Rugby teams foster unique bonds

Jake DeKraai


Every Tuesday and Thursday at 5 p.m., just north of the Wellness Center, a group of hard-nosed students comes out to play.

There are no pads, there are no helmets and the game they play is the definition of full contact.

The SDSU Rugby Club practices prove to be quite the spectacle. 15 players from each team take the field for any given game. As many as 30 players spend 80 nearly nonstop minutes battling to move the ball to their opponent’s tri-zone. (That’s the end zone for football fans.) There are no downs, and play does not stop just because someone got tackled. Also, the ball can’t be passed forward; the ball only moves forward in the hands of a player or by being kicked, which can happen at any time.

There are two rugby clubs on campus, one for women and one for men. Being club teams composed of regular students, it receives the benefits of just that: a club team. Any athletic team in this category receives limited school funding, and unfortunately, ends up paying for multiple expenses.

The rugby team’s case is no different.

Collin Karsky, president of the club, said the team puts together multiple fundraisers throughout the year in an attempt to raise as much money as possible.  The university only helps with a portion of the gas expenses for travel, leaving the club members to foot the rest of the cost for hotels and tournaments.

“By the end of the season, we are out of the money given to us by the school, and our players end up paying out of their own pockets,” said Brett Crecelius, another captain of the team.  “By the end of the fall and spring seasons, it ends up being around $70 a player.”

The team has also been experiencing field issues. A year ago SDSU’s rugby pitch was bulldozed to make room for the east parking lot expansion. Throughout last year the team practiced in three different locations. The club was even forced to practice off campus for a while. Now in the new designated location, they are forced to share the field with a couple of different teams and intramural sports.

But a less-than-desirable field does not slow them down. Spirits were high and the chants were proud at their game Sept. 22.

The team’s players come from a wide variety of backgrounds.

“Honestly, it doesn’t matter,” Karsky said. “Generally we get quite a bit of wrestlers, but we also get some football and soccer players. In the end, we just want kids who are eager to come out and hit each other.”

Positive energy and hard work, coupled with schoolyard shenanigans and a love for the sport, seem to be nothing short of plentiful for the rugby squads.  Now all they wish to have is a little more money pumped into the program to open more opportunities for the team.

The men and women’s rugby teams both played Sept 22. The women’s team played first against Augustana, coming out on top of their match with a final score of 31-17. The men followed with another SDSU win against the University of Nebraska-Kearney 34-24.

“We played well today and were very aggressive,” said Pamela Parliament, president of the SDSU Women’s Rugby Club. “We have a lot of very smart rookies this year who have picked up on the game very quickly.”

The women’s team is in the same financial situation as the men’s: they also have to contribute to traveling funds in both the fall and spring seasons.

Rugby has a long tradition of friendly competition. Sometimes if a visiting team shows up without enough players to field a full 15-player squad, the home team will pitch in players so the game can be played. The men’s team did just that for UNK’s team. That spirit continues off the field as well. After each home game the SDSU rugby teams host a social — another longtime rugby tradition.

“Joining rugby was one of the best decisions I made in college,” Parliament said.

The women’s team has three matches left this year with Wayne State, University of South Dakota and Doane College. The men only have two left. They will travel to Nebraska to play Wayne State as well, and then finish with USD.