UPDATED: Coming at you like a spider monkey

So … I was pretty sore and tired and sunburnt from this weekend’s Midwest Selects camp.

Not sore from anything in particular, but we did a lot of various contact drills/scrimmages, and the field was really hard on Sunday. That just gave me an overall soreness. Like the day after a full game, to a slightly lesser degree. My face, arms and the back of my neck got way to much sun. My skin was still winter white and wasn’t ready at all for 83-degree full sun.

I liked the camp a lot. I liked how our coaches instructed us, a lot more of questions and talking through scenarios. It was cool to work through situations as a group of players on one team. Also got to meet a lot of people I normally just get to play against.

We’ll hear this week who gets invited up to the next level of camps and team events. I wanted to do the camp to learn and not expecting anything more. And I learned a lot. So anything after this is bonus. My teammates thought I played pretty well all weekend, so that was nice to hear.

We’re getting into just one month out from our challenge match in Seattle. Our fundraising has gone really well and we’re trying to just tie down a few more teammates and their airline tickets. This trip is going to be awesome. And it’s nice to hear that so many of our fellow Midwest ruggers are cheering for us too.

In other challenge match news, keep your ears and eyes open for fallout from the Belmont Shore – Austin Valkyries match this past weekend. Belmont Shore won it – handily – 86-0 to win SoCal’s first seed to Sweet 16s since 2003. That’s a big big win, especially for supposedly closely-seeded teams. The Valkyries may be questioning how this win was accomplished though. And who was on the roster. Since I don’t like sharing hearsay, I’ll wait and see what happens. Know more? Drop me an e-mail.

Okay … I’ll blog more later if I get the time. As usual, I’m trying to keep 20 plates all spinning, but I need to catch a bus to my car to get a big pickup truck to go move a scrumsled. Blondie’s work is never done. And it’s raining. Booo!


ADDED: I’m getting some e-mail, in addition to the comments, to this post, so I’ll leave it up for today at the top. I won’t share the e-mails unless I’m asked to by the writer.

I don’t wish to add to any rumors, but I think a game and a score like this is important for discussion in the women’s game, especially if questions are raised.

Belmont Shore defeated the Austin Valkyries 86-0. That is a fact. It was a USA Rugby challenge match – like the one my own team has just one month from tomorrow in Seattle – and before that kickoff, all the rosters are checked, paperwork verified, etc.

If you read the comments to this post, you’ll see that the Belmont Shore President, Brooke, stepped up and is defending their score and discussing the work that their team did for this win. I was glad to see a different take on this.

In turn, if you visit Scrumhalf Connection, you’ll see a post by Wendy, the scrummie of the Valks, about her opinions and players who played for Belmont Shore.

I won’t deny that out of my own curiousity, I looked at the Belmont Shore CIPP roster via USA Rugby’s website. I googled a few of the player’s names and I will admit to being surprised at what I found.

I think both Brooke, Wendy, and both of their respective teams, have the right to discuss this. I also think that our community of rugby players have the right to discuss this. So I’m leaving this up for more discussion. Hopefully we’ll all learn from it.

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Filed under Blondie: my thoughts, challenge matches, Select-Sides

17 responses to “UPDATED: Coming at you like a spider monkey

  1. Anonymous

    I just wanted to speak up before any negative rumors got rolling.

    We’ve been working very hard for several years to become a more nationally competitive team. All of our hard work paid off this spring when we won our challenge match. Yes, we won big (bigger than we were expecting, really), but why does that automatically mean that there must have been something wrong with the match?

    We played very well. We used our strengths and tried to exploit what we thought the opponent’s weaknesses might be. We had all of our players, even if a couple of them were playing partially injured. We set up a very tough schedule for ourselves this spring in order to prepare for the challenge match and we’ve done very well (even won) against several nationally ranked teams recently. We’re probably a better team now than we were when USA Rugby ranked everyone in the fall. Meanwhile, Austin hasn’t played a whole lot of games this spring (not enough to really be able to judge their strength), and I noticed that several of their well-known players were not on the field for our game (injured?).

    In any case, USA Rugby saw and approved both teams’ match rosters before the match and the match official checked everyone in just like they do at nationals, so I don’t know where any rumors of roster problems have come from unless its just sour grapes.

    We’ve put a lot of hard work into our development and improvement. I’m sure a lot of people out there know what its like to struggle to become a better team… fitness workouts, training in the rain, fundraising galore, traveling to find the best games you can get. All of that work paid off for us this past weekend. Maybe you could give us some credit for our positive development instead of assuming that there must have been something wrong for us to win so emphatically.

