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Springfield Rugby Through the Years

This is the story of Springfield Rugby Football Club. We are a men's DIII rugby union club competing out of Springfield, Missouri in the heart of the Ozark Mountains. This is our history told by those who lived it.

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Scoop Thornton Starts SRFC

In 1977 David “Scoop” Thornton had his job transferred to Springfield from Kansas City where he had been playing for Kansas City RFC for 2 years. Scoop then played with S.M.S.U. for 2 years and became their coach in 1979. From 1979 to 1982 characters such as Jim Stewart, Jon “Pappy” Moore and Doug Jena appeared on the rugby scene at S.M.S.U.


In 1981 an attempt was made to start a city side but with no more than 7 people expressing an interest to play the idea was abandoned although a practice was held at Silver Springs Park.


Then in 1983, with John Behr in his sixth year of SMS rugby, the time was right to attempt the start of Springfield RFC once again. After a meeting held at Pappy’s Place on January 10th, 1983, with 10 people in attendance, we knew we were on our way. Since 1999, to mark this momentous event in rugby history, the club has held an alumni weekend, organized by Scoop, on the second weekend in January.

Those initial stalwarts that played in SRFC's first game on Saturday March 5th, 1983, have become recognized as the Warrensburg 18. Besides those already mentioned some of those early members include Stan Bess, David “Animal” Logan, Paul Lipscomb, Harold Watts and Matt Wilson.


The Story of the Warrensburg 18

The first training sessions were held at Silver Springs Park with one session having 21 players present. Our first match was played March 3, 1983, against C.M.S.U. at Warrensburg, MO. Eighteen men made that trip, and it is rumored that a few of them were never heard from again! C.M.S.U. won 16-12 with John Behr scoring the first try for Springfield RFC. He also sustained the first injury by falling down the steps at the post-match party.


During the spring of 1983 our matches were played at L.A. Wise park in west Springfield. With little in the way of parking, the preacher or the police regularly interrupted our matches requesting we move our cars off the church parking lot. A tie with Wichita 16-16 was as close as we came to a victory.


During the fall of 1983, we won our first match when Doug Velliquette scored the only try in the game and we beat S.M.S.U. 4-0 marking Springfield Rugby’s first win in club history.

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In the fall of 1983, an event took place that changed the history of Springfield RFC and maybe the history of the world, Ron Kitchens purchased the “Rugby Bus”. Emblazoned with “Singing the Gospel” on the side the green and white striped rugby bus became our symbol for several years.


While the only way to understand the story fully is to hear is straight from the horse's mouth, those who have spoken to Scoop Thornton hear this is how our club got its navy blue and kelly-green stripes.


Before a match during the earliest days of the club, Scoop came along a jersey vendor. Now in those days, there was no internet, and the old crank phone was on the fritz, so he knew he was going to need some jerseys right then and there. As luck would have it, the vendor had ordered some jerseys for another club, but they weren't happy with the final product: Navy Blue and Kelly-Green Stripes.  


Scoop, being the wily old horse-trader he is, saw an opportunity.  The details of the next part of the story vary, depending on who tells it and how much he had to drink before he started, but the result is the same.  Scoop bought Springfield's first set of jerseys for a steal, and we had our colors.


Now, every Springfield boy knows that putting on the colors means something to everyone who has put on those same colors in the past 30+ years.


Kansas City RFC invited Springfield on their England-Wales tour in 1985 starting a special rugby relationship between Springfield and South Wales. Springfield RFC had its first overseas tour in 1987 with just 10 players going to England and Wales. The most recent tour for the club was in 1994 when more than 20 players went for games arranged against Strathendrick RFC in Scotland, Pill Harriers RFC of Newport, and Rumney RFC in Cardiff. SRFC lost all 3 games, but it was a rewarding experience for all the players. 

In addition to the rugby there were several social functions in which the touring side were able to participate such as golfing, a tour of a local whiskey distillery and a traditional ceilidh after the game in Scotland. In Wales the team was treated to a civic reception by the mayor of Newport where the town and club plaques were exchanged, and the team was able to tour the historic Cardiff Castle.

