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Club History | Rockaway Rugby Club | rugby paradise

PAST PRESIDENTS

Fishead Lineout vs. North Jersey 1996

Denis Brady ……….1974-1978                                  Brian Smith ………..1979-1980                                  Kevin Griffith ………1981-1982                                      Pat Savage ………..1983-1984                                   T.A. Fitzpatrick …..  1985                                           James Atherton …...1986-1987                                    Tim O'Boyle ……… .1988-1991                                     Kyle Reeves ……….1992-1994                                  Bob Johnson ………1995-2016                                  Pat Steffens ………..2017 - Present

     This 2018 season marks the 44th year for Rockaway Rugby Football Club. A social sports club with their home field in Gateway National Recreation Area: Fort Tilden Unit. Located in Queens, the southern most tip of New York City. The club, founded in 1974, by several men including Tim Tubridy, Dennis Brady, Brian Smith, Joe Moore and the late Wayne Smith, along with a few other brave souls.

     Since that time, thousands of players have donned the Rockaway blue and white colors. Most club members reside in Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island but a few dedicated players are from Staten Island, Manhattan and Rockland County. The club has competed primarily in the Northeast United States but has traveled to Louisiana, Maryland, Washington D.C., Delaware, Rhode Island, Georgia and Virginia, as well as England. Ireland, Wales and Canada. The Rockaway Rugby Club has been a member of the New York Metropolitan Rugby Union (est. 1967) since their inception and competes with other clubs in the tri-state area and against other Northeast teams. In 1982, the Fisheads toured England with scrimmages against the Old Beccehamians RFC and Roslyn Park RFC, the oldest rugby club in London. The club toured in Ireland in 1988 and toured England, Ireland and Wales during the 1999 during the Rugby World Cup competition.

     Since 1977, the Rockaway “Fisheads” have hosted their Annual Rugby Sevens Tournament. Next summer, the club will be celebrating the 39th Anniversary of competitive 7's rugby. This event has attracted some old-timer players, skilled men and women of Met. New York Rugby and up and coming collegiate ruggers while introducing the 7’s rugby game to the high school and youth of their local area. Over the years, Tournament Chairmen, Jim McCann ('77 - '82), Pat Leyden ('83-'86), Mike Raffe '87-'93 and John McCann ('94-present) have kept this NYC tradition alive. These individuals have worked diligently to insure its success. Much of their success is due mainly by their hard work along with the support of the corporate sponsors, local community and businesses and other rugby clubs throughout the years.

     The club has experienced tremendous growth since its inception, both as a competitive side and as a contributor to the local community. During 30+ years of play, they have won five Metropolitan New York Rugby Union league titles (1981, 1992, 2007, 2008 & 2010) and have represented the league as the Union’s playoff seed in several championships. Most recently, in '04, '05, '06, '07, '09, '10 with a matches against Newport RFC (R.I.), Hartford RFC (CT), Charles River RFC (MA), South Shore RFC (MA), Burlington (VT), Saratoga RFC (NY) and Syracuse RFC (NY). 

     In addition, numerous Rockaway players have represented the Union in Local Area Competitions, select side trials and touring matches. In the 1980’s, Rockaway RFC’s own Ken Concepcion received two caps for United Emerius in the Mideast while stationed there during his military service. In 1993 & 2003, outside center, Brian Geraghty was capped for his United States vs. Canada match & Hong Kong Sevens, respectively. Brian has since played for Life College RFC, Rockaway RFC & currently for Old Blue RFC (NY). Rockaway Youth Program graduates Matt Donuhue (Canisus College) has represented the U-19 United States team during their tour of Sydney, Australia and Tom Burns (Siena College) represented the U-19 United States team in Chile.

     We have also had the privilege of hosting several touring sides. In the “eighties”, the Westleigh RFC (Britain) and Old Beccehamians (England) toured. And in the "nineties", Arklow RFC (Scotland), Gun & Dog of Leicester (England) and Syston RFC (England) visited. Syston RFC came back again for a visit in 2000. Our latest, was  Richmond RFC of Limerick, Ireland in March of '06.

