CLICK HERE FOR A PHIL STAUDER PHOTO GALLERY FROM SUMNER RUGBY'S MATCH AGAINST BRENTWOOD
We always wanted to get a team, he said. We finally put it together, and its been wonderful.
So wonderful, in fact, the All Blacks capped off their inaugural season last spring with a state championship in the Boys Plate division, beating McMinn County 22-12. To come so far in such a short amount of time just made the players grow hungrier for the game, McCracken said.
Rugby was something I had heard about but never watched or even picked up a rugby ball, he said. I quickly developed a passion for this game. Its definitely something that can grab hold of you quick.
Sumner RFC opened its season with a 26-14 victory against Oakland on Feb. 23 and followed that up with a 27-0 thrashing of perennial state title contender Brentwood on Feb. 28. Even though the two wins is a solid start to the year, Woosley knows there is still a long way to go.
I am very proud of the boys; they have worked hard since January, he said. Our 27-0 victory (against Brentwood) is a solid win, but we still have some things to correct.
The early part of the season is all about getting reacquainted with the routine of rugby, Woosley said. Since many of the players are involved in other sports and activities, mistakes always tend to be greater in number at the beginning.
Lasting correction comes with experience, he said. The most experienced players we have on our team have only played one year.
Compare that with established programs such as Brentwood and Ravenwood, where many players are involved with rugby as early as middle school, and it makes for an uphill battle.
Luckly we have good athletes and quick learners, he said. We get kids late, but they pick it up quick.
Rugby is a game more associated with Europe than any other part of the world, mostly since the game originated in 19th century England. With 15 players per side, no pads and full contact, it provided some of the basis for what eventually became American football. Still, the two share very few similarities, Woosley said.
This is a passion when you get rugby in your blood, he said. They have to take the football out of their head. Theyre used to destroying somebody (on the field), and thats not what rugbys all about.
Learning all the rules and techniques specific to the rugby pitch takes time, but having a team full of players who were all in the same situation helped, McCracken said.
It was definitely a learning process (last year), but I thought it helped the team come together, he said. We all had fun and picked it up quick. (Last year) turned into a good year for us.
There were never goals of winning a championship in the programs first year, but that solid foundation helps set the program up to continue growing in the future. Even though McCracken will move on to Middle Tennessee State and likely be involved with rugby there, he has hopes of coming back to watch the team he helped start.
The whole point of it is to be out here and play a game with guys you share a passion with, he said. If we can win while were able to do that, thats just icing on the cake.
Up next for the All Blacks will be the annual Nash Bash Rugby Tournament Saturday and Sunday. Sumner will play against Maryville High Saturday at 3 p.m. and Carmel (Ind.) Sunday at 10 a.m.
By Doug Dyer
For The Standard
Photo by Phil Stauder l STANDARD
Hendersonville senior Collin Lancaster, a member of Sumner Rugby's All Blacks, gets ready to take on two Brentwood tacklers during their game Feb. 28 at Beech.