USA Rugby Release
GLENDALE, CO – Following a call for nominations to all qualified USA Eagles and Alumni, 10 current and former International Athletes (IA) were elected to their respective Council within USA Rugby. Seated members on the Council consist of two sevens and two XVs representatives, along with three at-large Men’s and three at-large Women’s representatives. Ranging from current players to 30-year veterans, these elected individuals construct a reformed representation of International Athletes at the governance level of USA Rugby. Additionally, Shalom Suniula and Irene Gardner were elected as two of four seated IA on the USA Rugby Board of Directors. With impending amendments to the Ted Stevens Act regarding athlete oversight, IA representation on the Board will increase from two to four, where future nominations will determine the final two seats. Current Board members Phaidra Knight and Kevin Swiryn will act in place for a transitional period.
“An increase in USA Rugby International Athlete representatives on the Board, IA Council and upcoming committees is a historic move within the organization,” said Gardner, “The (IAs) can use this momentum to drive shifts in dynamics and support the interests of the national teams and community rugby alike. I am grateful for the opportunity and hopeful for the future of USA Rugby.”
Gardner joins the Board as one of two USA Rugby representatives on the Athlete Advisory Council with the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee. Earning bronze with the Women’s Sevens during the 2013 Rugby World Cup Sevens and silver at the 2015 Pan American Games; Gardner continues to support the game by coaching with the Berkeley All Blues Sevens. A registered dietitian off the pitch, Irene also founded a private nutrition consulting business.
Suniula noted on accountability within the broader rugby community, “Having seen what life is like from an athlete’s standpoint and coaching at the grassroots level, I know there is a greater responsibility ahead to represent the overall mission of our organization.”
A dual USA Eagle in XVs and sevens, Suniula represented the United States during the Rugby World Cup in 2015 and World Rugby Sevens Series beginning in 2008. Passionate to help change the profile of American rugby, Shalom has spent the last decade in player and coach development, along with the support of the Special Olympics Washington and Pacific Rugby Players Welfare Board. A counterpart to Gardner as the second representative on the USOPC Athlete Advisory Council, Suniula works off the pitch with USI Insurance Services.
INTERNATIONAL ATHLETE COUNCIL REPRESENTATIVES
Men’s and Women’s Sevens
Andrew Durutalo | Men’s Eagle #426
Durutalo first joined the USA Rugby sevens program in 2014 following a run with the Sunwolves of Super Rugby, eventually leading to a roster spot on the 2016 Olympic team in Rio. Born in New York City, raised in Fiji and graduating from College in Japan; Durutalo brings a wealth of international knowledge to the IA Council. He currently plays with the Seattle Seawolves of Major League Rugby.
Kate Zackary | Women’s Eagle #257
A dual Sevens and XV’s athlete, Zackary is the current Captain of the USA Women’s Eagles. A two-time Rugby World Cup selection, most recently at the Rugby World Cup Sevens 2018 in San Francisco. Within the grassroots, Kate is head coach of the girl’s rugby team at La Costa Canyon High School and Coastal Dragon Rugby Club. Outside of rugby, Zackary is an Account Manager for a remote SEO Marketing and thought Leadership company, specializing in project management and consulting.
Men’s and Women’s XVs
Jamie Burke | Women’s Eagle #140
Currently the most-capped Women’s Eagle with 51 appearances, Burke is one of 12 USA Eagles and only Women’s Eagle to surpass the 50-cap mark. An All-World Team selection during the 2010 Rugby World Cup, Burke is now the Director of Youth Rugby for the City of Glendale and Assistant Coach with the USA Women’s Eagles XVs. Spending her time focused on the pathway of young rugby hopefuls, including her daughter.
Andrew Suniula | Men’s Eagle #397
Suniula’s experience on and off the pitch extends a 15-year professional career and 2011 selection to the USA Eagles Rugby World Cup squad. With almost 10 years working in coach development, Suniula brings a genuine passion for developing rugby from the bottom up. Currently, the Rugby Operations Director and coach with the Austin Gilgronis of Major League Rugby, Andrew similarly devotes his time to athlete support with the US and Pacific Rugby Player’s Associations.
Phaidra Knight | Women’s Eagle #99
Elected to the World Rugby Hall of Fame in 2017, Knight played on the international pitch for 18 years with USA Rugby Player of the Decade honors in 2010. Graduating Juris Doctorate from the University of Wisconsin, Knight has most recently served on the USA Rugby Board of Directors and Diversity & Inclusion Committee. Dedicating her time in rugby through philanthropy, Knight recently founded PeaK Unleashed, a non-profit organization devoted to cultivating youth leadership and development through rugby and yoga. PeaK Unleashed partners primarily with juvenile detention centers. Phaidra will be launching her clothing line, the PSK Collective, later this summer.
Jenny Lui | Women’s Eagle #210
Staying engaged with rugby as a certified referee and Assistant Coach with the USA Women’s Eagles XVs, Lui brings 10 years of business practice to the IA Council with an extensive career in advertising. Lui also co-founded Project Rugby Love, a nonprofit whose mission is to spread rugby love while donating proceeds to other nonprofits and organizations who grow the game.
Kristine Sommer | Women’s Eagle #264
Sommer continues to lace up the USA Eagle boots as a current Women’s Eagle, most recently playing Lock in 2019 during the Super Series and Can-Am Series in San Diego. Earning a roster spot during the Rugby World Cup 2017, she aims to do the same in 2021 when the tournament lands in New Zealand. Notably, Sommer co-founded the XV Foundation, a pending non-profit developed to create sustainable funding for the Women’s Eagles XVs and remove the ‘pay-to-play’ model for women’s rugby in the United States. Working outside of rugby as a Business Development Manager for Clear Water Services in the Pacific Northwest, Kristine also dedicates her time with the US Rugby Players Association.
Seamus Kelly | Men’s Eagle #440
A USA Eagle Alum with 25 caps and selection to the Rugby World Cup 2015 squad in England, Kelly works with Jefferies Investment Bank as Vice President of US Equities, Sales, and Trading in New York City. Supporting the rugby grassroots, Kelly serves on the Associate Board of Play Rugby USA; an organization built to inspire youth through rugby, primarily from underserved communities.
Tony Ridnell | Men’s Eagle #168
Ridnell earned his first cap in 1985 and would go on to represent the United States in two Rugby World Cups, both 1987 and 1991. Soon after as well during the inaugural Rugby World Cup Sevens hosted in Scotland in 1993. The West Point graduate has remained well involved and supportive of the USA Rugby national teams over the years and joins the Council as the founder of TRInternational Inc., a chemical sales company.
Denis Shanagher| Men’s Eagle #122
Shanagher joined the Men’s Eagles XV’s against New Zealand in 1980 and remained through the Wales Tour in 1987, including the Australia and Japan tours; and 1987 World Cup. He was also on the first Men’s Eagles Sevens team to Hong Kong in 1981 and remained on the team through 1986. His father, Denis Shanagher Sr., was an original board member of USA Rugby. Denis continues to provide support in rugby through philanthropy, currently a Board member with the US Rugby Foundation. Shanagher also contributes to the Shanagher-Morrison Referee Fund as a trustee, which provides annual scholarships to USA Rugby referees for international training opportunities. He is a partner with Duane Morris LLP, an international law firm.
Moving forward, the IA Council will finalize terms of reference documentation for the new leadership group, whereby voted on by the qualified USA Eagles.