History of the Staples Rugby Club
In late 2002, two sophomores at Staples High School, Scott Fitzgerald, expatriate Australian (below right) and James Allison, expatriate Brit (below left), tried to start a rugby club at Staples to play in the Spring of 2003. Following numerous representations to the school, their endeavors proved fruitless. Consequently, in late April 2003, half way through the Spring, Scott & James started their own rugby club. They received permission from the Town of Westport to practice on a small patch of goose-poop covered grass at Compo Beach. Thus started the Westport Junior Rugby Club.
The boys enlisted Scott’s father as Coach and on the afternoon of April 23, 2003, held their first practice. By the end of the second week 34 players (33 boys, 1 girl) enough players to field two full teams, were learning Rugby and being coached three afternoons per week. All were Staples High School students. None of the players had played rugby previously. Enjoying this new sport, the players came to realize the fitness required to participate properly, so instigated their own fitness training the other two afternoons each week.
Having no other local teams against which to play of comparable standard, Scott & James liased with Erick Shrauger of the Connecticut Yankee Rugby Club based in Norwalk, who had been advising the boys on the requirements of setting up a rugby club. Erick assisted the boys in developing a team of players from Norwalk HS, against which friendly scrimmage matches could be played to better learn the game.
On May-22-2003, after just four weeks of learning this new game, Westport Junior Rugby Club played it's first competitive match on Andrew’s Field in Norwalk against Fairfield HS, a team that had been playing together for three years. Westport lost, but much to the chagrin of Fairfield, not by much. Neither the spectators watching, the Fairfield team & coach, nor the Westport players, will forget the solid clash after the first kick off. With Scott driving the forwards from his Number 8 position and James the backs, the power, the knowledge and the tenacity of that game by the Westport team surprised everyone. It put Fairfield on notice and heralded the coming of what will become a strong rugby tradition in Westport. The second team also lost, however, it proved thereafter, Westport had depth and potential to develop into a strong rugby club.
Following that first match, the teams were itching to play again. One further match was played before the summer break, this time against Norwalk, as the first ever youth match held during the 25th National Connecticut Cup Tournament on June-7-2003 at Veteran’s Park in SoNo. Westport won. Such was the quality of the game, a great action shot of one of the Westport players was featured on the front page of the Sunday edition of the local paper the next day.
When summer broke, the coach thought the team were done until next Spring, however the players organized themselves to train through the Autumn. Norwalk was also keen to play again and soon. Therefore, with the players not involved in Fall sports, a full Fall team continued to practice and three games were played over six weeks, each against Norwalk, with Westport Junior Rugby Club winning each match. The Autumn ended with a game against the men’s club of the Connecticut Yankees, who happen to be the undefeated U.S. North East Union champions. The Yankees were great; they went gently and kindly permitted a draw. This was a great tuitional game from the club that had become great supporters, mentors and teachers of our players.
Also started during this autumn season was what the players want to continue as a Westport Rugby tradition, the 'sausage sizzle'. An occasion during and after each home game where the players can chat, eat and have a social soda with the opposing team.
The success of this first ‘season’ of rugby among the students generated interest and involvement from parents and other students, plus a loyal following of players within the school. This support developed an infrastructure and a properly working club, with bank account and thanks to the genorosity of four player's families, funding which enabled us to develop our own website, which became the heart and focal point of our club, plus pay for memebrship dues, tournament fees, etc.
Scott further prepared a proposal which once again he presented to the Staples Principal and Athletic Director on November 24, 2003, for rugby to be included as a Staples Sport. This time the support from the school was positive, with Staples Principal Dr Brady committing a budget for uniforms, bus transport and an intra-mural coach. On February 2, 2004, Staples Athletic Director Marty Lisevick, formally endorsed rugby as a Staples sport. On the same day, Westport Junior Rugby Club was renamed Staples Rugby Club.
Less than twelve months after it’s creation, in the spring of 2004, Staples Rugby Club will compete in USA Rugby's Local Area Union of 'Metropolitan New York, High School Division 2'. Staples teams will be traveling across the tri-state area playing rugby and touring to Washington DC to compete in a nationwide tournament.
On the strength of Staples Rugby’s limited performance,
Scott & James have enlisted an intra-mural coach Whitney Lacosta, a Westport School Teacher, rugby player and rugby devotee; plus an International Rugby Board, Level 3 Accredited Coach for our First XV - Dave Hancock, who is also Staples Rugby Club's Coaching & Technical Director setting a curriculum for the entire Staples Rugby program.
All this is a big achievement, with a school wide, community wide and tri-state impact, by two young high school students…. who are still only Juniors, so there is still a more to come!
Staples rugby is young and growing. It is our objective to have fun, try our hardest and enjoy the sport of rugby. We welcome any players, parents, students, supporters, anyone that would like to become involved with the club to help our growth and fill these history pages.