By David Roman, Guest Writer
The Thunderbird Rugby Football Club (TRFC) convoy roared up the “hill” to Flagstaff late last Friday, October 9 a good mix of new and seasoned full-time T-bird rugby players. Off to the “Tens” tournament organized by Northern Arizona University, the Thunderbird Rugby team arrived in time for the Captain’s meeting, where we learned the schedule for the games to be played that next morning, October 10.
With just over the required 10 players, the new season’s team had practiced a handful of times and was missing key members due to the NSHMBA career fair that took place that same weekend in Chicago. Still, the new team showed great potential and good spirit.
2016 is the year of the TRFC’s 40th anniversary and the 70th anniversary of the School. Not only do these milestones mark significant points in the institution’s history, but they made it even more important to keep the Club alive and well. To ensure the Club’s growth and contribution to the Thunderbird community, TRFC leadership recently found a fantastic corporate sponsor (an official sponsorship press release will be published later this month). New team jerseys, practice equipment, events, and supplies will fuel both the team’s success and the success of our valued sponsors.
“Saturday’s a rugby day!” The jubilant exclamation rang out from the ruggers across the Motel 6 parking lot, up into the pleasantly brisk morning air and away into the dawning scene of the San Francisco Peaks. To grunts and hollers of assent, the Thunderbird team assembled for battle. Saturday’s games featured several matches between Thunderbird and various club teams from the Southwest. California and New Mexico teams added to the Arizona ranks, bringing a higher level of competition and fun to the tournament. Some Thunderbird players joined other games too, getting more playing time during gaps in the Thunderbird match schedule. The tournament lasted from 9AM to around 3PM.
Especially at the outset, it was clear that our team had much to improve in terms of team cohesion and knowledge of how the game works. However, as the tournament unfolded the team stepped up to the challenge and played with great heart. Team Captain Patrick Doyle (MBA ’15, US) – Fly Half position – said he had a blast, and added, “Despite the fact that we couldn’t get a W, everyone played hard and each successive game we played better and with more energy.” Doyle was optimistic for the season in spite of the rough start, “The teams we played this weekend were very good. We typically won’t be playing against that high level of competition in our future matches and we’ll start to see success the more we play together.”
Tion Barnaby (MBA ’16, Jamaica) – Prop position – agreed. “We had a good time. It was a great way to strengthen connections between 2nd and 1st year students. Plus, we met other T-birds randomly at the tournament and had a fun-filled time at the celebration event afterward.” That fun-filled time involved a post-tournament party with all teams. Featuring humorous outfits (T-birds went in jorts) and large quantities of food and drink, the general revelry that capped off the weekend was best described as “memorable”.
The TRFC is excited for its 2015-2016 season. Rugby appears to be gaining in popularity both here in the US – especially Rugby Sevens events – and in other countries that have not traditionally been huge supporters of the sport. After hearing of the Flagstaff tournament, current MBA candidate Akihiro Yamada (MBA ’15, Japan) remarked, “Rugby is now a huge boom in Japan, especially since the Japanese national team ‘Brave Blossoms’ beat South Africa’s national team. I did not realize before that rugby is a very exiting sport.”
The Thunderbird Alumni Rugby Association (TARA) is certainly alive and well and just recently completed their Cuba tournament (see last week’s article Rugby and Cuba). Two participants of that tour were present at the Flagstaff event last Saturday. Whatever the outlook on the sport in general, the horizon is hopeful for Thunderbird sports, led – as has been for 40 years – by the TRFC. To the team, alumni, school, and Thunderbird community at large we say, “Keep ruckin’!”