ST. GEORGE – The Snow Canyon Lady Warriors Rugby team returned home Monday evening after a trip to the 2013 National High School Rugby Girls Championships in Wisconsin held May 17-19. Returning with them was their ranking: No. 3 in the nation for their division.
“They played their hearts out,” Head Coach Cathy Hasfurther said. “It (was) a great experience.”
The girl’s team has only been in existence for three years now, and “they’re third in the nation,” she said.
Split into two divisions of eight teams each, a total of 16 teams competed in the national tournament. Snow Canyon played in Division 2.
Earlier this month the Lady Warriors’ also took second place in the state in their division.
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Love of the game
“The girls love (the game),” said Gali Conley, Snow Canyon High School vice principal. Conley, who also has a son on the boys’ varsity rugby team, said the sport has become quite popular in Southern Utah high schools and across the state. “It’s an amazing game.”
Rugby itself has been described as a “hooligan’s game played by gentlemen.” On the surface the game may look rather brutal as the players go onto the field with minimal padding and proceed to smash into each other over a game. Casual observers may draw comparisons to football or hockey with how physical the game can get. While it is a physical sport, Conley said there were very explicit rules concerning how individuals may be tackled. Take a player down the wrong way, and you’ll either be given a warning by the referee or kicked out of the game altogether.
“(The coaches) teach you how to hit and how to fall,” Conley said. He then praised the coaches of both the boys’ and girls’ rugby teams for their training.
He also said rugby has no exceptions on size, as the smallest players also tend to be the quickest – and in a game of constant running and very few time-outs, it counts. Conley said jokingly that when people first see the Snow Canyon rugby teams, they immediately think the smaller, skinnier players will be massacred by the larger players of the other team. Nothing could be further from the truth, he said.
As for it being a “hooligan’s game played by gentlemen,” examples of “civilized” conduct by the players and coaches can be seen in how they deal with the referees. The only people allowed to speak to the referees are the team captains and the coaches, and they have to address the referees by “sir.”
At the end of each game, the opposing teams also bow to each other and to the families and fans in the bleachers.
Community support after gun raffle incident
Though affiliated with Snow Canyon High School, the rugby team is not an officially sanctioned school team, but rather is a “club team.” Rugby has yet to be recognized among the official canon of high school sports like football or basketball, and therefore doesn’t receive funding through the school. As a semi-independent club, the team has to raise money on its own in order to go to state and national-level tournaments.
“They don’t get all the extra stuff that regular sports do,” Conley said.
The teams needed to raise around $16,000 in order to get themselves to Wisconsin. So the club began to put it out in the community they were raising money. On April 27 a bake sale was held on Sunset Boulevard that also included a raffle for a rifle.
The gun raffle was subsequently shut down after Dorothy Engelman, of St. George, contacted the Washington County School District and media outlets over the matter.
“We’re selling cupcakes and guns to raise money for our kids?” Engelman said.
The gun raffle was a put on by a parent of one of the rugby players, Hasfurther said. None of the coaches had any idea about the raffle until after the fact. Money raised from the gun raffle was also returned to those who wanted refunds.
Despite some initially negative responses, Conley said, things soon turned around. The media frenzy triggered by the gun raffle put the spotlight on the team’s need to reach nationals.
“Good things came out of it,” Conley said.
One example of community support came from a local radio station where disc jockeys held a gun auction to help replace money lost from the original gun raffle.
“We did not talk to the school district; we did not talk to the school; we did not talk to the team; we did not talk to the coach,” said Jon Smith, one of the host of 95.9 FM The Hawk’s “Jon Smith and Murphy” morning show. “We did this all on our own.”
“The community has supported (the auction) 100 percent,” Murphy said.
The auction, which was held on Friday, consisted of a Glock 27 .40 caliber handgun donated by Rowdy’s Range and Shooting Supply, and 250 rounds of .40 caliber ammunition from the Western Arms and Ammo Company – at least, that was on the table at the beginning of the auction when it started at 6 a.m.
As the morning progressed, other local companies donated $300 worth of ink for tattoos, a paint job for a standard size bedroom, and a tire service check. Western Arms and Ammo then made an additional donation of 250 rounds each of .223 and .9 mm caliber ammunition to be included with the Glock 27 pistol to be auctioned.
The auction ended at 10 a.m. with the pistol and ammunition bringing in a winning bid of $1,500. Overall, the additional items and individual donations to the girls’ rugby team came to just over $2,000.
Donations continued throughout the day. On Monday, Smith said the total amount raised was just under $2,500.
“The community really stepped up,” Hasfurther said.
Peggy Proffit, mother of team forward Meagan Proffit, said, “It restores your faith in humanity.”
Ed. Note: Dorothy Engelman, referenced in the report, serves as chair of the Washington County Democratic Party. She expressed her protest in this context individually and said it was not in her capacity as chair of the party.
Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2013, all rights reserved.