Coaches, players look to grow sport of rugby

Alana Schaff (left) watches Dinah Sigmund run an offensive play at the Main Field outside of the Goettge Memorial Field House on Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, March 4. 

It’s early in the season, but the Camp Lejeune Maniacs women’s rugby team has started the season undefeated as they prepare for an upcoming St. Patrick’s Day tournament in Georgia.

The Maniacs, along with the men’s team, the Camp Lejeune Misfits, are working to grow the sport of rugby on Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune.

The women’s team is off to a 3-0 start to the season.

“There is inclusion [having a female rugby team],” said Chyna Hamm, Camp Lejeune Maniacs head coach. “I am a coach and player on the team, and we have won all of our friendlies [matches] so far.”

Hamm said consistency is needed as the Maniacs move forward.

“In order to be successful for upcoming matches, we need to get the consistency of players coming out 100 percent,” Hamm said.

Alan Mcalister, president for the Camp Lejeune Misfits, has respect for the women’s rugby squad.

“I think it is amazing,” Mcalister said. “Female rugby is the fastest growing sport in the world. Just like the men’s side when we first dove into rugby in the military in 2008, we as Marines bring a [high level] of discipline with everything we do. I have no doubt that the women will do the same as the men, starting out with [discipline].”

Just like the Maniacs, the Misfits also face the challenge of coexisting within a military community, according to Mcalister.

“It is tough in the military playing rugby as we preach work and duty comes first,” Mcalister said. “With that being said, we can go through eight games and have a different 15 people on that field every time. It makes unit cohesion and solidarity very difficult to achieve, but that is the nature of the business for a military team.”

The Misfits are off to a 0-6 start to the season, but for player John McKinnon, there is more to rugby than capitalizing on a scoring play.

“We have Marines, Sailors and civilians on the team that [have access to base],” McKinnon said. “We practice twice a week. Playing on this team is good for social networking with experience playing rugby in the Marine Corps.”

On the Misfits squad, rank gets checked at the door, Mcalister said.

“It is very important,” Mcalister said. “On the team, we have to have complete trust and confidence with everybody on the field. Unlike other sports where certain plays are designed for certain people, the entire offensive scheme is designed around everyone doing their jobs. There is not one play for a certain person to score.”

Cory Allen, Misfits match secretary and treasurer, said the team plays as one unit. Individuals don’t stand out because the team is united as one.

“There are a lot of teaching moments with [the junior Marines] but I also learn a lot,” Allen said. “That is why we show up in civilian PT gear and check the rank at the door. We all know that we are here to focus on rugby, getting better as a team. There is no blatant disrespect with rank. If I fumble a pass or miss a tackle, they are going to let me know — whether they are a lance corporal or a staff sergeant.”

The Camp Lejeune Maniacs and Misfits travel to Savannah, Georgia, this weekend to compete in the St. Patrick’s Day 15’s tournament. Due to numbers, the Misfits will play under the Marine Corps affiliated team called the Old Breed Rugby Club.