Rugby is one of the most unique sports on campus. Whitties have undoubtedly heard stories, know players or walked by practices of the Motherruckers, Whitman’s women’s rugby team.
Rugby is a multifaceted sport; it is composed of a deeply bonded team and the sport itself has an intruiging culture behind it.
“It’s such a motley crew of girls, but we all just balanced each other out and drove each other to work and play harder,” said sophomore Emma Nye.
Rugby is a club sport at Whitman, and the Motherruckers play teams from Washington and Oregon.
In rugby, the main objective is scoring tries: A try is one of the goals in rugby and resembles a large football post. While each game is extremely competitive, the players enjoy their opponents’ company as much as they like to destroy each other on the field.
Whitman is not known for being a powerhouse in women’s rugby, but the girls bring strength and spirit to every match. The competition ranges from university to community teams.
“The teams we play are sometimes older, more experienced teams, and we have a great time learning from them during matches as well as hanging out after matches,” said senior co-captain Becky Nevin.
“We are almost always smaller and outnumbered but we never give up,” said senior Kayla Sua.
After each match, the home team hosts the visitors for a social of sorts that involves bonding, refreshments and many traditions and fun rituals known only to the players of this game.
“The socials were, at first, a culture shock. It’s so bizarre to spend a few hours tackling a bunch of women and then singing songs and drinking and eating and talking together,” said Nye. Interteam bonding is important to this sport as well as intrateam bonding.
“[Socials are] a fun chance to meet people from other teams and talk with the ladies you just spent 80 minutes beating up and tackling,” said sophomore Haley Friel.
Rugby is undoubtedly a sport that is in a league of its own kind in terms of personal and team growth. Team connections run deep, partially due to the rigorous nature of the game. The Motherruckers hold bonding sessions so players can get to know each other off the field.
“[Rugby is] amazing. It gave me confidence and a feeling of belonging,” said Nye.
“When you see [your teammates] get hit on the field it makes you want to go that much harder and faster because you want to protect them,” said Sua.
Players develop a strong sense of friendship and make a true commitment to the game by staying strong and fit year-round.
“You either have to be in love with it, or you quit out of logic … rugby players are some of my best friends; trust goes beyond the highest degree since we basically fight battles side by side each week,” said Nevin. The nature of the game is quite intense. “No protection, one football-shaped ball, 15 players a side and one goal: Find a way to get the ball past the opposition into the endzone.”
Rugby undeniably requires extreme athleticism and constant focus, effort and strength in order to make assists or score tries.
“Rugby is fun to play because it involves a series of technical skills as well as pure athletic feats [that] leave room for some improvisation,” said Nevin.
Both during and after a game is a time for unique rugby rituals. These rituals are meant to further enhance relations between teammates and teams.
“Zulus are [an] amazing tradition in which the first time a player scores a try, they strip down and run around the field to celebrate their victory,” said Friel.
Rugby players have a distinct, deep pride. “You take pride in your bruises, in driving people into the ground; but all that matters is that we all love the sport,” said Nye.
Rugby is not only a great game to play, but to watch as well. The Motherruckers play games on Ankeny Field and draw large crowds of fans from people passing by or looking out their windows to see what is going on outside.
“Any home game is an important game this year for us because we want to represent Whitman on our home turf. Rugby is more engaging [than football] because we don’t pamper our athletes: If someone’s injured, play usually won’t stop for them,” said Nevin. “During practices we work on setting up game situations and developing technical skills â€¦ we also have tons of fun and a great workout.”
Last weekend, the Motherruckers traveled to Ellensburg to play Central Washington University. Whitman fell short against CWU, losing 3-1 with the lone Motherrucker try scored by junior Amber Lombard. The Ruckers were short a few players of a team and some Central players played for them, highlighting the amiable nature between teams whose main goals are to play hard and have fun.
“It was a really fun game that was a fundraiser for breast health, so there were a lot of people watching and we were all wearing prom dresses, which got completely ripped by the end of the game. We didn’t have a full team so we had some girls from Central on our team too. It was a great way to start the season,” said Friel.
The Motherruckers are undoubtedly among Whitman’s most unique and dedicated teams. The players are committed to spreading the game of rugby across campus and beyond.
“You don’t need to be the strongest girl to play rugby. All you need is heart and the desire to learn more and work hard,” said Sua.