#WRugby

Alaska Rugby, Monmouth Rugby & T.I.T.S. Women’s Rugby & More

June 9, 2016

Alaska Rugby, Monmouth Rugby & T.I.T.S. Women’s Rugby & More

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Photo: Alaska Mountain Rugby Grounds by Bob Weir

Doug Coil

Rugby in Alaska began in 1973 (history) and supports men’s and women’s rugby, youth, as well as, master’s rugby. Alaska Rugby Union teams have made numerous tours and have hosted many touring rugby clubs over the years. In the 1970s and 80s they hosted teams from England, New Zealand and Canada. Later they would host other international sides and teams from the U.S., but the first team they hosted from the contiguous United States was the club that I founded, Monmouth Rugby Club from New Jersey in August, 1993. The Tacoma Nomads came in 1994 and San Diego Old Aztecs also came during the 90s, but Monmouth was the first and are remembered.

Alaska Rugby and the link with Monmouth Rugby Club

In 1987, the Alaska Selects participated in the 1987 Hawaii Pan-Am Rugby Tournament. It was there that they formed a bond with the Monmouth Rugby Club. Since its inception in 1973, Monmouth Rugby Club has gone on 23 or more tours, which rank among the top clubs in the United States who have toured. In 1993 for their twentieth anniversary as a rugby club, Monmouth went to Alaska to enjoy playing rugby and to experience the scenery that only Alaska can provide. They played in Fairbanks at the Golden Days Rugbyfest and later in Anchorage against the Alaska Rugby Union Selects and somehow won all their matches.

By the Alaska tour, Monmouth Rugby Club were already experienced travelers. They had traveled domestically to Louisiana three times for Mardi Gras tournaments, to Hilton Head, South Carolina twice, to Maine, Florida and to Hawaii twice. In 1983, they were the first East Coast team to play in the Hawaii Pan Am Tournament. They also toured internationally to England and Ireland four times, Isle of Jersey, Nova Scotia and were the first team from the U.S. to play in the Isle of Man Sevens in 1979. The Women’s team also had a tour to New Orleans.

Tours are highlights of a rugby player’s career. They add cohesion to clubs and help players bond. It was a chance to see part of the country that few people see, and for the younger members, to get rugby memories of their own to lie about.

Cameron Vivian, the President of the Alaska Oosik Rugby Union, made all the travel and tour arrangements for Monmouth’s tour, coordinating this with Bruce McLane and Kevin Bowman fr0m Monmouth.

I spoke with Frank Fischer, Past President of Monmouth, who was on this tour to highlight some of the experiences. I will share some, while others are better shared while socializing.

The tournament in Fairbanks, hosted by the Sundawgs, was held at Buzz Otis’ Rugby World pitch. The teams included the Sundawgs, the Phantoms, Green Dragons, Maulers, Barbarians, and Wild Hares, as well as Monmouth.

The Sundawgs were good hosts and all players were housed in local players homes. This was also done in Anchorage. The team was transported in the team’s school bus to both the field and to imbibe at local drinking establishments. Alaskan are creative and the Sundawgs added a practical feature to their bus. In the back of the bus was a gallon jug with its top cut off and a hose duct taped to it and leading outside the bus.This does make a difference when pub crawling or on trips.

At the Howling Dog Saloon, the team sang their finest renditions of songs like Singing in the Rain and also managed to play volleyball without lights at 2am. After all this is the land of the Midnight Sun during the Summer. At The Trail’s End, a couple trying to enjoy a quiet dinner apparently complained to the manager about the boisterous Monmouth crowd. He replied “I don’t care if they are bothering you, they are spending a lot of money.” Monmouth did try to do their part to grow the Alaska economy while there.

The team also experienced Alaska while visiting. The team went to Cheena Hot Springs and a recitation of Father Abraham ensued. They cruised down the Cheena River, they went to Denali National Park and went white water rafting. Some even took a single engine plane ride over Denali. They saw the wildlife, moose, caribou, bears, eagles, and even whales before the tour ended.

In Anchorage they visited the legendary Bird House. They were introduced to the copper horn and blew it well. That they didn’t know in advance was that when they did that they would then be covered with flour. The Bird House was located south of Anchorage and opened as a bar in 1963. It later burned down in 1996, but was resurrected at the site of Spenard’s night club, Chilkoot Charlies, where it is today.

