This weeks POTW Player of the Week is brought to by the Lemont VFW Post #5819 home of the most affordable of all beverages.
Alex Baro - 2nd Row (Team Captain)
Height: 6'1", 1.85m
Weight: 265 lbs, 120 kg, 18 stone
Occupation: Certified Athletic Trainer
Position: 2nd row
First played rugby: 2004 at Northern Illinois University
College Rugby: NIU rugby 2004-2009
Blaze RFC rugby: 2009 - present
Norm Smyth Blaze Alumni Director
Let’s back track twenty years to 1994, my sixth year playing rugby and my second year with the Chicago Blaze RFC. Ken Going from the formidable New Zealand All Blacks, decided to stop over on his trip back home to New Zealand from his coaching stint in Spain. He stopped for 6 weeks in Chicago and took an interest in the Blaze and decided to come back and make us his next project. He had my attention the moment he took the practice field and said circle up, throw me that pill, then he took dead center, and said alright any of you Polly Pufters think you can take this off me give it a shot. He showed us from the start how important possession of the ball is, you can’t score without it. From that moment on I learned the New Zealand and Going brand of rugby, see Kenny was one of three legendary Kiwi brothers from the 60’s and 70’s. His brother Sid Going is regarded as one of the best half backs of All Time and took the moniker of ”Super Sid” and is a MBE, a Member of Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. Have you seen Invictus? I was next to Ken in the Chicago Blaze Club house when South Africa slotted their penalty and saved a nation, but broke every Kiwi’s heart. See New Zealand is a Rugby Nation and their National pastime, their NFL. Ken spent only a short time coaching the Blaze Fall of 94 thru Spring of 96, but left his mark in Chicago rugby lore.
Now, lets bring this blog to October 18, 2014, Vidal Martinez, Ryan Childers, and myself got the events under way leading up to the match, with a Learn Like the Pros Rugby Clinic sponsored by AIG and Lifetime Fitness in Romeoville. We took 15 youngsters through the paces of catching, passing, running lines and playing a game of ”Rookie Rugby.” This was the first time any of the kids had a rugby ball in their hands and it was rewarding to us. Vidal, Ryan and I to let them know to tune into the big match two weeks from today.
As I’m preparing to launch Beach Rugby America this summer (A Beach Rugby Tour to Destination Beach Locations), I planned a kick off party at Reggies Live on game day and the next week was spent promoting and preparing the Rugby Social Olympics games and Awards. This would be the Pre and Post Match party to tell your grand children about! Reggie’s shuttled party goers and rugby enthusiasts to and from Soldier Field. The Festivities included a wing eating contest, arm wrestling, rugby jeopardy, boat races, Rock Band Karaoke and great music from The Attics and David Allen Coe.
As game week approached, I spent the last weekend printing up 250 Beach Rugby is Coming to a Beach Near you in 2015 T-Shirts to hand out at Match Festivities. My partners Mike Trizna and Jeff Mumm goal was to give away the majority of the shirts to the Winners and Losers of the Social Olympics, goal was scored! Just was told from my friend Sue, she was already running in hers in San Francisco Monday morning. The gospel will spread on rugby whether it is played on grass, dirt or sand, it is the best team sport in the world.
The All Blacks arrived in Chicago on Sunday night and I received their and the USA teams Itinerary for the week. I set up my interviews, planned attending an Adidas Skills session, Press conferences and training sessions. One of the highlights leading up to the game was a DHL Rugby World Cup Trophy Tour on Thursday.
As I had the pleasure to finally meet my second thru 35th All Black this week, one thing they all seemed to be was humble gentlemen, just like Ken the first All Black I met. The All Blacks are the winningest team in all of sport, having won .763 of their matches. They are the current #1 ranked team and 2011 World Cup Champions defending the William Webb Ellis Trophy in next years 2015 WC in England. I had their ear and I had to tell each one that I had the pleasure to be coached by a Going, it’s the equivalent of being coached by Ditka in football in New Zealand.
The Americans that I interviewed included rising stars Daniel Barrett, Blaine Scully and Adam Siddall and stalwart Captian Todd Clever. They all knew the task at hand was mighty, but all wanted to test themselves and the USA Eagles against the best in the World. The USA team consists of some professionals that play over seas and some amateurs that play domestically, while the All Blacks all compete in their professional league the Super 15. The Super 15 consists of teams from the southern hemisphere countries of Australia, South Africa and New Zealand and all play my favorite brand of rugby. A dynamic, fast paced, skilled and hard hitting game is what the Americans were preparing for.