    Belmont Shore WRFC

  2. Anonymous


    I can understand you being upset at the idea of some type of rumor about why you beat Austin so badly. The only “rumor” that I’ve heard is that your team had 5 New Zealanders on the roster. I had previously thought that only 2 international players were allowed on a roster, but either I was mistaken or the rules have changed. Either way, maybe other people were confused about that as well. Or it could be something else that I have no idea about. Regardless though, congratulations on your win. We played you guys at Champagne Classic and although I think we could have put up more of a fight if we’d had more numbers, you pretty much crushed us. You had some very strong, very quick players. So, congrats on winning a seed for your territory!

    Seattle Breakers

  3. Anonymous


    Thanks for the congratulations and good thoughts. I’m not sure if the rumor you cited is the supposed roster problem, but I wanted to respond to your comments anyhow. Firstly, USA Rugby allows 5 ‘non-resident’ players on a roster and has for some time. Secondly, I’m not sure where you got your rumor, but it’s false. Thirdly, we always have at least a couple ‘non-residents’ on our roster, but it would be pretty hard not to in an area like SoCal. I’m proud to say that Belmont embraces and reflects the diversity of the greater LA area by welcoming players from all backgrounds.

    Belmont Shore
    Brooke_Basinger@yahoo.com (feel free to email me directly if you have comments or questions about our challenge match victory, I don’t want to take over Blondie’s blog with it)

  4. Anonymous

    Let me get this straight.

    Justine Lavea and Manuel Huriana are Black Ferns and Valuese Taliu plays for Samoa? These players played 8, 10, and 13? These players cipped (according to USA Rugby) in March with Belmont Shore?

    Sketchy as this seems, TECHNICALLY, as long as these three players (would it be wrong to say “ringers”?) have played the requisite matches with Belmont prior to the challenge match they are eligible to play in the challenge match. Belmont Shore isn’t doing anything that the men’s teams haven’t done for years. Let’s do everyone a favor and not pretend that these three players “reflect the diversity of the region”. They are a few of the most kick ass players in the rugby world.

    Ethically I don’t know. What’s legal and what’s ethical aren’t necessarily the same thing.

    I’m curious. Are these three players staying with Belmont through the fall? Will they be playing with Belmont at Nationals?

    Fair warning to anyone facing SoCal at ITTS – NASC rosters also allow for 5 non-resident players. Will these players be representing Southern Cal in June?

  5. Anonymous

    Looks like NY & Berkeley better get busy finding some cash to fly people in….

    I don’t mean to sound so cynical, but this seems quite ridiculous. I’d love to know what came first — the job in LA or the slot on Belmont Shore’s roster….

  6. Dawn

    While this might be legal and Belmont Shore very well has been working their butts off to get this far, players of those calibers undeniably change even the smallest aspects of the game.

    Someone told me that 50 of the 86 points scored were by those three players alone.

    This is disheartening to say the least.

  7. Jen

    The heart of the issue brought up in these comments sounds a lot like, “No fair, they’re better than us.” And come on — American rugby players can do better than that. Perhaps instead of complaining about a team that is well within their rights to recruit ringers (for one, they’re not the first or last team to do it, and for two, it’s totally their call to measure such action’s impact on their team culture), we can elevate the level of the game on our own soil.

  8. Jen

    p.p.s. Just to clarify, I intended the “they” in “they’re better than us” to mean those three players in particular. Rather than have such a defeatist attitude, I’d like to see American players step up and say, “I don’t care WHO you are, I’m going to beat you today.”

  9. Rebecca

    I played in NZ for two seasons, both with Auckland Marist, and my teammates included Justine Lavea and Huriana (Hudi) Manuel. Ese plays for another team in Auckland that we played against. If you have managed to google these girls, you would realize that they are all in their early 20’s, just out of school — who wouldn’t want to take a long trip to the US, and play some rugby while they’re at it? They have played some international matches, but to be honest, right now the caliber of club rugby in Auckland goes way beyond a challenge match here in the US. To be honest, we could all benefit from spending some time in NZ on a rugby team, and vice versa, having some of the skillful and experienced NZ women come here and spend some time with our teams as well. The main point is that these women were not brought over to the US to win a couple of games, they came for the experience. Is it fair that the Valks didn’t get to challenge the same Belmont Shore that will be playing in the fall? Who knows? That’s a question for USA Rugby to answer. But I don’t believe that there was any malicious planning involved in this event — only a desire to experience cultural and rugby exchange.

