Most students come into college without having ever played rugby, or even knowing any details about the sport – besides the fact that it’s similar to football, but with no padding.
“It’s continuous, if you get tackled, you have to keep going as if it’s one big play,” senior and three-year club rugby player Connor Cadrin said.
The Seton Hall Rugby Football Club is one of the most popular club sports on campus. An official team for over four decades, the club currently consists of around 30 members, the majority who are upperclassmen. It is part of a large college rugby scene, as over 854 colleges are registered with USA Rugby and over 32,000 college members participate, according to Forbes.
Neither Cadrin nor fellow senior teammate C.J. Ryu knew much about rugby before attending Seton Hall and both joined the program as sophomores. They both played sports in high school and still wanted that team element in their lives. Ryu says having that is a defining part of the club.
“There’s no better way to bond with someone than to play, to bleed, to sweat with them,” Ryu said. “We’re all connected together through rugby and playing helps takes our stresses away from school. I definitely see a brotherhood element within our organization.”
The club goes great lengths to make itself known on and off campus, as it needs to continually re-fill the roster.
“Since a lot of the team is upperclassmen, we always look to get the word out to freshmen about playing, and we participate in freshman move-in day at the beginning of every year,” Cadrin said. “We put on our rugby kits and that always starts a conversation. We also use social media to message people who are interested.
“Every year, we do the Polar Plunge to get our name out there as well, while also raising over a thousand dollars for a good cause,” Cadrin added.
The club also has a strong alumni base, which allows for former players to come back to mentor current students and meet players from as far back as the 1970s. There is also an alumni game that takes place annually.
“There’s always an alumni weekend and it’s great to see old teammates as well as other guys who I can meet and network with; it’s definitely something I want to do when I graduate,” Cadrin said.
Seton Hall finished 4-2 in its regular season play this year, earning second place in the club’s division and a trip to the playoffs, where they faced Siena in the first round on Oct. 29. The Pirates mostly play teams from the tri-state area.
“We play away in New York, Connecticut and other parts of New Jersey,” Cadrin said. “We’ll play fairly local teams, too, such as Montclair State and William Paterson. Even if you’re not on the starting squad, there’s always a B-side game going on so the new players get experience.”
In addition to the scheduled season in the fall, the Pirates also go a bit off script in the spring, where they register for several tournaments throughout the semester and play several matches on the weekends.
Seton Hall ended its season with a 22-17 loss to Siena on Sunday.
“Our rookies played very well and fought just as hard as any veteran on the pitch,” Ryu said. “We were down 17-5 at the half, came back from halftime, guns blazing and scored two tries and a conversion kick. For the last 15 minutes or so, we fought back and forth with no scores, taking a lot of injuries. The injuries piled up and we had to send our new players in and for some it [was] their first A-side match.”
The loss did not define Seton Hall’s season in the team’s eyes. What did is the way the players come together throughout the course of a semester, a year, a college career, to develop relationships both on and off the pitch.
“The club has grown so much since I’ve joined,” Ryu said. “I’ve really enjoyed playing. I don’t see this as just a club sport; it’s an organization that’s continuing to be built upon. I want to be able to make an impact even after I graduate.”
Matt Lamb can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @MattS_Lamb.