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The home team

It’s the nature of university athletic teams—there’s turnover every year. But this year, more than most other years, was one of transition for the King’s rugby teams.

I. A Team in Transition

It’s the nature of university athletic teams—there’s turnover every year. But this year, more than most other years, was one of transition for the King’s rugby teams. Just under a dozen of the boys graduated, including many of its all-stars and mainstays. The girls’ rugby team lost most of its starting line.
But rather than divide and segregate, it just meant more opportunities to bring rugby to a new generation of King’s students, ready to bleed blue and white.
“Even if it’s your first day, you’re going to be acknowledged,” said Matthew Baker, in his fourth year of both English and the boys’ rugby team. “You’re acknowledged as a teammate and you are helped.”
Benjamin Blum, a current FYP student, says that he felt that acceptance right away. “I was just
one of the guys. They made me and all the other rookies feel at home.”
Mentorship is a value common to both men’s and women’s teams. The veterans teach important lessons on the field, but also accept the rookies off the field. They’ll cite their experiences when they watch pre-game tape, and pass on exactly what it means to be a member of the squad.
Looking back on her first year, Kelsey Buchmayer was surprised about how welcoming the
veterans were to her and other new coming players. “I didn’t expect upper-years to be so accepting of rookies,” she said.
Today, “Buck” remembers that dynamic and tries to reflect it onto this year’s new players as one of the girls’ team’s co-captains. “We have a lot of rookies, but we want to include them in everything.”
The team’s youth was clear at their game on Oct. 24 against Mt. Allison University, King’s longtime rivals and main competition in their division. While both the men’s and women’s King’s team lost, the Mount A squad featured familiar faces and its familiar playing style. “We proved that we can go out and smash with Mount A, who is a notoriously hard-hitting team and a notoriously dirty team,” says Justis Danto-Clancy, a men’s team captain.
But they held their own. “You learn a lot being a young squad,” says Neil Hooper, director of athletics.

II. A Team of Traditions

In a sport steeped in codes and traditions, it’s one of its most beloved: the home team hosting their competitors at
the local pub.
It’s a trademark King’s stands by, when it can. “We’ve had some pretty heated rivalries with teams in the past and we have decided in the past that we don’t want to share the customary pint,” says Danto-Clancy. But it sp
eaks to the character of the team that after another testy Mount A match, and another tough loss, the rugby teams invited the Mount A teams back to the King’s Wardroom.
It’s not the only tradition the King’s teams partake in. They also have a team song, and sing all sorts of songs on their way to games, most too lewd for print. “This is key to understanding the ridiculosity that is the King’s rugby team,” says Baker. “It’s silly and it’s the spirit of rugby. It’s a bunch of loudmouth bastards having a good time.”
Danto-Clancy stressed the importance of knowing the song. “The team is a dynamic thing that can change, but it’s rooted in that tradition.”
The King’s rugby teams are unique. Rather than accept what they see as common rugby tropes, King’s prides itself on blending brain and brawn.
“We may be a bunch of small, liberal arts kids,” said Blum, “but we for sure can play rugby.”

III. A Team Stands Tall

Next to the burly squads at Mt. Allison, St. Mary’s, and Dalhousie, the King’s teams are pretty small in stature. But at King’s, size doesn’t matter; instead, it’s about their players’ heart and their commitment to the game.
“It’s everything you have between your temples and between your shoulders,” said Danto-Clancy.
Hit hard, and you will be respected. Hit clean, and you will be respected. Throw yourself into the game and put your body on the line for your teammates, and you will be respected.
“To be a good rugby player, you need to not care about your body,” says Baker. Hooper agrees: “It’s a different breed of athlete.”
Scrapes, gashes, concussions, and dislocations are the currency of the sport. Rookie Wesley Petite described his black eye as a “badge of honour”.
At the end of the day, what separates rugby from other sports is the inevitability of, well, getting the shit kicked out of you. Without a whole lot of padding, every player is vulnerable, and they rely on each other to get through the match. Dinged-up bench players swap in for limping starters. Players who can barely get up in the morning limber up and are prepared to play if it’s for the King’s rugby teams.
That’s the kind of dynamic that can quickly turn a tough, ragtag gang into something resembling a family.
“It’s hard work, but it’s fun because we’re brothers,” says Baker.
Buchmayer, who moved off residence for her second year, agrees. “When you move out, you realize who your true friends are. And a lot of them, for me, are on the rugby team,” she said.
The records for the King’s rugby teams speak for themselves: it was a disappointing season. The women’s team came in fourth out of four teams—they played six games and lost five. The men’s team finished second out of three teams, a letdown for a team that consistently plays the bridesmaid to Mt. Allison and believes every year, in their heart of hearts, that this is their year.
“Obviously, I would have loved to hang a banner in the gym,” says Danto-Clancy.
After four years on the team and three as a captain, Danto-Clancy plans on graduating this year.
“I am proud to have played alongside all of the guys, and hopefully they are as proud to have put on the blue and white as I have been.”

By David J. Shuman

David is a second-year journalism student at King's, is engagement/news editor of The Watch, and a copy editor of The Pigeon. He writes on student politics, campus happenings, and school news. 

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