way to find a community of like minded people who like the same sport as you.” He continues by saying it is also “a very healthy way to let out aggression. It’s a healthy outlet in general.”
Hitting people is not the highlight of this sport to them though. The highlight is getting hit! That’s right; being hit on the field was many of their favorite memories from last season. As they reminiscence, they discuss their memories of their first time getting hit and their first time hitting someone bigger than them.
Why is being hit such a memory?
“It makes you feel tough and strong!” says Verhaagen as his teammates shake their head in agreement. One teammate did not agree. “I don’t know what you guys are talking about but I like hitting people, I don’t like getting hit” Hopewell comments as he juxtaposes with the majority. They giggle after his statement. They still enjoy being hit, it is a part of the grown man sport.
Despite the disagreement about the thrill of hitting versus being hit, they all agree on one thing. That is that they are more than ready for the season to begin. “I’m ready to do the work. I’m ready to win games,” says Verhaagen.
“We are very optimistic, we have a lot of new guys, which is always fun and promising” says Anderson. Hopewell on the other hand is “trembling with excitement.” He says his beach vacation this weekend is not going to be as fun as playing in the first game this season. “I can’t wait to get back, so I can play rugby.”
They seem more than ready and excited for the start of the new season. Anderson says he is looking forward to playing Appalachian State so he can tackle the same big guy he tackled last season. Verhaagen is looking forward to tackling the guy’s at another UNC campus- UNC Charlotte, who they face Oct. 14. Hopewell says he’s just ready for the next game, who ever it may be. Excited, hopeful, hungry, eager are all words to describe the vibe of this club rugby team. They are ready to win big this year; they have tunnel vision. Coach Steve Ackrish known to his players as “Guido” is also ready for this year. He says they have a lot of new guys this year, but that is not discouraging to him or the veterans of the squad. They plan to work very hard. Ackrish is a fellow Spartan himself graduating from the university back in 1982, so his Spartan pride runs deep.
Go support the men’s club rugby team at their next home match against Furman University on Sept 16. All home games will be held on the UNCG Recreation Field. Good luck this season guys! We are looking forward to a rugby championship this season.