Frank E. Baker in the September issue of the Alaska Star, indicated that “The Bird House was always more than a bar, a place to partake in liquid refreshment. It was a social place, a meeting place, a place where everyone was a bit friendlier, more animated, jokes were funnier; people were noisier, more boisterous, more outrageous. When you walked into the Bird House you could always expect the unexpected. Anything was possible, and the best jokes – although you didn’t think so at the time – were the ones played on you.” Monmouth can attest to that.

At another Anchorage establishment, Fly By Night club, the menu was duck taped and spam was prepared in many ways. Beer was consumed, but Budweiser was charged a $.50 tax by the bar for being a poor choice and certainly not the drink of choice at the bar.

Monmouth did try to give back to the community while in Alaska. Members paid for four local children to experience some of the costly experiences. The team left Alaska knowing that they never forget the hospitality of the Alaska Ruggers and their wives and girlfriends.

In Monmouth Rugby Club’s 25th Anniversary Club History publication, the Ode to the Oosik was found. Some may find this tale crude, but it is part of Monmouth Club lore. It is found online if interested.

Alaska Rugby Union

The majority of Alaska Rugby Union men’s and women’s rugby teams are in Anchorage, Alaska. During the Summer, rugby matches are regularly held on Tuesdays and Thursdays in Anchorage, while tournaments are held on weekends in Anchorage, Fairbanks, Kenai and Healy, Alaska. Youth rugby also is being to blossom in Anchorage.

Alaska teams have traveled and have a regular presence at the Maggotfest, in Mizzoula, Montana. They also host clubs from distance locations. Last year, they hosted the Valley Kangaroos from Washington and the USA Women’s Eagles Sevens team, who played an exhibition and ran clinics while in Anchorage.

This year, the T.I.T.S., a Midwest Rugby Union women’s rugby touring side from Wisconsin will play in the Kenai Dipnet Fest Rugby 10s tournament.

Last year USA Rugby Coach Education Bob Weir conducted a L200 Coaching class at the Alaska Mountain Rugby Grounds. Bob also the Head Coach of the Philadelphia Women’s Rugby Club and also the Wilmington Rugby Men’s Club. Bob indicated “that I see Alaska leveraging their general attraction to adventurous souls with the rugby spirit.  Building a coaching resource so local talent can improve while enjoying the “visits” by worldwide rugby players to mark their progress.”

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Photo: Bob Weir

Tournaments

A couple of tournaments kick off the Alaska Rugby Union League season. The first preseason tournament is the Fairbanks Springfest and then the Mother Tucker Memorial Rugby Ruckus in Anchorage. Teams were preparing for this later tournament when I visited.

On May 28th, a Women’s Rugby Sevens tournament, the Healy Women’s Rugbyfest was held in Healy, Alaska. Healy, is a town in which workers in Denali National Park and Princess Lodges live.

On June 18th the Midnight Sun Sevens Tournament will be held. Both men’s and women’s teams throughout the Union, as well as the Yukon will participate.

July 16 the fifth annual Kenai Dipnet Fest Rugby 10s tournament will be held in Kenai, Alaska. “Men and women rugby clubs within the Alaska Rugby Union will compete in a competitive social tourney for the chance to hoist the heaviest trophy in the state. The action takes place on a field with dipnet uprights and near the bluff that overlooks the mouth of the Kenai River during the peak of the salmon personal use fishery.
New to this year’s format is a touring women’s team named T.I.T.S. from Wisconsin that will be in Kenai to play an Alaskan select side to set up a TITs vs. ASS matchup! A co-ed barefoot friendly 15’s match will be played to conclude the games. Afterwards join the Wolfpack at the Backdoor Lounge Bar a mere 500 feet from midfield for the tournament social to sing songs and enjoy a few pints. Traveling ruggers will again be allowed to camp next to the field Friday and Saturday night so there’s no need to get in a car once you arrive.” An article in the Peninsula Clarion, July 18, 2015, “Between the Tides: Some rugby to go with dip netting” provides an interesting perspective about this tournament.

