Evergreen Has a Rugby Team?
BY JAMES GUTSCH
That was the running joke whenever we tried to advertise for the Evergreen Rugby Football Club. Despite having flyers across campus, bake sales on a regular basis as well as practices that left the Evergreen fields looking like Sasquatch had lost a contact—rugby could never quite get the attention we were looking for at Evergreen.
The club started in 2010, as essentially a couple of guys kicking around a rugby ball on Saturday afternoons. The club quickly transformed into one of the biggest athletic groups on campus. Masters in Teaching Faculty member Andrew Gilbert was serendipitously recruited to coach us, and about a year later, we had jerseys, pads, balls and even a spot reserved in the Thunderdome. The one thing that 30 scrawny Greeners couldn’t quite deliver was a ‘W’(win).
But winning wasn’t what we were about. Above anything, playing rugby was about camaraderie, it was about taking the field with 14 friends and knowing that if you missed a tackle, or fumbled the ball away, one of them was going to have your back. As someone who came to Evergreen hoping to play Ultimate Frisbee, I found that rugby involved substantially more contact, dirt, blood and alcohol, all of which I came to accept as just part of the game. Sometimes I felt like I was in the middle of a drinking team that played a bit of rugby when it needed to burn a couple calories.
Evergreen Rugby actually has a trophy in the CRC lobby from 1996. The team, known and feared as “Gangrene” was actually decent, winning the 1996 Pacific Northwest Rugby Football Club Division Two Championship. It got to the point where most of the key players had graduated and continued to organize the team as alumni. In 1998, Gangrene became the gang-gone and it disbanded to form the Budd Bay Rugby Football Club, which consists of adult and youth teams for both men and women and has emerged as one of the better rugby clubs in the area and is very much active today.
Just to give an idea on how close rugby brings people together, one of the positions that I played was the lock. The lock supports the two props and the hooker during a scrum, which is a way to resume play after a foul. In a nutshell, a lock’s head (there were two of us) is jammed between the thighs of one of the locks and the hooker, who are given explicit instructions to crush our skulls. If we tried to support ourselves by putting our hands on the ground more likely than not we were going to get our fingers stepped on, so the spot we were supposed to grab was right above the crotch of the prop. If you’ve ever walked into a sauna and thought to yourself “there are just way too many dudes in here,” but you decided to stay anyway, then you have an idea about what it’s like to be inside of a late-game scrum. It’s hot, it’s dirty, the stench is overwhelming, and your hand could end up someplace you really don’t want it to be. Now tell me you would rather be playing Ultimate instead?
Although the losses were sometimes difficult to bear, we did finally break into the “win” column in spring of 2012, with a victory over an undisciplined high school team from Portland – to be fair, they were still bigger than we were. At times, we could be downright ruthless on the field, mainly during a 70-5 blowout victory over Reed College (Yes it was Reed College, and yes we had the help of a former member of the French National Team who played with us as an exchange student).
Unfortunately, that was the last meaningful game the Evergreen Rugby team would play. Attrition—as Evergreen as recreational cannabis—was inevitable. As numbers started to decline, practices were cut back from three days a week to two. Several invites from teams had to be declined simply because we couldn’t fill the jerseys we had gotten less than a year before. It seemed like just as we were cementing ourselves into what could turn into a permanent club, we were back to a couple guys kicking around a rugby ball. Now all we have are jerseys, pads, balls, a spot reserved in the Thunderdome, and some of the best memories I have from my time at Evergreen. After four years, the reigns of the team are passed on to the next generation of Greeners, hopefully they can sustain what we couldn’t.
So if you’re on campus next year around fall and you see a few people tossing around a ball and drinking out of cans covered in socks (not Mountain Dew), I encourage you to take a small detour and check it out. You won’t regret it.