The Prairie Wolf Pack club rugby team, which features players from north and west Clark County, are gearing up for another season as its first official practice is set for Jan. 31.
It has been a while since the team has competed against other schools due to the COVID-19 pandemic and coach Bradley Batten is eager to get the team out on the field once again.
“I feel great,” said Batten. “It’s been two years since we’ve had full competitive rugby. I’m excited and can’t wait to get back into it.”
To prepare for the season, the players have participated in a skills camp the past few weekends, which Batten said helps “reintroduce veteran players and introduce some new players.” They have also worked to review skills like how to pass and catch. The athletes range from second grade to 12th grade. They play flag rugby until sixth grade and then switch to a tackling format for the remaining grades.
“We’ll take anybody as long as they’re coachable and understand how to do what the coach is asking,” Batten said.
The sport is often compared to football, but Batten said rugby differs because when a player is tackled, the play continues. He described the pace of the game as “much faster.” In regards to tackling, instead of driving in headfirst like in football, rugby players go “cheek-to-cheek” as they push their shoulder into the ball carrier’s hips, while attempting to keep their head to the side.
Batten said he likes rugby because of the camaraderie the sport brings.
“Even off the field, it’s a real family or fraternity for boys and sorority for girls,” he said. “Especially in the United States, it’s not a mainstream sport. If you run across somebody who’s a rugby player or former rugby player, there’s just an instant bond. We’ve been in the trenches, we’ve been in the mud and there’s a certain brotherhood there which is really, really cool.”
Batten said rugby is a lifetime sport. He still occasionally competes at 45 years old. The girls’ team follows the same rules, uses the same size ball and comes onto the field as soon as the boys are done, Batten said.
“Nothing really changes as far as the game is played, and the fact that girls have an interest and the ability to participate in a rough-and-tumble collision sport is pretty cool,” he said.
Batten said Lopeti Aisea is an exceptional athlete who used to play for the team.
Aisea played in the Rugby Oregon league and has been chosen for the Seattle Seawolves, which is the city’s professional rugby team.
The coach said the team is always on the search for new players.
“The beauty about rugby is you don’t have to have prior athletic experience,” Batten said. “There’s a position on the field for every body shape, size and type. If you’re a big lineman, we got a spot for you. If you’re short, there’s positions for that. We have positions for the track stars and the basketball stars. No matter how big, small, fast, slow, experienced or inexperienced you are, you’ll get gametime, you’ll be able to score, and we can put you to work on the field.”
The Prairie Wolf Pack is part of the Rugby Oregon league.
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