The ‘Lost Boys’ pimp their pitch
Published: Monday, September 10, 2012
Updated: Monday, September 10, 2012 13:09
After many years of dynamic scrummaging, the growing NDSU Rugby Club recently realized its goal with the addition of rising bleacher seats on the playing field located on the west side of campus.
The brand new stands, made possible by a $22,000 student government capital projects grant, will comfortably seat more than 150 spectators, who can now view the rucking, mauling and dropkicking from a higher vantage point on the playing field, termed a pitch.
With student government officials and student organization administration looking on, the Rugby Club celebrated a two year process of proposals, funding security and eventual self-assembly of the structure on Thursday afternoon. The ribbon cutting ceremony was the culmination of an established winning tradition and a patient determination to prove that the program is worthy of more extensive support.
“We had to show that this is going to be an investment that’s going to last for a while,” team coach Corey Wernlund said. “Obviously, it being made out of aluminum and on a concrete slab, it’s going to be here for twenty years. So … we had to prove that we were going to last that long too.”
The Rugby Club has been around since the ‘70s. Many students play throughout their entire college careers, and three students have even stayed after college to coach, Wernlund said.
Obtaining a rare grant of this size is by no means an easy endeavor, as Wernlund found on the first try. Knowing more about how to make this type of request combined with student senate support made a difference the second time around. Through the recognition of being a club that consistently took steps forward and the submission of a well-organized proposal, the Rugby Club secured the needed funding.
“We want projects that benefit the student body as a whole,” said NDSU Student Senator Sam Ewen, who played an integral role in bringing the undertaking to fruition. “Unless you have some elevation you can’t really see what’s happening. The bleachers provide a way for any student to get some free entertainment by watching a rugby game as well as to understand it better.”
Student Body President Luke Brodeur said the bleachers were exactly the type of project the student senate was looking for.
“For a student organization to get together, plan the entire project, figure out the budgeting and get the information to a senate that asks tons and tons of questions is really impressive,” Brodeur said. “What we should really be talking about is how successful these guys have been the last couple of years, and if we hadn’t seen them continue to grow and continue their success we maybe would have questioned the project.”
The breakthrough year for the nicknamed “Lost Boys” came in 2007 as the team claimed a division three level national championship. Being bumped up to play at the D2 level for the next two seasons gave them a taste of stiffer competition, which was followed by another run at a D3 crown where they finished the season ranked number 11 in the nation. Their second stint in D2, which began in 2011, went better than the first as they ended the year with a number 23 ranking.
“Last year we actually had an undefeated regular season and went on to regionals. That was huge for us,” said Wernlund. “This year we’re coming back as the Minnesota division champs and are ready to defend that title and hopefully make another national title run.”
The players don’t see it any differently than their coach as they have just finished their 2012 preseason schedule. Their annual quest begins with the fall regular season games and regional tournament play in the spring. The winners of the regional tournament then move to the national brackets.
“We have a lot of veterans coming back and we have new guys coming in,” said men’s team president Seth Jones. “We have guys coming to NDSU to just play rugby. Having never played in high school, I got asked to play when I got here and now we are talking to high school kids about it who have.”
Although it may often look too rough for even the manliest of men, there are a number of NDSU women who enjoy the sport as well. They continue to build for the future with a focus on recruiting more players and in basic skill level improvement. With girls’ high school rugby on the rise, more freshmen are coming in with some experience, and past soccer play helps too.
“We had about 38 sign up at the expo last week and about 20 have been showing up to practice,” said women’s team president Anna Stein. “To get interest we have to stress that they won’t get hurt as much as they think they will.”
Since new bleachers aren’t meant to just sit and look pretty for christenings, both the men’s and women’s teams are looking forward to see them get broken in during their home and regular season opener on Sept.15. Actual game times are normally in the afternoon and will be announced at later dates.
“It gives us a sense of field,” said Wernlund of the stands. “It’s a statement that NDSU Rugby is here.”
To learn more about the men’s team, visit http://www.lostboysrugby.com/. Information about the women’s squad can be found on their Facebook page, “NDSU Fighting Snappers Rugby.”