In its short history Springfield RFC has had a remarkable record for hosting rugby touring sides from overseas, mainly the British Isles. In the spring of 1985, the Pill Harriers RFC from South Wales visited Springfield and somehow Springfield RFC won the match 3-0. An estimated 500 people watched that game. The Pill Harriers revisited Springfield in 1987 when the home side again won the game with a score of 18-12. The Springfield Rugby Club and the Pill Harriers have continued their association over the years with the original connection between the clubs making an interesting story.


SRFC Founders Day has been held yearly since 1999 to celebrate the day in January 1983 when a group of rugby enthusiasts thought it would be a great idea to form a club in Springfield, MO. Within a short time, this idea became a reality and SRFC played its first game in March 1983.

SRFC was founded informally with no idea if such a club would be successful in the area. Dues were set at $30 per year to cover the minimal expenses of the club at that time and by 1989 these had risen to $70/year. The sport proved to be successful in attracting excellent local athletes and from its beginning the club has been able to complete its full schedule every season.


The Master of Ceremonies for every Founders Day since 1999 has been Scoop Thornton. Scoop is one of the club's Founders who has continued to be fully involved with the club's activities off the field. His Springfield Rugby resume not only includes a founding member of the club but also player, coach, member of the board and President. He continues to be an active contributor to the administration of the club as well ensuring that Elvis will never be forgotten


Pappy's Bar January 10, 2023, with 6 of the Original 10 present.


5 Originals from January 1983


Springfield RFC has contributed several players to the select sides for the Heart of America Union, the Western Territory, and the USA national team. This started to occur very early in the club's history reflecting the success the club was having on the field. After a few successful years in Division II of HOA the club gained promotion to Division I in 1990 and remained there until 1994. Following a period of re-structuring the club came back strongly to win the Heart of America Division II championship in 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2003. In both 1999 and 2001 SRFC took second place in the Western Territory Championships behind The Woodlands from Houston, TX. At the following National Sweet 16 Tournaments, the club finished 10th in 1999 and 7th in 2001.

It took a few years for the club to rebuild after the success of the club at the end of the 90's/start of 2000's but by the end of the 2010's the club had a squad looking to get to the top, but then came Covid and all rugby came to a halt for about 18 months!! With resumption of play SRFC finished the 2021-2022 Mid-America Division III season in second place behind the St L Bombers, who were then disqualified for the next season due to fielding ineligible players. After winning the 2022-2023 season SRFC travelled to Chicago for the Midwest Northern Super Regional where they beat Detroit Rugby (17-13) on Saturday but lost to Colorado Springs Grizzlies (5-31) on the Sunday and therefore SRFC finished in the top 8 of DIII clubs nationally.


In 2002 SRFC came third in the Division II Western Championship and was able to move into the Sweet 16 round due to previous successes of Western Territory clubs allowing for 3 teams in the final 16 and this time finished 5th. In 2003 after another successful season winning the HOA championship the club won the Western Territory Championship but again was defeated in the Elite 8 round of the National Championship in Newport, RI and finished the season ranked 7th in Division II. The club was promoted into US Division I for the start of the fall 2003 season and played at this level for 3 years before dropping back to Division II. In the summer of 2010, after two difficult seasons, it was decided that it would benefit the club to play Division III rugby starting in the fall 2010.


In the Spring of 2013 SRFC traveled for the Western Territorial Div. III tournament in Omaha, NE. The club lost to Aberdeen, SD in the first round and beat the Hornets in the next match to finish their season strong.

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Scoop served as president, coach, captain, and secretary-treasurer for the first season. In the spring of 1983 elections were held on his patio when Scoop was again returned as both president and coach. John Behr was elected captain, the secretary-treasurer was Steve Ellis and Jim Stewart became match secretary. Tom Shea was our second coach after Scoop stepped down in 1985 and Ron Kitchens became the next president in 1985 serving in that capacity until 1991 when John Behr was elected president. In 1992 Ron became president of the Heart of America Union.

