Inside look at Eureka’s Rugby

What started as a conversation in Matt Strickland’s 2004 physics class turned into an ongoing 17-year club organization: Eureka High School Rugby. With enough interest, the previous student and Mr. Strickland were able to get 20 men to practice the following spring at Eureka Elementary. The team gained help from experienced players Roger Tucker and Chuck Waddell and created the highschool rugby program that has stood strong in the Saint Louis area.

Along with cheer and ice hockey, rugby falls under the club category. Since it’s a club sport, they draw in some other players from surrounding schools, such as Lafayette, Marquette and others around the area. Most of the recruiting come from current players who bring out their friends and others who are wanting to try something new. 

Since 2004, the team has earned many successes. In 2008, the club reached the Western territorial tournament. Then they had won the state tournament and became the 2010 Missouri State Champions. Years followed, the team placed 2nd in 2014 and 3rd place in 2015. 

The rugby team consists of many experienced coaches. Chuck Waddell, scrum and lineout coach,  has been with the organization since the beginning. The main coach is Roger Tucker, who has played for the Saint Louis Royals for many years. Along with Tucker, Greg Ely runs ‘the backs’ and also played with the Saint Louis Royals.

Josh Sander has recently started teaching at Eureka and has been with the team since only January. He played for Eureka 10 years ago and fell in love with the sport and went on to play at Truman State University. 

The starter of the organization, Strickland currently helps manage the team. He also played rugby for Truman State University and helped the ‘squad’ reach multiple top 10 national finishes. 

The overall background of the sport has been played in the United States since 1870 as a precursor of American Football. Rugby is valued as a sport for men and women, boys and girls. It builds teamwork, understanding, cooperation and respect for fellow athletes. A good rugby player is anyone who is willing to try something new and is not afraid to get embarrassed. 

The rules of rugby itself are pretty simple. The game is played with two teams, each team consisting of fifteen players. Each team can carry, pass or kick the ball to the end zone to score as many points as possible. The team scoring the greater number of points is the winner of the match. The duration of the game is two 40 minute halves with a five-minute halftime.

Sander looks at rugby like a combination of soccer and football. 

You play 40-minute halves of continuous play like soccer,” Sander says, “But the sport involves tackling, end zones, called try zones, and goal posts like in football.”

Rugby union in the United States is the fastest-growing sport in the nation. But what makes rugby so unique is that there’s a place for everyone on the field.  Rugby is one of the only sports where people of all shapes and sizes have a legitimate role to play. 

Like other sports, the season is always unpredictable.  This upcoming season for rugby will be uncharted territory with the limitations that COVID-19 has brought upon. The team already has several matches planned for this spring. 

“We look to be a pretty competitive squad this year,” Sander says, “We hope to see many students attending games to cheer on their friends and classmates”

The rugby team is still welcoming new players who are interested in joining the team this year. Tuesday-Thursday the team practices at Soetebier Park in Eureka from 4-6 pm. No experience necessary. If you are interested in joining or want to learn more, scan the QR code on any of the flyers around the school, email Sander ([email protected]) or Strickland ([email protected]), or stop either of their rooms anytime.