Ready or Not, It’s Time to Play Rugby

The fall rugby season will begin here Saturday
Montauk’s forwards were on the move during a 26-12 win over the Brooklyn R.C. here last fall. The side is to have two bye weeks following this Saturday’s season-opening home game with the Long Island Rugby Club. Morgan McGivern

Ready or not, the fall rugby season, apparently taking a leaf from pro football’s handbook, will begin here Saturday.

Charlie Collins, a Montauk Rugby Club spokesman, said league play had never started before Labor Day before. “It’s August, you know, people are working.”

Be that as it may, Collins, who will be in Ireland Saturday attending Shannon Tracey’s wedding, thinks the Sharks will be able to piece together a 15-man cohort to vie with the Long Island Rugby Club. Game time at East Hampton’s Herrick Park will be 1 p.m.

Among those in the core group, he said, are the Abran brothers, Jim and Scott, James Lock, Nick Lawler, Steve Turza, James Rigby, Kevin Brabant, “and the Irish guys” — Shane O’Keefe, Niall Toomey, Ronan Curran, and Graham Fynes among them — “and the young guys [George Calderon and, possibly, Brandon Johnson], and maybe Brenden Mott and maybe some Jamaicans. . . . We probably won’t know who we have until we get there.”

And then there’s always Rich Brierley, who’s pushing 60 and who would rather coach, though he saw quite a bit of action last season.

Montauk, a Division III side, went 5-2-1 in Empire Geographic Union play last fall, earning it a playoff berth as the seventh seed among eight teams.

 Collins thought the Sharks could make a run, but the end came quickly, in April, by way of a 45-17 first-round loss in Fairlawn, N.J., to the second-seeded North Jersey R.C. 

Montauk, which had been short-handed for that April game, doesn’t travel well, Collins agreed. (It’s the same problem that’s been haunting the otherwise-very-strong East Hampton Football Club, which has been playing in the premier division of the Long Island Soccer Football League.)

Collins said he was hoping that the side would come together in practices at Herrick Park this week, on Tuesday and Thursday, beginning at 6:30 p.m.   “A number of us are on Montauk’s softball team and it’s always seemed we’ve had softball games [at the Hank Zebrowski field in Montauk] on Thursday nights, so we’ve not been at the summer practices at Herrick very much,” Collins said.

The Sharks were playing in the Montauk league’s softball final series this week, versus the reigning champion, Gig Shack. 

As of Friday, the Gig Shack led the best-of-five series 1-0, by virtue of a blowout the previous night. “They hit well and we didn’t play great defense,” Collins said of the series opener. 

Among the ruggers on the softball team, he said, were himself, Turza, Rigby, Mott, Jim Abran, Brabant, and Brian Anderson (though Anderson recently returned to North Carolina, where he lives now). Others on the rugby club’s team, he said, are Kamal Jackson, the pitcher, Alex Tekulsky, the shortstop, and Patrick Harden.

The Rugby Club won Montauk’s playoff trophy two years ago. 

Asked if the league might return to the Terry King ball field in Amagansett, from which it has been absent for several years, Collins said, “I’ve heard that. There was talk that it might come back at the Travis Field tournament [played earlier this month at Terry King], which had a big turnout.”

Returning to rugby, Collins said the Long Island R.C. had moved down to Division III from Division II where it went 2-8 last season. “But their competition was stiff, so I’m sure they’ll be ready.”

Two bye weeks follow, after which Montauk is to play at Rockaway on Sept. 16, at Brooklyn on Sept. 23, and versus the Suffolk R.C. at home on Sept. 30. The locals have a bye on Oct. 7, play Long Island in Bayville on Oct. 14, play Brooklyn at home on Oct. 21, play away versus Suffolk, in Farmingville, on Oct. 28, and finish at home with Rockaway on Nov. 4.