Blood, sweat and rugby

Joe Pelletier

Looking across the pitch on Saturday, New Blue rugby saw the usual. They saw a head coach, clipboard in hand. They saw warm-up uniforms with the Central Connecticut State logo. They saw players who didn’t need to worry about keeping their team alive from season to season.

And they saw a chance to upset some overly confident CCSU rugby players.

Media Credit: Caiti Kaminski

While New Blue rugby had no coach, no clipboard and no Quinnipiac logos, they had one thing that money and school-sponsorship could not buy: toughness.

“We’re tough from day one,” Anthony D’Eramo, one of New Blue’s tri-captains, said. “Some teams come out and pretend to be tough before the game kicks off, and we can tell. It’s all about who comes with the guts.”

CCSU entered the game undefeated at 2-0, but it was New Blue that reeled off the home victory, 15-5, handing the Hooligans their first loss of the season. New Blue upped their record to 2-1 after a previous loss to Holy Cross and a forfeit from Wesleyan.

New Blue remains unrecognized by Quinnipiac University, per the Student Handbook statute that, “Quinnipiac University will not recognize any clubs which involve gambling or intercollegiate competition. Proposed club sports or student organizations which compete will not be recognized.”

New Blue, made up entirely of Quinnipiac University students, learned last year just how unrecognized they were. After instituting gym and fitness hours at the Recreation Center, where they could be found running the track or lifting weights, New Blue was disallowed by the University to continue such team activities.

Now, just about all of New Blue’s activities take place off campus. The team practices on the Sleeping Giant State Park field just behind Wentworth’s Ice Cream on Whitney Avenue, and holds their “home” games in New Haven, down the street from the Yale Bowl at a public rugby pitch.

Each of the players must pay dues for the referees, travel costs and league fees, and only recently did the team receive a sponsorship from the National Guard, which provided them with uniforms.

“We do understand the school’s points,” D’Eramo, a senior, said of Quinnipiac’s club sports policy. “But still, we’re never going to give up. I would give anything to graduate and see these guys become supported by the school.”

According to D’Eramo, the rugby team is now “more disciplined than a lot of other (Quinnipiac athletic) teams.” But sponsored or not, he and his teammates would continue to fund themselves for the love of the sport, a sport most of the New Blue players did not pick up until college.

“Rugby provides such great team comradery,” Greg Wachter said. “There’s 15 guys, and it takes only one person to screw up the team. The team has to play as a whole.”

Wachter, also a senior, was recruited by Quinnipiac to play lacrosse four years ago. But he left the team for personal reasons, and joined up with New Blue rugby. Wachter’s father, Michael, has yet to miss a rugby game.

“This is the best season I’ve seen so far,” Michael Wachter, who paces the sidelines during games just like the players, said. “And I’ve been watching since (Greg) was a sophomore.”

But the biggest disappointment Michael saw was the fact that Quinnipiac students do not get an opportunity to see New Blue play on campus.

“We go to all these away games on college campuses, and there are tons of students enjoying the game,” he said. “If they were to play home games on campus, the atmosphere would be phenomenal.”

The sport is unique and absolutely foreign to most Quinnipiac students. The physicality level, which is very high, is what some New Blue players believe is the factor that keeps them from being sponsored.

“Hey, where’s our med guy?” second stringer Ramon Sanchez asked after Steven Parker came off the field clutching his jaw, drawing laughs from the other players on the sidelines. Parker then downed a few Advil, took a swig of water, and caught his breath before heading back out onto the field.

But the often violent and physical sport has not turned many boys away. The team has been growing since its inception, with 40-plus Quinnipiac students on the current roster.

“We’re getting better each year,” D’Eramo said. “Usually we’ll get guys that come to the first few practices and then leave, but these sophomores and freshmen are coming out to every practice. Every guy on this team is dedicated.”