Husky Rugby Club celebrates 50th anniversary Saturday
Tim Exton is a Seattle-based sports media professional who grew up in England playing rugby at high school, college and club levels. He now works with rugby Washington and the Husky Rugby Club to help build the sport in the States.
Fifty years ago a group of University of Washington students decided to try something new. Joe Superfisky, Jim Decker and Dick Jensen assembled a group of guys and scrounged up some old football jerseys from the athletic department.
The Husky Rugby Club was born.
It had a rocky start, losing the first five games. But somewhere during that barren spell their plight was brought to the attention of a Frenchman living in Seattle. Jacques Cubilie had played top-flight rugby in his homeland before emigrating to America and recalls his first impressions of the players.
“They were so bad that I offered my services to help them out a bit," Cubilie said. "We were starting at the very, very bottom. Very good athletes but they didn’t know rugby much.”
And thus the Husky Rugby Club acquired its first head coach. In their sixth game, they hosted the Oregon rugby club. The 6-3 Husky victory was memorable for Superfisky.
“I had the good fortune to kick a penalty kick to win the game," he said."It meant everything we’d put into it had finally come together.”
Superfisky was lifted shoulder high from the field at the final whistle, and the Husky Rugby Club set off on a half-century-long journey.
This Saturday the Husky Rugby Club launches its 50th home season. Fittingly, they will host the Oregon Ducks again. The match that has been christened “The Cubilie Classic” and the team’s 83-year-old former head coach will be in attendance, brought to the game by the man who thumped that first game-winning penalty kick through the uprights. They will unveil a 50th anniversary team jersey to be worn with pride by the 15 men who will take the field with the Husky “W” over their hearts.
The match is at 1 p.m. Saturday at IMA Field No. 3, just north of Alaska Airline Arena on Montlake Boulevard.
Wth rugby returning to the Olympics in 2016, more people are getting the opportunity to experience the game credited with helping develop American football.
For the Husky Rugby Club, its 50th season sees a rugby renaissance underway. Brian Schoener, a former USA national team player, has returned to his alma mater to coach the team for which he once played. With Kevin Swiryn, a recently retired USA national rugby sevens team captain, alongside him, the practice drills are harder than ever but are also getting the best out of players, old and new.
There is also a newly active alumni group. An endowment has been established, with a generous gift from a former player, in hopes of securing a purple-and-gold future for this club sport.
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