We can all concede that Rugby is a tough, physical sport and it takes a great deal of commitment to play; however, we should equally admit that there is more to it than that: much, much more. Rugby also has core values that are much understated and of vital importance to the game. The sport also espouses words that that appeal to us all: integrity, passion, solidarity, discipline and respect. These words are some of the most defining character-building statements in rugby. They are known collectively as the World Rugby values and are incorporated within the World Rugby Playing Charter, a guiding document aimed at preserving rugby’s unique character and ethos both on and off the field of play. These cores values exist right here on our Minneapolis doorstep.
One of the most successful sports stories in Minnesota of recent years concerns one of our local rugby clubs. Metropolis RFC (Rugby Football Club) is a local club with its roots firmly embedded in the area. The club plays their home games at the Sports & Orthopedic Specialist’s Field in Columbia Park. The field is located just north of Columbia Golf Course on 800 Columbia Parkway (Blvd), just off of Central Ave North. The club can trace its roots back over half a century.
In a recent interview the club’s President, Adam Dilley, provided a breakdown of the history of the club and his vision for the future. “Metropolis RFC represents a winning combination of strong rugby play and strong club spirit. Our club is the metamorphosis of two rich rugby traditions via the consolidation in 1992 of Minneapolis RFC, founded in 1960, and Metro RFC, founded in 1980.”
During the interview Dilley was at pains to emphasis the strong rugby tradition in Minneapolis. “The rugby history books will remember Minneapolis powerhouse rugby pushing its way into the USARFU National Club Championships in the late 70’s, and the relentless attacking Metro backline rising to national sevens rugby prominence in the late 80’s and early 90’s. The result of the merger is a balanced Metropolis style of rugby that stresses strength and mobility in the forwards, and quick ball to the backs where creativity, aggressiveness and agility dominate play.”
So what is the current landscape for Metropolis RFC? Adam Dilley highlighted not only the differing age groups within the club but also the growth of the senior men’s teams. “Metropolis RFC is home to over 500 members spanning from Middle School aged players to our beloved Old Boys who laid the groundwork for this club to grow into what it has become today. In the most recent 5 years we’ve grown from one Senior Men’s side in 2010 to 3 Senior Men’s sides. Our top side competes in the USA Rugby’s top competition, Division 1. Our second side competes in USA Rugby’s Division 2. Our third side competes in USA Rugby’s Division 4. We also have a social Old Boys group who travel to social tournaments around the country.”
The “old boy” network is strong in Rugby. Players from past seasons continue to be involved in their club. The foundation for all rugby clubs was laid by former and past players. Metropolis RFU can draw on a strong old boy network. Adam Dilley emphasized this in the recent interview. “A couple of those Old Boys launched our growing middle school program this past Spring drawing middle school aged players from the Northeast community and surrounding areas. Additionally, in the last 5 years our first side has appeared in USA Rugby’s National Championship Tournament 4 times, twice reaching the National Semi Finals in 2012 and 2014 respectively. In 2011 our second side won USA Rugby’s National Division 3 Championship earning promotion to Division 2, and has competed successfully the past few years within Division 2. We currently train 9 months of the year 2-3 times per week depending if we are in season or not, and play in minimally 14 competitive league matches per side before nationals each year.”
Dilley believes that the future is strong for the club with an emphasis on youth and women’s rugby. ”Metropolis RFC has plans for further growth in three areas. We will be continuing to expand our Middle School program with plans to have 2 sides compete in Minnesota Youth Rugby’s middle school competition. From there we have plans to launch a magnet high school program drawing from the local Northeast and North Minneapolis communities within year 3 of our youth growth development strategy.”
Fortunately to expand, the club can call on past players, old boys and family members to provide continued support. “To support this growth we have several volunteer coaches stepping up and lending a hand to make it succeed.” The club’s vision would appear to be long term with Dilley conceding. “By year 5 our goal is to have multiple middle school and high school sides competing under the Metropolis RFC name.”
“In addition to this we are actively exploring partnerships with local women rugby clubs to become a part of Metropolis RFC with the end goal of rolling out a similar youth growth and development plan, and provide a home for every rugby athlete within Minnesota. The plan is to have a women’s division within Metropolis. It’s currently being considered to roll out in the fall of 2016.”
“Lastly, and what I consider to be the most exciting is re-launching our 7’s program. Sevens rugby made its debut in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio. Rugby has been on hiatus in the Olympics since the 1920’s the USA where the reigning gold medalists until this year in Rio. Furthermore, rugby is the fastest growing sport in the USA among youth athletes. Exceeding year over year growth in the double digits for the past 5 years is the kind of success we’ve experienced and continue to expect to see especially when rugby returned to the Olympics last year in Rio”.
The future bodes well for one of the most recent of Minnesota sporting success stories.