    Rebecca Brafman

  10. Rebecca

    Additionally, on NYRC we’ve had foreign players from France, Ireland, etc. Two of my teammates, Annie Collier and Lisa Lake, both Eagles, traveled to Wellington, NZ for a season and played for a club team there — I don’t think anyone there was complaining. We can’t restict foreign exchange for rugby based on the caliber of the player who wants to come over — would there be the same kind of uproar if these were random women from some random country, or are we just making a fuss because they are internationals?

  11. Jen

    Here, here, Braf!

  12. K-Train

    This just goes to show you what Cathy Flores said a few weeks ago at Chula Vista…the bar for women’s rugby is not being set in this country, it’s being set in New Zealand. I personally hope these players will stay on through the fall and help raise the level of play domestically here in the US by showing how good someone at their position can actually be. This should be viewed as a challenge not cheating.

  13. Anonymous

    Thank you all for your comments and discussion. I’m posting one last time to clear up some of the misconceptions that seem to be behind some of the comments. If anyone has any further questions about our team, our players, or any specific games we’ve played, though, email me directly and I’d be happy to answer them. We’re proud of our team and we’re certainly not trying to hide anything.


    1. We do have several non-residents on our roster. We pretty much always do, and usually through no fault or intent of our own. Lots of foreigners live in or travel to the LA area, some of them play rugby, and some of them choose to play for us. We welcome anyone who wants to play, regardless of citizenship status, permanence, or experience level.

    2. We are also very interested in developing and maintaining good relationships with teams, players and coaches from all over the world, both so our players can learn from other people’s rugby experience and to give people connections they might want to use to travel (either to the US or out of it). We’ve hosted players and coaches from NZ, Australia, and Ireland. Our players have traveled to NZ, Australia, Scotland and Spain. Its a great way for everyone involved to learn, develop and explore both their rugby and personal horizons.

    3. For any international player exchanges we participate in: we do not recruit people, we do not pay people (we wouldn’t, even if we could), we do not bring players in for specific games or seasons. What we will do is offer traveling, visiting or homeless ruggers a couch to crash on, a team to play with, new friends to hang out with, and some help finding their way around. We would do the same for a player that was moving to or visiting our area from NZ, Nigeria or Ohio, and I hope that another rugby team would do the same for me if I found myself in a strange city or country.

    4. Anyone who joins our team, regardless of their background or situation, is expected to be just as dedicated, just as much a member of the team, as everyone else. EVERYONE who has played with us this spring has been working hard and working together to help our team develop and improve. Foreign players are no exception to that.

    5. As for the specific players people have been discussing… One of them did have a contact with us through a previous coach and she specifically decided to come play with us through the spring. The others basically decided to do a little traveling and got ahold of us a day or so before they got on the plane. We didn’t really know who or what they were until they showed up at practice. Sure, we lucked out on the number and quality of players that showed up, but we did not recruit them and we would have (and have in the past) welcomed any visiting player regardless of their resume.

    6. I don’t know what these particular players’ future plans are. Shoot, they don’t know what their future plans are. They’re all young, restless, and taking advantage of their personal and rugby connections to explore the world a bit. I don’t blame them, and I know plenty of American-born players who have done the same thing. If these players stay in LA or return to the area at some point, we’d certainly welcome their continued involvement with our team. If they go back to NZ or move on to explore some other country, I’m sure they’ll stay in touch, visit occassionally, tell their friends what a great time they had with us, and return the favor to any visiting American ruggers that show up in their neck of the woods. Meanwhile, our American-born players have been able to learn from, play with, and develop friendships with great rugby people from all over the place.

    Belmont Shore

  14. Anonymous

    I know for a fact that a few other Black ferns stayed on after the recent women’s world cup to play for teams in the Midwest, so belmont is not the only team who has hosted top caliber players.
    The Men do it all the time to try and lift their teams standard. I am sure though the players were recruited, But that says alot about a team turning around to compete well and to win a seed back for Socal, and head to Nationals. FYI unless you are eligible to play for USA which none of the three players who played for Belmont are, they cannot play for ITT teams. And Huriana is only 20 years old! You are complaining about a 20 year old when does USA not have a 39 year old player on the squad….that was playing rugby before Huri was born…come on what a load of Crap to be even argueing this point!

  15. Anonymous

    Jen, it’s not “here, here”, it’s “hear, hear”.

  16. Blondie

    Okay … a reminder that if you leave an anonymous comment, you had better leave a name with it. Don’t be a coward. And for that last one about Here vs. Hear, get a life. Don’t nitpick others.

    Jen at least owns her words.

  17. Jen

    Oh, duh. Course it is. In a hurry, there, Anonymous.

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