Fairbanks Rugby Club hosts the Solstice Scrum

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Published: Jun. 28, 2022 at 9:12 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - The Fairbanks Rugby Club hosted the 2022 Solstice Scrum rugby tournament at the Ken Kunkle Center off of Goldstream Road.

The tournament is an annual event for the Alaska Rugby Union which the Fairbanks Rugby Club is a part of. The tournament for 2022 was a two day event with dining and social time before and after the game play.

For the tournament day itself, six teams total took to the field as four men’s team competed for the title while two women’s team played a best out of three style competition. For the men, two of the teams came from Anchorage while the other two were from Fairbanks, however only one was freshly formed about a week prior to the tournament. This Fairbanks main team, the Sundawgs, was split in two having numbers large enough to afford the split, the new team would then don the Wild Hares jersey’s which were brought up from Kenai. As for the women’s team, the Ravens were the host for Fairbanks meanwhile, two teams from Anchorage were too short to play alone so they merged to form what they called Foxytown. This name resulting from a combination of Anchortown and Fox’s, the original team names.

Looking closer at the rugby community in Alaska, Liz Millman, the president of the Fairbanks Rugby Club said, “in Alaska rugby is definitely a little smaller but it’s grown a lot in the last 8 years that I’ve been involved. it’s probably doubled in size and participant. the growth overall has been incredible. Fairbank’s is growing pretty fast now, anchorage now has a full youth program, high school program and the high schoolers travel for competitions down in Florida. but, overall Alaska rugby is getting much bigger which is fun to see, sadly we only get to play in the summer time so we don’t get as much growth and connection to the lower 48 as other people do for rugby but we’re still growing.” Much of America is fairly unfamiliar with the sport of Rugby however as it is a more uncommon game than one of it’s off shoots, American Football. The biggest differences being that in Rugby, players do not wear any padding of helmets and unlike football, the ball is never forward, but rather kicked forward instead. Another key difference is in the style of tackling allowed which is very specific such as not allowing feet to leave the ground and tacking with your face behind your opponent. This would in comparison make most football tackles illegal in rugby.

With the games lack of popularity in North America however, it is not uncommon for the participants to pick up their love of rugby outside of US jurisdiction such as Sam Pope. Pope is one of the players on the Sundawgs when, “served a mission for my church, the church of Jesus Christ of Later Day Saints, and [he] was serving [his] mission with a bunch of Polynesians, a bunch of people from the Australia and New Zealand and they taught [him] how to play when [he] was in the Philippines.”

As this game still comes with all the challenges of other team contact sports, curiosity strikes asking why these athletes choose to play such a game for fun. Team captain for the Sundawgs, Tim Litton, helped give a better understanding by explaining why he returns year after year. “What keeps bring me back I typically question every year from the wear and tear it does take on my body. but, I think the comradery within the social side of the club is what makes it so great. mentioning I played football and baseball and other things growing up, nothing quite has the family feel that rugby does. so, I think that’s what keep me invested in coming back every year.”

As for those that are interested in learning to play, both the Sundawgs (men’s team,) and the Ravens (women’s team) are 18 and older only teams.

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