Rugby is a sport apart from any other, say two members of the men’s rugby team at Northeastern. The (quite literal) blood, sweat, and tears shed on the pitch forge a bond among teammates that’s unparalleled.
“The thing that keeps bringing me back is the brotherhood inherent in the sport,” said David De Luzuriaga, SSH’19, the club’s new vice president. “When you go out and you play for this cause, you bond so much with the other 14 guys around you on the pitch.”
When Northeastern’s rugby team was founded in 1984, it was populated by a scrappy group of friends who enjoyed the sport and wanted to play it all the time. Today, the team is ranked 41st in the nation and just wrapped up an undefeated season. During its fall season, the team traveled up and down the East Coast, taking on far more seasoned teams in Boston College, UMass Amherst, University of Rhode Island, UConn, Tufts University, and University of New Hampshire, among others. The “Maddogs,” as the players call themselves—a twist on Northeastern’s Husky mascot—came out victorious every time.
“This past season was a high point for us,” said Ryan Crowe, DMSB’17, the team’s outgoing captain and former vice president. “It’s really amazing to see how far we’ve come even since I started.”
As rugby isn’t typically a sport offered at U.S. high schools, both Crowe and De Luzuriaga credit the team’s rapid growth and perfect season to the diversity of players—nine countries are represented on the team—and their dedication to success.
Indeed, both athletes were exposed to the sport at an earlier age than most because of their childhoods in England.
Crowe spent four years of his childhood in London, and attended an international school from third to sixth grade. He recalled his first rugby practice as a youngster. Having never played before, Crowe passed someone the ball, then threw a body block similar to what one might do in football.
“They had no idea what I was doing,” he said, laughing. “And, obviously, neither did I.”
In rugby, blocking isn’t allowed. Neither, for that matter, is passing the ball forward. The 15-person teams pass backward and surge forward as a pack, inching closer to the so-called try zone.
Similar to Crowe, De Luzuriaga spent time growing up in England. Connecticut-born, he and his family moved to Thorpe, England, when he was 5 years old. He moved back to the U.S. only a couple years ago, to attend college.
Crowe and De Luzuriaga never crossed paths in England, which is really something given they both attended the same school, just at different times.
De Luzuriaga spent his early years playing rugby, then switched to soccer and basketball after sixth grade, and back to rugby when he decided his “basketball career wasn’t going anywhere,” he said with a laugh.
His soccer career was, though: De Luzuriaga practiced with professional soccer players and rose quickly through the ranks. Still, he was missing something.
“With soccer, you’re not going out and bleeding and bruising and taking hits for each other like you are in rugby. When you get off the field after a rugby game, you’re just overwhelmed with this sense of loving the guys that you just battled your heart out with,” De Luzuriaga said. “It’s hard to describe if you’ve never played a full 80 minutes of rugby with your best friends, your brothers.”
That’s what makes the future of the club so exciting, the athletes said.
Next semester, the team goes from playing 15s (15-person teams), to 7s (seven-person teams), a variation of the sport that’s close to “tag with contact,” Crowe said. The team will travel to games all across the country, coming up against varsity programs as well as other club teams.
“It’s going to be a big opportunity for us not only to show USA Rugby but show Northeastern how serious we are and how professionally we take this game,” De Luzuriaga said. “We know that we’re competitors.”