Continuing with the Presidents of the Club through the 1990s to the present:

John Behr 1991 - 1995 
Larry Spurgeon 1995 - 1996 
Wolfgang Huff 1996 - 1998 
Cam Collins 1998 - 2000 
Rhett Smillie 2000 - 2003 
Mark Owings 2003 - 2006 
Scoop Thornton 2006 - 2011
Rhett Smillie 2011 - 2012 
Mark Owings 2012 - 2013 
Bryan Bevel 2013 - 2022.
Benjamin Thomas 2022 – Present


All have served admirably as the President of this club.
Following the original club captain, John Behr, the club captains have been Jon “Pappy” Moore (1985-1987), Andy Hampton (1987-1988), Ray Sipple (1988-1990), Greg Gurke (1990-1993), Mike Green (1994), Jim Waring (1994-1995), and Chad Lugar (1996-1999). Since 1999 a club policy has been implemented whereby the captain has been appointed by the coach on a game-to-game basis. 


Following on from Scoop and Tom Shea, Cam Collins was elected coach in 1987 and served in that capacity until Colin Jones took over in 1988. Jon “Pappy” Moore was the next club coach from 1996 for 3 years until succeeded by Andrew Baines from Pill Harriers RFC in 2000. Unfortunately, after a trip back home, Andrew found that he could not sidestep the US immigration authorities and consequently was not available for 2001. The club survived a period without a coach before Melan “Mudge” Mudgway (originally from NZ) arrived in spring 2002 via Fresno, CA, where he had been successful in taking that club to the National Division II Finals. Mudge's stay in Springfield proved to be brief for in December 2002 he moved on to coach at Scioto Valley RFC, OH.  Chad Lugar then took over as the club’s temporary player-coach while a search continued to replace Mudge as coach.  This situation continued until 2008 when Sam Tahhan was appointed to the position and Chad could step down from his 'temporary' assignment. Sam was a former SRFC player and a successful golf teaching pro who brought all the necessary coaching credentials to SRFC. Sam coached the Club through a difficult time for the club as several 'vets' retired and new players started learning the game. To try and spread the game among college students in Springfield Sam organized a club scrimmage at Drury University in the Fall 2009. With a marriage on the horizon, Sam resigned in the fall of 2012 when Chris "Jacko" Jackson, from Grafton, NSW, Australia, was able to take over as coach. Jacko led the team to its first playoff berth since the early 2000’s and helped complete Sam Tahhan's efforts to revitalize the club.


Bryan Bevel agreed to take over coaching duties for Spring 2014 when Jacko stepped down to begin a family. For the Fall 2014 season John Walkman was appointed coach and after returning from his job on cruise ships John was appointed Head Coach in 2015. John played rugby in England for various junior teams, British Forces (SEME) and at high senior level. He had also completed level two coaching courses.  In mid-season of Spring 2018 John Walkman resigned and again Bryan Bevel agreed to take over coaching duties for the remainder of the season. Bryan Bevel was appointed Head Coach for the 2018-2019 season, but for Bryan to continue to referee regularly, Mark Owings was also appointed as a club coach. During the 2018-2019 mid-winter break Bryan resigned as Head Coach due to his other commitments in rugby and work and MarkO was appointed Head Coach after acquiring his Level 200 coaching certificate. Unfortunately for SRFC, MarkO had to resign as club coach in the Fall 2020 due to him taking on a new job which would involve a lot of travel. During the Covid-19 pandemic Daniel Moore was appointed coach in January 2021 so the club will be ready for whenever rugby can start again. At the end of the Fall 2022 Season Daniel informed the club that he wanted to be able to be a club player again and therefore resign as coach. After a brief search the club was able to appoint Chris Jackson as the new head Coach


For the first few years of SRFC's existence games and practices were held on Nichols Street, a remote location in West Springfield. With a few patches of grass on an undulating surface that was unsuitable for any sport, SRFC survived about 3 years here before moving to a location near the downtown airfield on West Division St. Two years later the club moved to a more permanent location on National Street, conveniently, some people would say, near the 2 Springfield Hospitals. With new building's going up around the field it was only a matter of time before the playing area would be developed. So in 2000 it became time to spend the well-earned Casino Night fund raising money and buy a piece of land for SRFC's permanent Home field. A suitable property was eventually located and purchased in early 2001. After considerable work was done to convert a cow field into a reasonable playing surface during that spring and summer, the first game was played there in the Fall of the same year. Since then, the area has been slowly changing with the addition of floodlights (2002), a small shed (2003), a Pavilion (2007), storage container (2016) and plans included getting CU electricity to the field. But in the meantime, power was provided by a 15KW mobile John R Hollingsworth Diesel Generator.

