(COVINGTON, La.) — After beating their first three regular season opponents, the St. Paul’s rugby team played the Bayou Hurricanes; during this game, the referees missed a call that would have protected the safety of an SPS player. During the following week, the team started going through some controversy with the referees, a coaching change, concerns for player safety, and outside complications.
“During this (week off from rugby), there were concerns on the part of the administration about the safety of the athletes,” athletic director Craig Ketelsen said, “not to just normal injuries, but due to illegal activities from opponents.”
The school felt it was an unsafe environment for the players to play in. The school had to stop games until they could be assured that the referees were making the right calls to protect the safety of the players.
“As Athletic Director, I now personally speak with the assignment secretary of the officials,” Ketelsen said, “whereas before I had no contact with them. If there are any concerns, I can easily address them, or they can address me.”
The school also had a concern about technique coaching which could lead to injuries due to illegal moves by other teams and referees having a subpar standard for calls.
“The school completely supports the rugby program,” President Bro. Ray Bulliard, FSC, said. “I’m proud of these guys; they work real hard, practice incredibly long hours, and they represent us well.”
Now that the team is back on track, beating Brother Martin 40-10 and Shaw 52-0 in their last two matches, they are focused on achieving all they can throughout the remainder of the season.
“(Former Head Coach) Dr. Donald Hart and (current Head Coach) Al Freyer and Mark Dixon have been working hard preparing the team for the grueling and hard-hitting 10-match season,” team videographer Odon Simoneaux said.
The St. Paul’s varsity Rugby Wolves began the season coming off an undefeated 2015 season that left them ranked no. 1 in the Deep South region and 17th in the nation. The team entered the season looking to improve and continue to focus on that effort.
“We have been conditioning more and more every week,” junior Cameron Meyers said. “We plan on being more of a finesse team this year than last year, when we were more of a power team.”
The St. Paul’s Wolves are currently ranked 19th in the nation by the National High School Rugby Association and are motivated to continue creating the St. Paul’s rugby wolves tradition in this third year of the program. Last year, the Wolves won the Deep South Championship by defeating Shaw and have set goals this year to play in the High School Rugby Association National Championship in Charlotte, North Carolina.
The next game is Saturday, March 12 at 5:30 p.m. in Gretna against the Gretna Barbarians.