Liberty High School Rugby Football Club to take on the world

March 6, 2009

By Jeff Richards

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In April, the Liberty High School Rugby Football Club will take on the world after becoming the first U.S. youth rugby team to be invited to the 2009 Melrose Sevens, an international rugby tournament held annually in Melrose, Scotland.

Drew Grant, one of four co-captains on the Liberty High School Rugby Football Club, picks a pass out of the air from a teammate during team practice. By Greg Farrar

Drew Grant, one of four co-captains on the Liberty High School Rugby Football Club, picks a pass out of the air from a teammate during team practice. By Greg Farrar

The under-19 Liberty team will go on a tour of Scotland, playing other youth teams in the Scottish towns of Glasgow, Stonehaven and Durness before ending their tour at the 126-year-old Melrose event, which will be broadcast live by BBC Scotland.

This will be the first out-of-country playing experience for Liberty rugby, and for many players on the team, it will be their first time to even venture outside the state.

“The older kids, they realize what an opportunity this is, and knowing that, it kind of perks them up,” Liberty head coach Jeff Chandler said. “There’s not a lot of high-school sports that give them the opportunity to hop on a plane and leave the country.”

The Liberty rugby club has long been a force in Washington and the Pacific Northwest, where their under-19 team is currently ranked first. On the West Coast, they are ranked in the top five. 

Last year, they won the state championship for Division II but lost in the Division I finals to Bellingham.

Chandler was able to set up the invite through connections in Scotland, and he said he is expecting their hosts to roll out the red carpet upon arrival.

“We’ll be treated like royalty,” he said. “They’ll be like, ‘You play rugby?’ and we’ll say, ‘Hell yeah, we do.’”

Liberty is led by co-captains TJ Stalodi, Drew “Flash” Grant, Blake Missan and Shane Brown. Stalodi is currently playing for the United States national team, and 12 players were recently selected to the Pacific Northwest All-Star team.

In order to compete with the Scottish teams, senior fly half Bijan Ghambari said the team needs to play smarter, but will still be a match for any opponent and won’t be intimidated because it’s Scotland’s sport.

“I’m fearless,” he said. “I’m not gonna be afraid of anybody.”

 

Tony Tischer (above, center), a Hazen High School student who plays on the Liberty High School Rugby Football Club, picks up the ball tossed out from a teammate from the bottom of a pile and continues moving the ball up field during practice at Ron Regis Park. By Greg Farrar

Tony Tischer (above, center), a Hazen High School student who plays on the Liberty High School Rugby Football Club, picks up the ball tossed out from a teammate from the bottom of a pile and continues moving the ball up field during practice at Ron Regis Park. By Greg Farrar

Senior wing Tolliver Harden said their communication on the field could improve, but that may not be a problem once they reach the first game.

“By the time we get to Scotland, we’ll have talked to each other so much on the flight that we’ll know each other pretty good,” he said.

In addition to competing, the team will have plenty of opportunity to see the sights and experience everything Scotland has to offer.

Harden said he’s looking forward to living with his host family and learning as much as possible about the country.

“We’ll do what they do on a daily basis, so we’ll get to learn more about the culture,” he said.

Liberty will play its first game of the season March 7. The last game, the state championship, is March 30, and Chandler said he fully expects his team to be playing in it.

Since it’s not a school varsity team, the rugby club relies on private donations, corporate sponsors and fundraising events. Chandler said the team is still $20,000 short of what it needs to make the trip to Scotland.

While it will be the first time playing internationally, Liberty did play a New Zealand team last year. Though they lost, Grant said they played the New Zealanders tough, and he’s anticipating the same in Scotland.

“We’re expecting good teams, but we’re good, too,” he said. “We’ll show them how we play rugby in America.”

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Comments

One Response to “Liberty High School Rugby Football Club to take on the world”

  1. Karen Templeton on March 9th, 2013 6:53 pm

    We want to know when the middle school will play next?

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