Men’s rugby team suffers losses, continues to learn
The Eau Claire men’s Rugby team depended on multiple new recruits during their 2009 fall season and finished with a 0-4 record. This year was a transitional year for many of the players, whether they were adjusting to a new sport, new responsibilities or even a new country.
Freshmen Aaron Mayhall was one of those rookies the team relied upon throughout the season. Although he had four years of high school rugby experience, Mayhall said he did not anticipate he would start every game as fullback.
Others, like sophomore Nick Asay, had never experienced rugby before playing their first game this season. Asay played football his freshman year, but decided to switch to rugby this semester, he said.
Asay said he didn’t know what to expect his first time on the pitch.
“I was very nervous,” he said. “I wasn’t sure how getting full-on hits without pads would be . (Rugby) turned out to be much more fun than I expected … It’s an absolute blast.”
The men’s rugby team is a club team at UW-Eau Claire and has been self-coached for the last four years. Senior Bobby Twing acted as both player and coach this semester, with assistance from seniors Joe Krische and Matt Sundby. These three leaders were the only players to have been on the team for more than two years.
New players also had to adjust to the team’s self-coached organization.
“I was surprised when they didn’t have a coach,” Asay said. “All the players had their role. It was more of an ‘everybody helps everybody’ kind of thing. Even Bobby (Twing) was open to suggestions from me. There was no power trip of any of the players.”
Mayhall said he thought this sharing attitude among the players was one of the team’s greatest strengths.
“I feel like all of us are really close to each other,” Mayhall said.
Although Twing admitted there are negatives to not having a coach, he said there are many positives that are often overlooked.
“Everything you do, you’re just doing with friends,” Twing said. “Other teams don’t have the same camaraderie.”
The team also benefited from the experience of David Liufau, a sophomore transfer student from Hawaii, and Daniel Proudman, a senior international student from Australia. Proudman said he has been playing rugby since he was six years old and played fly half for the team this season. As fly half, he was responsible for leading the backline positions and calling plays.
“He made us better as a team just because he was the best player in the state in men’s rugby this semester, easily,” Twing said.
Although the team depended on many of its new recruits, the diversity of talent often caused problems. At any given practice, the experience levels of the teammates ranged from complete novices to athletes like Proudman, who had played competitively for over a dozen years.
Proudman said this wide variety was the team’s biggest challenge.
“That was hard because some people needed to have that training taken to the next level . whereas other players were learning the basics of it,” Proudman said. “When you whack all that together you’ve got such a mismatch of different strengths and weaknesses on the team.”
Mayhall also agreed it was often difficult to “get everyone on the same page.”
Twing said he believes having a coach would help alleviate this issue, but finding an experienced rugby player willing to volunteer two to three nights a week for coaching has been difficult.
Next season looks promising for the team, with Proudman being the only player they anticipate losing. Proudman said he is confident the team will continue to improve.
“The rookies now are some of the best players,” Proudman said.
Asay said he also believes that the team can expect a better record next season.
“As well as I think the players did coaching themselves, I think it would help a lot having that unified coach that the players can report to,” Asay said. “We have a lot of potential, a lot of talent. We just got to get it organized a little better.”