By Tom Crosby
2008 New Orleans Half-Moons Mardi Gras Rugby Tournament
On a sunny Saturday morning in early February right across the river from the madness of Mardi Gras in New Orleans, the Buffalo Gals kicked off against FSU while LSU played Texas A&M. The New Orleans Women’s Half-Moons served up the 27th (or is it 26th) Mardi Gras Women’s Rugby Tournament. The trophy says 26th, but the t-shirts say 27th. What the heck?! The tournament is about having fun, playing rugby, and camaraderie – with healthy helpings of creativity, love, and fond memories.
Tracy Moens (long time New Orleans area rugger and Eagle (?)) remembers the first tournament being in 1981. She remembers the pitches being up on the batcher in Audubon Park and being laid out so there was a tree on one of them. It put a whole new meaning to strategic kicking. The first tournament was an off-shoot of Hammond’s mega Mardi Gras Tournament which reached 64 men’s teams and 16 women’s teams. The Hammond tournament began around 1976. The joke is made that the tournament was started because one year it was so cold the Hammond pitches were covered with ice, so they decided to move the women’s part of the tournament south. The Halfmoon’s Mardi Gras Tournament has been held in New Orleans (or current site in Gretna) consecutively since 1981 except in 2006 when Katrina played her devastating match. Last year there were 4 teams. This year there were 8 teams in 2 divisions. In the college division, in order of finish in this round robin tournament, were Texas A&M, University of Florida, LSU, and Rice. In the club division the order of finish was Buffalo Gals, FSU, USM, and Halfmoons.
There is some dispute over the winner of the first tournament. Tracy remembers it being a battle between FSU and the Houston Hearts as this was a perennial final in the early years of the tournament. Janine Pardee (Buffalo Gal) recalls it being Tampa Tarbabies against the Houston Hearts. The Tarbabies came over with about 9 players and picked up 4 or 5 players from FSU. Bee Bee (Buffalo Gal) and Suzie Rosen (Buffalo Gal) were two of these players. This was back in the days when FSU was often national champs. Another player who thought she had been at the first final recalls a team from Portland won. Anyway – regardless of who won or if it was the 26th or 27th the tournament has developed a tremendous sense of camaraderie and love among participants.
Tania Hahn (Buffalo Gal, Eagle Reserve’98, tournament director since ‘92) sees the tournament growing to possibly 2 divisions of 6 next year with an ultimate goal of building back to two 12 team divisions. Beyond the obvious reason of Katrina the tournament had been losing popularity because it was seen to have dropped in its level of competitiveness. Tania acknowledges that a team like Beantown would deliver a large boot to the rump of any of the teams present, but the level of competition is certainly improving. Janine Pardee claimed that she had recently seen the Division II champs (?) and that several teams at the Mardi Gras tournament would give them a good game and the Buffalo Gals would handle them easily.
The Buffalo Gals are a large force behind the Mardi Gras tournament. Many of them coming to be Buffalo Gals through participating in the Mardi Gras tournament. The Buffalo Gals are a group of about 50 women from all around the country who keep in touch via email. They play in 4 tournaments a year – the Mardi Gras tournament, Saranac Lake in New York, and two others. For different tournaments they take different names, but for the Mardi Gras tournament they are always the Buffalo Gals. Buffy (?) (Buffalo Gal) a naval aviator from Colorado was selling t-shirts for the New Orleans Halfmoons. She couldn’t play because of a broken arm (snowboarding accident) and had to fly out the next morning for her niece’s wedding, but she had to be part of the tournament. Since first coming to the tournament in the mid-80’s she has only missed twice – when she was stationed in Japan. Tania, who is well into her second decade as tournament organizer for the New Orleans Halfmoons, plays with the Buffalo Gals. Candi Orsini (Buffalo Gal – Eagle?) agrees it is the special camaraderie, good competition, and shared memories that brings her back. The memories are of clever and spectacular skits at parties as much as of hard fought rugby matches.
For information on the 2009 New Orleans Halfmoon’s Mardi Gras Rugby Tournament go to www.halfmoonsrugby.com or contact Tania Hahn at email@example.com.