On July 30, the Golden Days Rugbyfest will be held in Fairbanks.

Although the league season ends on August 11th. There is one last tournament on August 22nd, the Alaska Oosik State Invitational in Anchorage.

As can be seen in the Alaska Rugby Union match schedule below, league matches are held at Davis Field. Practices may either be at Davis Field or Delaney Park Strip. Special rugby events and tours may be held at the Alaska Mountain Rugby Grounds.

T.I.T.S. Women’s Rugby Side: T.I.T.S. Rugby Fan Page

The T.I.T.S. Women’s Rugby  is from the Midwest and is excited about their tour to Alaska to play in the Kenai Dipnet 10s tournament July 16th. The team has also offered to help out any local teams if they need anything the week leading up to it as well.

The tournament or assisting local clubs will be the only rugby activities for the side as players are planning to do some backpacking, camping, fishing, and possibly some climbing the week leading up to it.

The T.I.T.S. Summer season is a hectic one and include players from many Midwest Clubs and Colleges. Their schedule is listed below.Team captain, Xanthi Gerasimo, shared information about the side to gain a better perspective of the team.

The side only assembles for tournaments. The side does not practice, doesn’t have a coach and is lead by captains. The goal is to bring together college rugby players who are seeking to play better rugby, but don’t really have a good outlet – and senior level players who want low-stress rugby in the summers. It’s all about having fun and playing good rugby while we’re at it. We have NSCRO college players playing right along side WPL players and former national team players. The side will be participating in about 10 tournaments this year, mostly in the mid-west.

The side was formed five years ago in order to participate in tournaments and play good rugby. There’s a team on the east coast called the TWOTS (Touring Women Over Thirty Side) which seemed hilarious… and someone pointed out that because we weren’t old enough, maybe we should just be TWOTS in training… and so T.I.T.S. was born [T.W.O.T.S. (Touring Women Over Thirty Side) In Training Side]. The only team with an acronym within an acronym. Five years later, that group of college players is all playing high-level senior rugby, and bringing in college players who are in the same spot we were (craving good rugby) to play… and we’re still playing under the ridiculous name.

T.I.T.S. Summer Schedule

June 11 Jail Break 7s, Joilet IL
June 18th MadTown 7s, Madison WI
June 25th Shipwreck 7s, Chicago IL
July 9th Lakefronts 7s, Milwaukee WI
July 16th Dip Fest, Kenai Alaska
July 23rd Stout 7s, Menomonie WI
July 29th-Aug 1st SNAFU 15s in Winnipeg MB Canada
Aug 13th Stuart Daily’s 10s, Madison WI

Their roster on the Alaska includes the following players: (*confirmed plus likely participants)
Maggie Armstrong*     Unattached
Xanthi Gerasimo*    Twin Cities Amazons RFC (Captain)
Maggie Hutchison    University of Wisconsin
Kaelene Lundstrom*    Twin Cities Amazons RFC
Kenna Missfeldt     Minnesota Valkyries RFC
Melissa Polheber*    Wisconsin Women RFC
Kate Simon    University of Wisconsin Oshkosh
Drea Sortillon    University of Wisconsin Stevens Point
Lindsey Stene*    Twin Cities Amazons RFC
Sarah Thomas*    Wisconsin Women RFC

Alaska Rugby Teams

Men’s Division 1

  • Alaska Manu Bears
  • Spartan Rugby
  • Spenard Green Dragons

Men’s Division 2

  • Arctic Legion
  • Birdcreek Barbarians
  • 907 Brothers
  • Turnagain Boretide
  • Fairbanks Sundawgs
  • Kenai River Wolfpack

Women’s Rugby

  • Anchorage Arctic Foxes
  • Anchortown
  • Aurora Rams
  • Last Frontier Lynx
  • Fairbanks Ravens

Masters Rugby: 35 and over

Alaska Youth Rugby: Web page

I was not on the Monmouth tours to Alaska and have recently traveled to Alaska this past May. I had one night in Anchorage, so while walking around part of the city, I happened to see a rugby practice at Delaney Park Strip. It was there that I met Jim Sellers, Vice President of the Alaska Rugby Union and conducted a quick interview about the Union. The interview in on the DJCoil Rugby You Tube Channel and link is below.