     In 1991, the club initiated a Youth Rugby Program led by T.A. Fitzpatrick, Jim Mullen and Bob Johnson. Several dozen young men (ages 10-17) began learning the basics of rugby. This effort is viewed as an important aspect of the clubs development and has been recognized by the Met. N.Y. Rugby Union as an important part of developing U.S.A. Rugby in this area. Many of Rockaway's young ruggers play or have played for the Xavier High School Rugby team which is currently ranked in the Top 5 high schools in the United States. This program has outstanding results and in 1999 the Met. NYRU began allocating money for the Rockaway Rugby Youth Program. Recently, PlayRugby USA has coordinated the youth rugby program in our area and has attracted main youth interest in learning a new sport. This sponsored program also represents the club's philosophy of giving something back to the community and to the sport they love - Rugby.

In 1992, The Fisheads formed Fishead Realty Inc. and purchased the first club-owned clubhouse in the Met. NY RFU.  The clubhouse was used mainly for social and fundraising events but also hosted several touring sides that have come to New York City.  "The Clubhouse", hosted post match socials, rugby meetings and club events that have entertained thousands over the years. High operating expenses have force the club to seek other venues, the cluhouse closeed in 2007.  The Fishead's Annual St. Patrick's Day Fundrasier, which began in 1993, still entertains the locals and beyond yearly at the various open space venues ever in the neighborhood.

     Over the years, this rugby club has raised money for many worthwhile charities, causes and organizations. Club administrators have coordinated the club's charitable efforts for the Rockaway Little League, Met NY Union Women's Select-side, Play USA Youth Rugby, Rockaway Special Olympics, local "Friend In Need" events, Queens County Irish Parade Committee, Rockaway WISH and The Tom “Reegs” Regan Fund.

      Since 1998, Rockaway Rugby has invited and welcomed several foreign players from Wales, England, Ireland, Canada, New Zealand and Australia. In most cases, the club has furnished accommodations. In exchange, they offer their years of rugby experience, ability and knowledge to help educate the club's younger members and promote a higher level of Rugby for the entire club and their rugby union.

       In 1999, Jim “Kermit” Egan and Bob Johnson, to support the college rugby program in the Northeast Rugby Union, developed the Rockaway Rugby "Reegs" College Invitational Tournament, usually played in March. Participating clubs have been; Iona College, Siena College, Fairfield University, St. Joseph’s University, SUNY New Paltz, Scranton University, Rochester Institute of Tech., Stony Brook University and Maritime Academy. The goals set for this event - to promote Northeast Rugby and raised funds for the Tom "Reegs" Regan Fund. Sadly, our friend, Tom succumbed to his injury and past away in Spring of 2010.

     In the year 2001, Rockaway Rugby Football Club became partners with the National Park Service of United States to promote the sport of rugby at park facilities and to conserve and protect the environment at Fort Tilden, a unit of Gateway - U.S.A. National Park System. Fundraisers were held and maintenance plans were developed to renovate an area of the park specifically for Rugby. The $30,000 Rugby Field Renovation Project began and was completed in time for the fall M.N.Y.R.U. 2004 League Season. This will ensure a clean, safe playing field, lighted practice area and environment suitable for rugby fans, park visitors and a variety of wildlife.

     In November of 2004, the club celebrated their 30th Anniversary at the Belle Harbor Yacht Club. Over 125 former players, family and friends attended this celebration. Club President Bob Johnson addressed the attendees to express the importance of alumni support. If you have played for the Fisheads in years past or would like to play with the "Fisheads", please contact the club directors and let them know where you are now.

     In 2007, The Rockaway Fisheads completed their first season undefeated (5-0-1) and won their third Div. II league championship. 

     In 2010, Rockaway won the Met NY Union Division III Championship and eventually the 2010 USA Rugby Northeast Div. III Championship.  They travelled to Virginia in the Spring of '11 for the USA Nationals representing the Northeast as the #1 seed.

Rockaway represented the Empire RU in Northeast League Championships '11-'14.

In 2015 & 2016, The Rockaway RC earned the League Title with a 8-1 record and 7-1 record, respectively.  The team won the Empire GU in 2015 & 2016. Finishing 2nd in the USA Northeast Championship in 2016.

In 2017, the Rockaway Rugby Fisheads placed 2nd in league standings and represented the Empire GU as the #4 seed in the New York State Championships.

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© John McCann 2016