Chicago did a great job leading up to the match, hosting Gala’s, Masquerades, treating the All Blacks to the Blackhawks and Bulls games, Bears training facility, a Lost Luncheon and a Beach Rugby Kick Off.
The Match was sold out to the surprise of the Rugby World.
As 61,500 people sat in their seats, the teams came out and lined up for their respective National Anthems, once concluded each team took their sides of the Pitch as the Kiwi’s lined up for the ritual Haka. The Haka is an ancestral war dance performed before each All Blacks International Match to strike fear in their opponent. The Americans stood tall arm and arm as the All Blacks chanted, Ka Mate, Ka Mate, Ka Ora, Ka Ora .... I Die, I Die, I Live, I Live.
Barrett, my favorite current USA player lined up against the New Zealand Captain and current International Rugby Board’s player of 2013, Keiren Read. Barrett runs like Walter Payton and tackles like Dick Butkus, but a stroke of bad luck had him break his hand in the opening minutes of the match.
The match, with a spread from the bookies in the 50’s wasn’t suppose to go our way and didn’t, with a 74-6 victory for the All Blacks. The match still provided a victory for USA Rugby, by showing the #1 team and rugby world our love of this game, now let’s see you “try” in the sand.
Photos from my adventurous couple of weeks!
This week's Chicago Blaze Rugby Club's POTW is brought to you by Stonehouse Pub the premier venue to catch the big game in downtown Lemont, Illinois.
Matt "Beckham" Borchardt - Outside center & Wing
Height 6' 1" 1.85m
Weight 180lbs 81kg 12st
Occupation Trade Support Manager for Sungard Brokerage
First year rugby: Spring 2012 Chicago Blaze Rugby Football Club
See Matt in action as he scores a try against Lincoln Park (below).
This weeks Chicago Blaze Rugby Club player of the week is brought to you by Nick's Tavern home of the one pound burger!
Jon Jon Vanderwatt
Height 6' 6" 1.98m
Weight 230lbs 104kg 16st
Occupation college student
Position #12 inside center
First played rugby 2001 South Africa
High School rugby Waubonsie Valley High School 2010 - 2013
Select side rugby Illinois Tornados 2013 2012 -2013
Blaze rugby summer 2014 - present
FOTW Fossil of the Week
John "Brammy" Bramlet
Brammy started playing rugby with fellow Chicago Blaze founding member Kevin Hunt at Eastern Illinois in the late 70's. After graduation he played for the Windy City Nomads while embarking on a career with Amoco.
John was awarded the most intense Rugger in the Blaze's 1983 inaugural season. John has won numerous Blaze accolades over his illustrious career.
If there is a Fossil game scheduled, John is either so excited because his family and work commitments allow him to strap on boots, or greatly disappointed if duty calls!
Can you say any position? Even though John may be small and light in stature no one carries a bigger heart around the pitch or in life.
With that being said, having just completed running the Chicago Marathon Sunday, having his first born Annie get married this Summer, sending his dear Lillian off to college to Iowa State and come into her own as a rugby player, Keegan his Rugger, Debater and Musician who just rocked the House of Blues, I'm sure Brammy and Diane couldn't be prouder of their kids!
"The Brammy" our annual Fossil award is named in John's honor and will be awarded annually to the person who exemplifies these three distinctions
1. Give back to Rugby
2. Play a role with Fossils/Blaze
John ran his second marathon surely to test himself having completed his first marathon in the 80's in a time around 4:30 he stated, but also to raise money for Cancer Awareness as it has affected his Blaze and immediate families.
John Bramlet completed the Bank of America Chicago Marathon at 1:24:32 pm with a time of 05:03:39 and 11:35 min/mile average pace.
Great Job Brammy
We are all "With You"
Starting today and continuing every Thursday we will present a Fossil of the Week.
Our very first FOTW is Peter Thornley. Pete had a vision. In 1984 he purchased our initial 10 acres of land. As we embark upon a new chapter with the construction of new facilities the message/purpose remains the same 30 years later. "The best way to thank Peter is to be committed to put in the time and resources needed to make it work." Peter can normally be found game day in Lemont, Illinois cheering on his beloved Blaze. Be sure to buy this man a pint and shake his hand. His vision continues to grow and guide us to this day.
