Rugby can seem brutal and very abstract for people (especially Americans) who have only experienced the sport from a bird’s eye view. Where football is considered to be the “fans” or “coaches” sport, rugby is considered to be the definitive “player’s” sport. Rugby is a well-rounded game that has a blend of endurance, strength and brilliance. But there are some obvious difference between rugby and football. Rugby is fast paced, with continuous possession changes and very few stoppages. All players, regardless of position, can run, pass, kick and catch the ball. In addition, all players must tackle and defend, making each position both offensive and defensive in nature. There is no blocking in rugby and teams are allowed a limited number of substitutions.
American football is a derivative of rugby developed during the late 1800s in which Americans wanted to take the tenants of rugby and redefine it for themselves. Even modern basketball tactics and patterns (such as creating space by manipulating the defense) owes its development to James Naismith, an English rugby coach who used basketball as an indoor alternative to rugby when the New England winters got too cold. Rugby is the most successful gender-neutral contact sports here in the US, where nearly 40% of players are female.
Rugby has been the fastest growing sport in America for nearly a decade and has a community made up over a million active players, referees and coaches. It is among the world’s most popular sports and is a multi-billion dollar industry with a multitude of professional leagues and international competitions. And in 2016 the first ever professional rugby league will be competing here in six US cities. It may be a few years before the sport really takes off in the professional realm, but we would like to position ourselves for success in it’s development.
Bend Rugby was founded in 1975 and is one of the most well respected teams in the region. Bend Rugby prides itself on developing inexperienced players into high achieving rugby players through a commitment to share the game with anyone willing to step on the pitch. Our members come from all walks of life and are an integrated part of the Central Oregon community. With exceptional athletes, long time players, and a legacy of success, year after year Bend rugby has held top accolades within Northwest leagues.
The Bend Rugby community is made up of current and past players, administrators, and rugby enthusiasts that strongly support the camaraderie and joy found within the sport. We are currently developing and instituting greater community initiatives that are building networks with local business and community members at large. Our alumni have set the groundwork for a great club and we intend to experience significant growth over the next few years.
Keith Erickson and John Jeans founded Bend Rugby Football Club during the spring of 1975. Keith had experienced the sport through military deployments and John had played in college with Oregon State University Rugby. The early Bend team had been a conglomerate of ex-football players, ski bums and local ruffians looking for camaraderie and sport. The club roster remained small through the late 70′s but an influx of people to the Central Oregon area brought new players to the Bend team. In fact, many of these players remain active within club support and administration today.
During the spring of 1977, Bend Rugby entered PNRFU’s Division I, which included Beach (Tacoma), Snake River (Boise), Portland Pigs, and Old Puget Sound (Seattle). By the early 80′s Bend proved to be a NW rugby powerhouse by securing several league championships and one undefeated league season. Even with a small roster, Bend was able to field 7′s and 10′s teams during off-season tournaments. Throughout the 80s rugby had experienced growth within the Pacific Northwest, especially for larger cities like Portland and Seattle, but Bend was able to compete with these larger teams through tenacity and a focus upon rugby fundamentals. Older club members still remember a cup final win against Beach at the Eugene 10s Tournament in 1988, wherein Bend was considered the heavy underdog.
As the 1990s and 2000s came so did booming population growth for Bend, Redmond and the surrounding areas. This growth brought an array of new players to Bend Rugby, but the roster still remained relatively small compared to larger cities. Bend has won the Division III title 8 years in a row, and has penetrated the National Championship Tournament several times. Also during this period, Bend Rugby established one of the strongest high school rugby programs in the NW. The Bend Blues have won several state titles and has sent many young players to select side teams and strong collegiate programs. In 2015-2016 season Bend was moved to Division II from much success in Division III. Bend went on in Division II that year undefeated in league play setting up for a return to Division I in 2016-2017 season.
With help from the Oregon Rugby Academy, Bend Rugby has made a name for itself this past summer as a rising 7s powerhouse in the region. Bend won four Cup championships in 2015, including Tacoma Aroma 7s and Salem 7s, and is expected to slice deep into the National 7s Championship this coming summer. In addition, Bend will be traveling to Las Vegas this March to compete in the largest 7s tournament in North America.
Summer Season is over, Bend Rugby is moving on into our 15s fall season. Back into D2 this season we hope to have a good run at playoffs. Practice is beginning August 8th at Pilot Butte Middle School at 6pm (1501 NE Neff Rd). All are welcome and new players are encouraged. See you out on the pitch. We also have had some changes in structure of the club this season. Thanks for all of Craig Branstad hard work as head coach the last several years, Welcome Mike Abbott as the new head coach of Bend Rugby Men's team. Craig will be stepping down to assistant coach/player now. Also a team meeting is planned for August 27th after the Cascade Classic to discuss the goals of the men's team for the coming years.
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