In 2020 all development plans for this field came to a halt when the club agreed with Convoy of Hope to exchange this land for a new facility provided and developed by C of H. Over the course of almost 2 years C of H purchased a 14-acre plot, landscaped 2 full-sized pitches, built a new pavilion and parking area, installed electricity, a well, and a set of floodlights. SRFC took over this new facility on August 1, 2022, and the first event o be held there was the annual SRFC 10's Tournament 3 weeks later.


SRFC's new Home field is a jewel for the rugby community of the Mid-West. With two full-sized pitches for regular use throughout the Spring and Fall seasons. The club can host Tournaments and other rugby events such as a convenient half-way location for other teams to play their matches.


Between 2011 and 2019 the Home field was used by the Springfield Contractors Association (SCA) as a venue for its Annual Chickenfeed BBQ Fundraiser to raise money for scholarships. So, each year on a Thursday evening in early September the facility became a parking lot for a few hundred trucks, except for the pitch itself. Here, SRFC played a game against an invited team, such as Rolla S & T or Pitt State, as the evening light faded.  This event was a useful fundraiser for SRFC until Covid-19 brought on changes which are still ongoing.


In the Fall of 2015 Katie Scott approached SRFC about starting a women's team as a part of the club. With the support of the Board, she immediately went looking for players new and old in the community. SRFC had set up a women's rugby team, the Robins, in the late 1990's. Unfortunately, this venture failed with just a few games being played over a season or two. In late 2015 another attempt to start a women's rugby team was far more successful. The Springfield Chaos women's rugby team was established and fully supported as a part of SRFC including changing the By-Laws to include a women's representative on the Board. It had been several years since the last attempt to raise a women's side in Springfield which unfortunately after playing a few games only lasted for a couple of seasons. She soon had about 20 players CIPP'd and regularly attending practices getting ready for the Spring season. They named the team Queen City Chaos and produced a logo and were now ready for their first game


Started in the 1980s
The Buffalo Bar was the first Clubhouse
First Touring side - Pill Harriers arrived in 1985
1987 - Start setting aside money to buy land was a priority. Casino nights main priority.
Back of the Year 1988 - Stacey Thornton


On to the 1990s

Casino Nights continue to raise money for the eventual purchase of land.
Purchasing a defunct Baseball field was considered.
1992 - The Goonies encounter Springfield night life.
1993 - first discussions regarding club applying for tax exempt 501C (3) status
1994 - first UK Tour - Pill Harriers & Strathendrick, Scotland
Banquets at Harlow's
First Division II Territorial Championship games.
February 1999 - SRFC moves onto the web -

May 1999 - Bought the Home Field in Battlefield from the Trogdons.



2001 - Finished 7th in Division II National Club Competition.
2001 - PJ Sheridan earns 1 Cap for the USA 'A' side.
2002 - Club's greatest achievement so far - finished 5th in Division II National Club Competition.
2003 - Again finished 5th in Division II National Club Competition.
2005 - Jon 'Swede' Hartman earns 2 Caps as a USA National rugby player.
2006 - Built the Matt Wilson Pavilion.
2009 - First 7's Tournament held at the Home field with Pill Harriers as one of the competing teams.



2010 - First 10's Tournament held at the Home Field.
2011 - Generators are fine but with CU Power there is an opportunity for more extensive lighting of the facility.
2015 - applied for and approved as a 501C(3) tax exempt organization.
2016 - Women's Chaos and HS Youth become a part of SRFC.
2017 - Getting power to the Home Field becomes a priority - 15KW Diesel Generator purchased.
2018 - Long term plan for the Home Field adopted.




February 2020 - SRFC approached by Convoy of Hope with proposal to relocate the Home Field.
March 2020 Spring season ends abruptly due to Covid-19 and re-started in April 2021.
September 2021 - work starts on preparing the new field.
August 2022 - SRFC 10's T, the opening event at the new field.


There have been a lot of amazing players that have helped Springfield Rugby get to where we are today. Some of them have passed onto the other side and this is where we make dedications and memory to their name. Their contributions to our club will never be forgotten and will always be appreciated.


This page commemorates achievements of the club through its history and honors all those ruggers who wore the mudpuppy colors and were selected to play representative rugby at various levels.  Also included are club administrators who have been elected or chosen to help administer the game.

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