The Origin of Rugby at SMC
A Bob Schnetz, Al Mossman, and Dan Sullivan Collaboration
In the fall of 1955, several SMC upperclassmen, including Jack Witry, Tom Fagan, Bob Ulses and Charlie Anspach most likely knew of rugby being played at Cal and Stanford, and joined up with Don Anderson, the paid Intramural Mgr, to discuss the possibility of forming a Rugby Club. To form a Club they needed a Moderator, and Br. Kyran, an avid participant in all sports, was happy to oblige.
The first meeting was just a get together in one of the classrooms to discuss the idea. A second meeting brought in more students and enthusiasm was building. More Underclassmen joined in. Further meetings included films, pamphlets and the well known primer "Why the Whistle Went", (which I received when I joined the third season). Don Anderson was the person who made that happen. Kyran was important too because he was faculty and could help get rugby educational materials. They decided they had enough students to form a team, and Tom Fagan, a Junior, was selected as Team Captain.
Eventually they began practicing, led by Player/Coach Don Anderson, and "In Charge" Player/Coach Br. Kyran. Don Anderson handled relations with the powers that be at the College, including a Board of Trustees that did everything possible to try to ban rugby.
The resistance was at least partially due to the need for accident/medical insurance, for one thing. Playing teams off campus meant a higher insurance cost. In 1957 the team applied for Club status. The request was refused, and the sport was banned from campus. The entire Student Body objected, the ban was appealed, and the SMC Rugby Club was founded. Art Fleuti, owner of the Moraga Bar, became the Trainer, attended all games, and provided beer and steaks in the original "Grove" on Bollinger Canyon Road. (He continued to do that at least thru the 1957-58 season)
That third season, in the fall, was the first time Dr. Miles "Doc" Hudson, the Rugby Coach at Cal, brought himself and two Cal players, usually Frank Mattarroci and John Harrison (Australian), weekly for a month or two, to run practices, including scrimmages and teach us the finer points of rugby.
Around March of 1958, Br.Kyran was forbidden by the Order to attend practice or even be the Moderator for the team. He was replaced as Moderator by Bob Hagler, Minor Sports Director. It was February when Art Robson, former Cal player and lawyer in Lafayette, volunteered to Br.Albert, ( "Silver Fox", to distinguish him from Br. Albert, the College President), at a Rotary Club meeting in Lafayette, to coach our team and also teach a Speech Class, for no compensation. That was the first year that actual elections were run by the Rugby Club and Skip Hansen became President, and Dan Sullivan Team Captain.That year we were blessed by former 49er practice jerseys, blue and white, secured by Hooker Brian McCarthy, conveniently the Athletic Dept. Mgr. Prior to that, we wore skimpy blue T shirt hand me downs from the San Francisco Gaelic Football Club, thanks to Jim Monahan, our star player and top scorer, who played for them as a seminarian before coming to SMC. He also secured $200 in cash from their treasury and donated it to the Rugby Club. That same year the ASSMC Executive Council gave $150 to the Club to help defray the cost of medical insurance for the team.
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Great Story! Looking forward to more :)