This week's Chicago Blaze Rugby Club player of the week is brought to you by Dropkick Sports. From t-shirts to mugs and everything in between Dropkick Sports are your screen printing & embroidery rugby apparel specialists.
Bernie Laskowski is our Chicago Blaze Rugby Football Club player of the week.
Height 5'8" 1.72m
Weight 220 pounds 99.79kg 15st
Occupation College Freshman
Position hooker/eight man
Middle School rugby Naperville Crusaders 2009 - 2010
High School rugby Neuqua Valley High School 2011 - 2014
Select Side HS rugby Illinois Tornados 2013 - 2014
Blaze rugby 2014 summer 7s - present
Things were not looking good for the Blaze as St. Paul scored early to start the match going up 5-0 just a few minutes in. The Blaze needing a win to keep their playoff chances alive would answer back and an excitingly close game would ensue.
About a quarter of the way through the first half the Blaze’s Graham Johnson placed a beautiful kick into touch at the Jazz Pigs one meter line. The Blaze were able to steal a mishandled Pigs’ lineout and prop Andrew Hart would crash through to touch the ball down in goal tying the match up five all.
A few minutes later St. Paul had some good multi phase play and worked the ball outside to their wing and took advantage of an overload putting them up 12-5 midway through the first half. Not deterred, the Blaze grabbed a quick ball after tackling a St. Paul man into touch working the ball all the way across to the other side of the pitch before Rapalos Dikinis dotted the ball down in-goal trimming deficit to two points 12-10 Pigs.
Vidal Martinez took a kicked ball deep from behind the Blaze 22 meter line and weaved threw an uneven St. Paul defense before passing off just after midfield to Alex Binetti who burned past the last two St. Paul defenders to score a try. Binetti would make good on the conversion putting the Blaze into the lead for the first time in the game 17-12. St. Paul scored twice more failing on each conversion to regain a 22-17 lead over the Blaze going into the half.
About five minutes into the 2nd half the Blaze would score after a nice rolling maul from about 10 meters out allowed Bernard Laskowski to punch it in for a try helping the Blaze tie the game back up at 22. St Paul. struck again going up 29-22 but that would end the scoring for the Jazz Pigs.
Midway through the second half, an errant St. Paul pass left their winger and a fullback with no options and no time behind the halfway line. The Blaze would capitalize as their forwards got in position fast and were able to poach the ball to make a quick pass from 8 man Jim Moscato to Matt Borchardt resulting in an almost uncontested try. Binetti slotted his kick tying the match once again with the score 29-29.
With just minutes left the Blaze defense were pinned against their own goal line, yet the Blaze thwarted numerous Pigs’ crash ball attempts before finally winning the ball back after Andrew Hart forced a knock on. Soon after Dikinis, would score his second try of the game and with a good conversion kick the Blaze would hold on to win 36-29 making their record midway through the season 2-3.
Highlights: Chicago Blaze vs St. Paul Jazz Pigs (D2)
The Chicago Blaze Rugby Football Club is proud to announce Graeme Jackson will be working as the team's new backs coach and as an assistant coach to head coach Craig Clark. Jackson, returns to the Blaze after finishing his playing years with club in 2000, including two seasons as team captain.
Jackson's rugby pedigree is long and storied. As a player he suited up for New Zealand's Provincial side Hawkes Bay (1985-'86), Orange County Bucks (1985-91), Portland Pigs (1992-96), and finished his playing career on the pitch with the Blaze (1996-2000).
As a coach, Jackson joined forces with the Blaze's own Dave Rosenberg in 2009 to form the Middle School Naperville Crusaders, winning the Middle School State Championship in 2010. Also that year, Jackson and Rosenberg, founded the Nequa Valley Wildcats RFC with a bunch of freshman as a Division 3 High School side. Under Jackson's direction as head coach the program quickly grew by adding Frosh/Soph, D2, and D1 sides. All three of which made the State Championship game.
Jackson, will report directly to and work with head coach Craig Clark, to help the club achieve our goal of becoming National Champions.
The fall 2014 season starts with mandatory training Thursday July 24th. The schedule consists of ten games starting August 23rd at home against the Chicago Riot and finishing November 15th. (Full Schedule)
The Chicago Blaze Rugby Club is looking to step up its internet presence. We'll be looking to share stories, events and other news about the club & rugby in general.
In the meantime, help us name this blog if we don't come up with something first.