The below history of New Orleans Rugby Football Club was written by Jack Tillay prior to NORFC’s tour to Ireland in Oct. 2013. Jack joined NORFC soon after the club’s formation in the 1970s and beyond playing served in many administrative positions. As the oldest prior president of the club on tour, he was asked to write a history.
NORFC went 3-0 on the tour defeating Wanderers (Dublin) 40-17, Garryowen (Limerick)) 34-17, and Galwegians (Galway) 48-14.
“A Team of Rivals”
A NORFC Club History
Louisiana Rugby began building in the late 60’s/early ‘70’s on the college campuses. LSU, Tulane, Hammond (SLU), USL, SpringHillCollege in Mobile introduced young men to the sport and created a lifelong bond. Although the sport relished and cultivated a reputation of ruffians and rebels, it is noteworthy that many if not most of the players were engineers, lawyers, doctors, River Pilots, military/USCG officers and professionals from many fields. All that youthful energy needed an outlet and a home for our spirit of camaraderie.
Deep and profound rivalries began to build in the ‘70’s as these young players began to build Club Side Rugby with the Crescent City Rugby Club, New Orleans RFC and Baton Rouge Rugby and LSU Rugby Clubs. Most of the clubs had enthusiast support for A, B sides and scrubs. The matchups were marked on calenders and well prepared for or a beat down would ensure. New Orleans was also a popular location for nearby Rugby Unions in Texas, Florida and the Midwest as well as for international touring sides to seek fixtures. (Imagine That!). New Orleans became the site for “The Battle of New Orleans” competition of Select Side Teams from the Military, Louisiana, Georgia, Florida, ERU and Western Unions. This competition held every January in the late 70’s/early 80’s allowed Louisiana to show its talent and acquire skills from high level play.
Louisiana began to experience a significant drain on talent and support in the early/mid ‘80’s as it was hit with a significant energy sector recession. Teams could not build young talent as the state began experiencing an exodus rate of 10:1 for young job seekers. The rugby teams began to merely cannibalize each others talent and some had difficulty just fielding A side traveling squads. During the 1986 season CrescentCity and NORFC clubs began planning the unthinkable – a merger. These fierce rivals combined and obtained player support from the Tulane, Baton Rouge RFC and others. NORFC began to build under a coaching dedicated to winning championships not just showing. One of our current “Old Boys” leaders noted “Once people get a taste of being a champion they don’t want to let it go.” And Championships did come. In 1989 the Austin Tournament Trophy came to New Orleans and we went back again in 1990 just to show it was no mistake. More were to come.
In the 90’s, the experienced NORFC players began to build HS rugby teams. It seems youthful energy still needs an outlet. Fierce competitions began between Jesuit, Brother Martin, Rummel, Holy Cross and ESA. In the year after “Katrina” devastated New Orleans the HS rivals combined to build a select side to compete in the National HS Championships. Their parents drove them to practice from all over the state where they were refugees from the storm aftermath. NORFC “Old Boys” coaches and club proudly supported these young men and their families in their dream. They were not taken seriously by their opposition in their first year as motleys. Someone forgot to tell them – they won the 2006 National HS Championship
The young HS competitors began to feed LSU, ULL and other college sides. Supported by rugby “old boy” coaches LSU began making regular trips to the college championship playoffs. They made the “Final Four” in 2012 while ULL was runner up in the 2010 National SCO final four championship. They all got a taste of being champions and never let go of it. These college programs and are still building for a National Championship bid. Many of these young players and former rivals now play for NORFC and have combined with other strong and welcome players to achieve a commendable record of National Championships over the past three years (Division II Championships 2011/2012 and Division I Runner-up in 2013).
The New Orleans “Old Boys” team of rivals continue to travel well with strong teams. The rival teammates are now from around the country and the world as are the fixtures (i.e. St. Louis, Seattle, Aspen, Caribbean, Vancouver, France, Italy, Scotland, and Ireland). The cheers for tries, breaks and tackles are now blended with those for mates’ and children’s lives. It seems that the taste of lifelong friendship is hard to let go of, too.