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Local High School Rugby Back on the Pitch

After a one-year hiatus due to the global pandemic high school boys and girls rugby is finally returning.

Teams slowly but surely started practicing for the season, which started a little over a week ago. It’s been exciting for all the players who missed last year’s season and were itching to play.

The boys high school teams that are in the upstate division include, Kenmore, Canisius, Grand Island, Corning, Fairport, and Syracuse. Some of the teams in the downstate division include, Pelham, Fordham Prep, Play Rugby USA, and defending state champs Xavier. Kenmore Rugby Club faced Xavier in the last state championship, losing 45-10.

The pandemic has created a lot of stress this coming season because of the new rules and regulations made specifically to follow covid-19 protocols. These rules must be followed if any team wanted to participate in a season this year. Some of the rules that are included are: scrums are temporarily removed from competition, face masks are required for coaches and players who are in the technical zone/sideline, and only four player lineouts. These rules are a lot to handle, but all the clubs in New York say they are happy to follow the newly implemented rules if it meant they would be cleared to play. Rob Sliwinski, chairman of RugbyNY, just wants as many kids to be engaged in the sport after a one-year hiatus saying, “The main goal is to get out to play, and just try to resume normalcy as much as possible. After losing last season it’s the best to just get kids on the field and get acquainted to the game and play as much as possible since losing last season.”

Clubs all around western New York are all excited for the season and all the potential the players have in each of the clubs. Daniel Hager, coach of Grand Island, is excited for this season just to be able to be with and watch the seniors this year play after losing last year.

“After losing last season and having to say goodbye to a large group of talented seniors without really saying goodbye I am looking forward to watching the current group of seniors get back onto the pitch.” Hager said.

Grand Island also has a college commit in Jacob Miller, who will be attending Saint Bonaventure University to continue his rugby career there. “Jake is a leader both on the field” says Hager, “He has a fiery athletic ability and has always been one to improve upon his core skills. His years as a wrestler have allowed him to develop as a strong defender and hard worker at practice.”

Being a hard worker is paramount to become a great rugby player, but this league is filled with great players from other clubs such as, Canisius’ Zach Taylor and Dan Carl according to Canisius coach, Charlie Ehlers. “They are great leaders on and off the field with one back leader and one forward leader it will help show the others how to work for each other as teammates and as a unit.”

The unified Kenmore Rugby high school girls team started their season on May 2nd  playing RugbyNY champs Orchard Park which ended in a 36-5 loss against the defending champs. The Kenmore rugby club played two games against City Honors on a recent Sunday winning both games 44-0 and 39-10.

The boys high school season started Saturday with Syracuse hosting Corning. Corning won 53-5. “Both teams went into the match with very little experience” coach Bobby McGee said, “both teams improved as the match went along and players were able to make connections between what they see in practice and what happens in matches.”

This theme of having a lot of new experience on the team is a common one amongst all the clubs. Head coach of the Kenmore Rugby Club, Mackenzie Doolittle, knows how important to teach the game to new kids saying, “We have a new group with a different set of skills, pretty inexperienced for the most part so, most importantly, stay healthy, have fun, and grow the game.”

Photo Credit Cal Phillips

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