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At home on the pitch

Players on the Northeastern University men’s rugby club represent eight countries on six continents, but the bonds they have forged on the pitch have transcended language and cultural barriers.

“We’re like a family,” said Ty Taylor, a center from South Africa. “We put on our jersey for the man next to us.”

The tight-knit club won the East Coast Rugby Conference 7s tournament last month in Amesbury, Mass., securing an automatic bid to the USA Rugby 7s Collegiate National Championships on Nov. 29-30 in College Station, Texas.

First year head coach Jamie Green, who played collegiate rugby at the University of Wales, believes in the club’s chances of outlasting the 24-team field. Green has good reason to be confident: His 7s team compiled a 6-0 regular season record, beating opponents by a combined score of 226 to 27 en route to the East Coast Rugby Conference Championship.

“We came into this season with the goal of winning a national championship,” Green said. “We’re trying to build a program here that can develop into something special and this tournament is the first opportunity to put ourselves on the map.”

The rugby club formed in 1984 and began holding practices on a makeshift pitch of dirt, rocks and weeds on Huntington Avenue. Today the club practices and plays home games at Parsons Field in Brookline, Mass., the university’s flagship athletic facility.

Nicknamed the Maddogs, the club has a rabid following. Friends of Northeastern University Rugby, for example, a nonprofit alumni organization dedicated to raising the club’s national profile through fundraising and community outreach, was established in 2002 and now counts more than 170 active members.

Jon Hagan, BHS’97, played for the Maddogs in the mid-90s and currently serves as the organization’s president. His passion for the club drew him to attend almost every match this season. “There’s a love for the game that brings alumni back to the school,” he explained. “The sky’s the limit for this program.”

Taylor, a fifth-year business major, noted that a member of FONUR has offered to help him find a full-time job after graduation, saying, “Once you play rugby at Northeastern, you’re always part of the team.”

Brian Denning, a development officer for University Advancement, agreed with Taylor’s assessment of the university’s rugby family and noted that alumni have raised some $130,000 for the program within the last year. “The students know they are part of a tradition of success and responsible for a legacy that started before they were born,” he said. “The alumni show their support and dedication by attending matches, raising financial support and providing resources for the students to be successful on and off the field.”