DAYTON, OH – According to sports legend, in 1823 a 16 year old student named William Webb Ellis was playing soccer at the Rugby School in England when he suddenly picked up the ball and ran with it. Not long after, the game was born that would eventually become the institution’s namesake – rugby.
It was the autumn of 1969 when a group of students led by Robert Borgerding introduced rugby to the Dayton area. Today rugby fans have the opportunity to participate and watch the popular European sport thanks to the dedicated players, sponsors and volunteers of the Dayton Area Rugby Club (DARC).
On April 9, Dayton will play host to the second round in the 2011 Men’s Midwest Rugby Union playoffs. The DARC Flying Pigs take the field against the Bremmer County Bucks at 1 p.m., Saturday, April 9th at Eastwood Park. The women’s team will also be playing, with games starting at 11 a.m. on the same day and location.
Shane Stachurski is the president of the Dayton Area Rugby Club and coaches the men’s team. A native of New Zealand, Stachurski played for nearly 30 years before he began his coaching career which includes the men’s team of the University of Dayton.
“Rugby is actually where American football originated,” Stachurski says. “People should come to the playoffs because it’s a great game and a great atmosphere to watch in. It’s pretty much nonstop for 80 minutes with no timeouts and no commercials, just pure game time; like football on caffeine.”
In case the game is unfamiliar, here’s how it works. Much like football and soccer, rugby is an “end zone invasion” game. The object is to score as many points as possible by carrying, passing, kicking and grounding the ball.
There are 15 players on a team plus 7 reserves. That makes a total of 30 players on the field at any one time, plus a referee, and 2 assistant referees, or “touch judges.” Except for a temporary replacement on account of injury, once a player leaves the field, he or she cannot return so most players who start the game end up completing complete the two, 40-minute halves. Players on the DARC men’s team range between 18 and 50, depending on their level of play.
Getting into the Midwest playoffs was no easy matter. To qualify, the Flying Pigs had to win their league, finishing in the top 4 for the Eastern Conference. As competitive as they are, however, rugby players are considered some of the most social, off the field, even with their rivals.
“Rugby has a unique community, unlike most mainstream American sports,” says Kelly Whitney, DARC secretary. “One minute we are smacking into the other team, and the next we are drinking beers and singing rugby songs together.” Team members come from all over the Dayton region to participate in rugby.
“We have players from Dayton, Piqua, Fairborn, Beavercreek, Englewood and all over the Miami Valley,” says DARC Sponsorship Coordinator, Matt Wuerstl, who adds that age seems to be no object. “In the past we’ve had high school players on the men’s and women’s teams with parental permission and we have older players as well.”
“Our goal is to build a stronger rugby community in the Miami Valley, and support from community members will help us achieve this,” says Whitney. “Dayton has so many recreational activities and clubs to offer, and we want to show our community what some of the best athletes in the Miami Valley can do.”
There is no charge to attend Dayton Area Rugby Club games as a spectator and the teams are always interested in talking to people who want to play the game. Sponsors for the event include Monster Energy Drinks, The Pub at The Greene, Double Deuce, Choose Health4Life, GLD Enterprises Commercial Writing, and Amberbock. Sponsorships are still obtainable as well. More information is available at www.daytonrugby.com or by calling the DARC at (937) 640-3023.