Comradely unites all rugby players

Mari Muzzi                             

 Despite a fading black eye, bruised ribs and a concussion this season, Jonathan Nowakowski said that he enjoys the full contact sport of rugby and it comradely that unites all players. To him, being part of a rugby team is like being in a fraternity.            

Nowakowski, a University of South Florida sophomore majoring in exercise science, joined the USF rugby team last February. At that time he didn’t know much about the game. Like many Americans, he was more familiar with football. But, once he learned the game, he quickly understood its popularity worldwide, he said.  Though, rugby is gaining popularity in the US, many USF students are not too familiar with the school’s rugby team, nor are they aware that it has the best record when it comes to winning percentages, said Nowakowski.            

Rugby a sport that has similarities to soccer, football and wrestling has been played in the US for about hundred years, according to USF rugby coach Gordon Campbell. The sport is often overshadowed by football and baseball, and some Americans get it confused with lacrosse. Now people can find community rugby teams in most large cities, said Nowakoski. Last year’s World Cup rugby games aired on cable, which helped increase the interest of the sport, according to Nowakoski.            

 Playing rugby at USF provides an opportunity for students to become physically fit and make friends, said Nowakoski. A rugby player can go anywhere in the world and be able to practice with a team, this comradely amongst rugby players makes the sport worth playing, said Nowakoski.           

“The USA coach said it the best, Rugby is the universal fraternity,” Nowakoski said. His teammate Travis Miller, a USF finance major agrees, and said that it’s more than just the competiveness that he likes about the sport, it’s the friendships that he has made this season.            

“The comradely amongst rugby players is something that isn’t seen in other sports,” Nowakoski said. Nowakoski, a Chicago native, played football in high school and was part of the USF track team. During a rugby tournament in the Bahamas, where Nowakoski was selected to play on the USA team, he noticed this comradely. After a match, his team and the other teams they played against came together to celebrate being in the tournament, he said.            

“This type of comradely can be seen even at the international level,” Nowakoski said.           

Playing rugby can be intense; there are no breaks during games, nor pads or helmets, only mouth guards to protect a player’s teeth. Though, the fabric of the uniforms is softer, players often receive bruises.           

During a match the 15 players on the field have a chance to shine at any moment, said Nowakoski. This is because any player has the opportunity for his moment of fame during the game and a well played match requires the whole team to be at its best and working together, said Miller.           

“You can’t do anything without your teammates,” Miller said.           

This season the USF rugby team has much to be proud of, winning the Florida Cup amongst 14 top teams and practicing hard all season, said coach Gordon. Many of the players joined the team not knowing much about the sport, said Nowakoski. However, hard work and a wiliness to learn rugby helped them achieve a lot this season.                       

“They are some of the heroes at USF,” Campbell said.


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