Local rugby club gearing up for new season

Members of the Kitsap Rugby Football Club (in black and red) play a match last spring. - Photo courtesy of the Kitsap Rugby Football Club
Members of the Kitsap Rugby Football Club (in black and red) play a match last spring.
— image credit: Photo courtesy of the Kitsap Rugby Football Club

KITSAP COUNTY — Rugby players don’t just say the mantra, “play hard or go home,” they live it.

In addition to making bruising tackles on the field, members of the Kitsap Rugby Football Union are ramping up efforts to raise funds and recruit new players off the field.

“We’re really looking to get local players interested in this sport,” said Tev Friedman, fundraising officer for the KRFU.

What many athletes in Kitsap don’t know is that the local rugby team is not new, say the club’s officers.

“There’s been rugby in the area since longer than people can remember,” said Scott Kirvan, president of the KRFU.

But Kirvan and the KRFU crew are working to change what people know. In recent weeks, the club has begun passing out fliers and organizing fundraisers, including selling sno-cones at last weekend’s Whaling Days. On August 15, the union will hold one of its biggest fundraisers, the Fishbowl Tournament, at the Anderson Hill athletic fields in Silverdale. The 9 a.m. event starts with a collection of rugby players writing their name on a piece of paper and putting it into a fishbowl. Names are then drawn and players are matched up to form teams and play a series of “friendly” contests.

The club, which has enough players to field a men’s team, is hoping to find additional players for its women’s team, and recruit for its youth girls and boys teams.

“Most of our players don’t even get exposed to the sport until they’re out of high school,” Kirvan said. “It’s an important part of the future of rugby in Kitsap, that we get the high school program going.”

The main obstacles to generating interest in rugby are dispelling myths and educating potential players about the sport.

“People think it’s one of those funny sports they play over in England, or that it’s too dangerous to consider,” Friedman said.

While injuries do happen, KRFU coach Deane Shephard is quick to mention they are usually minor and avoidable, as in other sports.

“Injuries come on contact,” Shephard said. “In rugby, you can only have contacts in the vicinity of the ball. There are very stringent rules about how you can make contact; all sorts of rules that make rugby safer.”

According to Kirvan, many players are not involved in contact on each play. Most teams even have a few svelte players who rarely make contact and focus on running the ball rather than bowling people over.

Kirvan says the club trains people how to hit and be hit before throwing them into the scrum. But, he adds, having a desire for adrenaline also helps players overcome fears and forget about the potential to get hurt.

“You get pretty bruised up, but that sort of stuff heals pretty quick,” Kirvan said. “For me, it’s usually broken fingers, and even that stuff's pretty minor.”

Despite the bumps, scrapes and occasional lost tooth, rugby culture dictates that players keep it friendly on and off the field. Teams see opponents as like-minded competitors, not enemies, and regularly treat each other to drinks after the game has ended.

“The level of camaraderie on the rugby team strikes me as being very different than with other sports,” Kirvan said. “On the pitch, I get hit really hard and the guy will pick me up and get me back on my feet, and I’ll pat him on the back and say, ‘Good hit.’”

For more information on the KRFU, visit

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