It can be tough to reload each year as a club sports program where recruiting is limited to word of mouth and fliers. Yet hopes remain high for Oregon men’s rugby as it looks to build upon their successful past few seasons.
The talent level of the departing players from the club is significant, with familiar names like Anton Matschek, Travis Cutler and Taylor Krumrei all moving on after their final year of eligibility. Most of the core scrum is gone. However, the team does see a silver lining.
“A lot of times you are training with kids who are on the cusp and the most frustrating thing for them is they never get a chance to break out,” Connor Crossley, a veteran with the team, said. “I am hoping for a few shining stars to come out of this group.”
The opportunities are there for the younger members who may not have seen that much of the pitch in previous seasons. Playing time is to be had across the board. The coaches and team leaders are watching to see who will make a bid for more action come game day.
“There is going to be a lot of open spots come this season,” said Anthony Rodriguez, a second year player whose goal is to take over the playmaking duties.
Jess Kraus will be one of the people helping to make personnel decisions as he takes on his new role as club president.
“It wasn’t really planned. I got injured last fall, so I wanted to become more involved with the club.”
Kraus is also expected to make an impact on the field, though he is still working to rehab his injury. He is training with the team, but is only at 80 percent. A late fall return seems likeliest.
Practice started two weeks before school, though not all the players were able to make it back on campus in time. They ran two sessions a week on the turf fields, while also incorporating extra endurance sessions like a team run up Spencer’s Butte.
The Ducks have done a good job coming together during those sessions, keeping a high level of competition by pushing each other on the field in a positive manner. That speaks to the trend of this program supporting each other on and off the field, maintaining a sense of encouragement and camaraderie.
“We have the time,” said Crossley, “so if we get some bodies in here and get them ready to go, we might actually have one of our best years.”
The goal every year for Oregon rugby is to make it to Nationals. Realistically this season, with how much experience, talent and size they lost, that may be a tall order. But this team isn’t looking at what was lost — instead they continue to emphasize the future.
“What we are trying to focus on is our recruiting efforts,” Kraus said. “We have a huge pool to gather students from to get interested in our sport.”
The first home game of the season is scheduled to take place on October 24th against Chico State out on Riverfront Field.
Follow Christopher Keizur on Twitter @chriskeizur