Despite No Support, Rugby Concludes Another Successful Season

Zach Smart

At the right of Wentworth’s ice cream on Whitney Ave. sits a leaf-green, vacant field. It’s ample space where a physically select core of Quinnipiac students, ranging from wiry to colossal, deliver bone-crushing hits on each other.

The field serves as a mecca for a bus-load of Quinnipiac students who, through a laundry-list of conditioning tests, rigorous initiation routines, and some serious roughousing–view pain as nothing more than weakness eluding the body.

The New Blue Rugby program is the unofficial Club Rugby team of Quinnipiac University. Victory after victory, upset after upset has catapulted New Blue to the upper-echelon of the northeast region’s Rugby teams.

Despite this fact, however, New Blue refuses to be recognized as an affiliate of the University. The University opted not to have any club sports programs five years ago and has stuck with their decision ever since.

“Club sports of any kind require enormous commitment on behalf of the institution for both staff and finances and the institution’s efforts are currently focused on Division-I teams, intramural programs, and recreation program,” said Cheryl Barnard, the associate dean of student affairs, during a 2005 interview.

They hit each other with reckless abandon. They continue to play, despite suffering dislocated shoulders, fingers, broken noses and concussions.

“Many of them (Rugby players) come in with dislocated fingers,” said one member of health services. “They’re like ‘eh, just pop it back in’ and then go about their business.”

“Some kids on campus are like ‘you know, you rugby guys think your so tough'”, said Tony Falangas, one of the original spearheads of the program last fall. “I’d like to see them try laboring through what we do in a given week.”

Falangas, who shouldered the burden of mentor for the team the past few seasons, was expelled from school last year for his role in the controversial Halloween house party which resulted in the expulsion of eight seniors for “procuring alcohol to minors.”

New Blue concluded its 2006 campaign with a trip to the Division-4 U23 New England Rugby Football Union (NERFU) championships. Despite roaring back from a 17-0 halftime deficit, New Blue ended up on the wrong side of the scoreboard in a heartbreaking 20-19 loss to Nichols College.

It marked the second straight season New Blue was defeated in the league’s championship game.

The 2006 team was led by a pair of senior standouts in captains Sean McKay (Babylon, N.Y.) and William Guibalt (Wrentham, Mass.). The duo both played inside/outside center.

“The team filled in (the leadership void left by Falangas) quite nicely,” explained junior 8MAN Gerald Loehr (Ardsley, N.Y.), an essential element of the offense.

“Many of the underclassmen (at the time of the Falangas-era) are now older and stepped up and took key leadership roles.”

Kevin Wagner, a QU graduate who starred for New Blue two years ago, served as the head coach this season.

Under Wagner’s tutelage, New Blue ate up the fall 2006 regular season schedule in shark-sized bites, posting a record of 4-0-1 in the NERFU. They played their home games at the East Shore Park in New Haven.

In the first round of the playoffs, New Blue outlasted a tough Franklin Pierce team, 21-19, on the campus of Southern Vermont College in Bennington, Vt.

A forfeit victory over Colby-Sawyer College (N.H.) propelled New Blue Rugby back to the championship game, where a bevy of teams affiliated with and supported by universities had lofty aspirations to end up.

“This year’s team looked strong from the very start,” Loehr said. “We had a bunch of new players/rookies come out and show an interest in the team.”

The team’s members are responsible for all of the funding.

“Right now for funds we rely on dues that each player has to pay at the beginning of the season,” Loehr said.

“100-150 dollars out of our own pockets, and the alumni also help quite a bit with funding. In the near future we plan on having auctions and selling calendars and merchandise to help fund the team to have money for the bare minimums such as jerseys, field and referee fees, equipment, hotels, gas and other essentials.”

The team is known for having a strong bond and maintaining blood brother-like friendships.

“I think the New Blue Rugby team, along with most rugby teams, has a stronger bond than most other sports teams. I thinks this because of the trust and confidence we need to have in one another, on and off the field,” Loehr said.

The chemistry seems to convert to success on the pitch.

“It’s a brotherhood that many do not get to experience,” Loehr said. No one who has experienced this will ever forget it in this lifetime.”