Look into Tony Falangas’ eyes and ask him what he would sacrifice for rugby. You’ll find there isn’t much that he wouldn’t.
Falangas, senior captain of New Blue rugby, the unofficial rugby team of Quinnipiac University, lives for the game.
You can see it through the way he speaks about the team, through his strong commitment to what is now a burgeoning club program in the northeast, and through his facial expression after every bone-crushing hit he delivers on the field.
Take a trip to the Sleeping Giant State Park field behind Wentwort’s on a Monday, Wednesday or Friday afternoon and you’ll find about 45 young athletes who share the same love as Falangas.
The New Blue club rugby team is a hidden gem of Quinnipiac University, one which wasn’t permitted into the jewel box of the school’s athletic programs.
Quinnipiac refuses to accept the team as an affiliate of the school because the University made the decision five years ago not to have a club sports program.
“Club sports of any kind require an enormous commitment on behalf of the institution for both staff and finances and the institution’s efforts are currently focused on Division I teams, intramurals, and recreation program,” said Cheryl Barnard, the associate dean of student affairs.
The team does all of its funding. Last year, New Blue raised 5,000 dollars from a number of local sponsors, including El Amigo Felix (New Haven), Mt. Carmel Laundry Mat, and Ray and Mike’s Dairy & Deli.
They play through pores of blood, through broken bones, separated shoulders, and concussions. It’s all for the love of the game.
For New Blue, however, it’s more than just a game, it’s a brotherhood. The team has a very welcoming, family-type atmosphere and each player has a unique nickname.
Competition-wise, New Blue has enough depth so that any player can jump on the field at anytime.
“We have no weaknesses on the team,” said Falangas, who, along with fellow captain Kevin Wagner, acts as a coach sometimes.
This season, the team is competing in the college Division-4 U23 New England Rugby Football Union (NERFU). Its home games are played at the East Shore Park in New Haven.
Off to a 3-0 start, New Blue has proven to be the toughest team so far. In first the game of the season, they defeated UMass-Dartmouth by a score of 17-7. On Oct. 1, New Blue thrashed Massachusetts Maritime Academy (which was penciled in as the league’s early favorite), 36-0. On Oct. 8, New Blue won by forfeit over Connecticut College.
This past spring, it handily defeated a pair of solid Division III college teams. The team is still trying to schedule games with a couple of Division I and II teams.
Two years ago, the school allowed the team to host an on-campus tournament honoring the late Ryan McDonough, a beloved teammate.
The tournament was an enormous success, as a jam-packed crowd watched as New Blue captured first place and hoisted the trophy in memory of McDonough, a mainstay who helped build New Blue Rugby into what it is today.
“My main concern right now is to try and get that tournament on campus this year again,” said Falangas, who, during his early days at QU, was encouraged by McDonough to go out for the team.
No funding. No recognition. No problem. This dynasty will always be part of Quinnipiac.