The Monmouth tours were also remembered by a sports journalist and conductor of the White Pass and Yukon Route Railway in Skagway. He had written about the Alaska Selects playing Monmouth.

DJCoil Rugby Interview: Jim Sellers, Vice President Alaska Rugby Union

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Alaska Oosik Rugby Union: Web page

Alaska Rugby Union Schedule

  • April 23 Sat Fairbanks Springfest – Fairbanks
  • May 21 Sat Mother Tucker Rugbyfest – Davis Field
  • May 26 Thurs Manu Bears Boretide – Davis Field
  • May 26 Thurs Arctic Legion Spartans – Davis Field
  • May 28 Sat Healy Women’s Rugbyfest – Healy #WRugby
  • May 31 Tues Barbarians Dragons – Davis Field
  • June 2 Thurs Spartans Manu Bears – Davis Field
  • June 7 Tues Dragons 907 Brothers – Davis Field
  • June 7 Tues Arctic Foxes Last Frontier – Davis Field #WRugby
  • June 9 Thurs Boretide Barbarians – Davis Field
  • June 9 Thurs Aurora Rams Anchortown – Davis Field #WRugby
  • June 14 Tues Arctic Legion 907 Brothers – Davis Field
  • June 14 Tues Anchortown Last Frontier – Davis Field #Wrugby
  • June 18 Sat Midnight Sun Sevens Tournament – Davis Field
  • June 21 Tues Spartans Dragons – Davis Field
  • June 23 Thurs 907 Brothers Manu Bears – Davis Field
  • June 23 Thurs Last Frontier Aurora Rams – Davis Field #Wrugby
  • June 28 Tues 907 Brothers Boretide – Davis Field
  • June 28 Tues Arctic Foxes Aurora Rams – Davis Field #Wrugby
  • June 30 Thurs Manu Bears Dragons – Davis Field
  • July 7 Thurs Spartans Barbarians – Davis Field
  • July 7 Thurs Aurora Rams Last Frontier – Davis Field #WRugby
  • July 12 Tues Boretide Arctic Legion – Davis Field
  • July 12 Tues Anchortown Arctic Foxes  – Davis Field #Wrugby
  • July 14 Thurs Dragons Spartans – Davis Field
  • July 16 Sat Kenai Dipnet Fest – Kenai
  • July 19 Tues Barbarians 907 Brothers – Davis Field
  • July 19 Tues Last FRontier Arctic Foxes – Davis Field #Wrugby
  • July 21 Thurs Anchortown Aurora Rams – Davis Field #Wrugby
  • July 26 Tues 907 Brothers ARctic Legion – Davis Field
  • July 26 Tues Barbarians Boretide – Davis Field
  • July 30 Golden Days Rugbyfest – Fairbanks
  • Aug 2 Tues Dragons Manu Bears – Davis Field
  • Aug 2 Tues Last Frontier Anchortown – Davis Field #Wrugby
  • Aug 4 Thurs Arctic Legion Boretide – Davis Field
  • Aug 4 Thurs Aurora Rams Arctic Foxes – Davis Field #Wrugby
  • Aug 9 Tues Arctic Legion Barbarians – Davis Field
  • Aug 9 Tues Arctic Foxes Anchortown – Davis Field #Wrugby
  • Aug 11 Thurs Manu Bears Spartans – Davis Field
  • Aug 22 Sat Alaska Oosik State Invitational – Davis Field

Fields in Anchorage

Alaska Mountain Rugby Grounds – Web page“The Dream” Justin Green, You Tube: The 49th Estate: The Alaska Mountain Rugby Grounds

Davis Field – 3 rugby pitches

Delaney Park Strip

USA Women’s Eagles Sevens Tour Anchorage, September 2015

https://djcoilrugby.com/

 

4 replies »

  1. For the record Monmouth wasn’t ‘the first team they hosted from the contiguous United States’, that honor went to the Northern California Scorpions that played and toured in the summer of 1984. They were/are strictly a touring side made up of players from the Santa Cruz/Santa Barbara area clubs. They were a good group who showed well for themselves passing thru Anchorage, Fairbanks and Homer.

    Dr. Julius R. Saturn Esq.

    Like

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