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A Tough Club: Springfield Rugby players have to work to play hard

The club’s fall season started Sept. 10 with a match against the Rolla Miners.

Guillermo Hernandez Martinez

News-Leader 09/07/2015

On a recent Friday afternoon, a brawny 45-year-old British man pushed a lawnmower as it pumped out as much smoke as it cut grass. “Yeah, she’s old, very old,” said John Walkman as he bent down to figure out what’s wrong with it this time.

Walkman was barely halfway through the afternoon’s work, mowing the grass on Springfield’s only rugby pitch, when the lawnmower stopped working entirely.

Walkman isn’t only a disappointed groundskeeper, he is also head coach and player for the Springfield Rugby Football Club.

The club’s fall season started Sept. 10 with a match against the Rolla Miners. It was Walkman’s 45th birthday.

“I have never lost a match on my birthday, and I’m not about to start now!” Walkman yelled to the team as they huddled before kickoff.

Shortly after, 30 men smashed into each other with violent choreography.

Among them was dairy farmer and New Zealand-native, Lachlan Fordyce, who spent the first half smiling as he leveled opponents all over the playing field. Minutes into the second half, Daniel Moore, a network administrator for a logistics services company, stiff-armed a would-be tackler into the ground.

Just before the end of the game, recent College of the Ozarks graduate Aaron Teders, who now works at a zipline company in Branson, barreled through defenders on his way to a score.

The Springfield Rugby Club won the game 24-0, thanks in part to Lonneal Richardson, who scored one of four “trys” for the home team. A “try” is rugby’s equivalent to a touchdown. It’s worth five points and earned by not only entering the ‘end zone’ but by actually touching the ball to the ground.

Richardson, who is an aquatics instructor at Cox Meyer Health Center and the downtown YMCA in addition to studying psychology at Missouri State, has been with the team for five years.

During his first year, Richardson suffered a compound fracture of his tibia as well as a dislocated ankle after being brought down by an illegal horse-collar tackle. During almost a full year of rehab, all he could think about was returning to the rugby pitch.

Moore, a flanker for the club, echoes the sentiment.

“Not too many sports let you go out there, 30 guys, and beat on each other for 80 minutes,” Daniel Moore said.

“And then we all come off the field together at the same time and drink beer and sing songs.”

Along with grueling practices and commutes, club members have to put in additional work to keep the club going.

“We do everything ourselves,” Walkman said.

That includes taking care of the pitch, building structures like a pavilion and an equipment shed as well as recruiting and securing sponsorships.

And while the players pay dues to be on the team, financial constraints are heavy on the club.

“Balls don’t last the whole season, we’re constantly having to replace gear.” said technical coach Lachlan Fordyce.

Walkman alone has spent more than $3,000 from his own pocket on gear for the club — including the recent purchase of a new lawnmower.

Want to go?

What: Springfield Rugby Football Club last home game of the season, against the Topeka Rugby Club.

When: Saturday Oct. 10, 2 p.m.

Where: Springfield Rugby Pitch, 7294 W Farm Rd 144, Springfield, MO 65802



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