Ramstein rugby team to play in German second tier
Stars and Stripes July 12, 2012
RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany — Are you ready for some rugby?
The Ramstein Rogues, a club comprised of American military and civilian players as well as representatives from allied countries, certainly is. The club’s 50 or so male and female players are preparing for the team’s first season in the German second division, scheduled to begin next month.
“I think it’s going to be a great challenge,” said fullback Danny Licciardi, a former All-Army player out of Southeast Louisiana State University about the 2012 Division III champions’ promotion to the next-higher tier of German competition. “Two years ago, we were Division IV and there wasn’t much challenge. We were winning 86-0. The D-3 teams were a lot more talented, and at D-2 the challenge will get better.”
“Without a challenge,” hesaid, “you don’t get better.”
The Rogues team bound for the D-2 wars is the club’s premier side. The Rogues also sponsor a men’s development team and a women’s team.
“The German Rugby League is pushing juniors and ladies,” said Rogues club President Darren Younker during a recent Thursday afternoon session at the Rogues’ hideaway practice field in the woods at the Construction and Training Squadron site here.
Younker said the Rogues don’t have a juniors team per se, but the club welcomes young players anyway. The Rogues do, however, field a vibrant women’s team.
Spouse Danielle Goulet, whose husband also plays, is a former performer on the Canadian national women’s team. She said she likes the sport’s combination of contact and camaraderie.
“I played in college in Canada, and on the national team,” said Goulet, as she stepped out of a driving rainstorm, which failed to interrupt practice. “When we moved to Hawaii, I thought my playing days were over, but we came here and there was a strong women’s team. I’m glad to be back.”
Novice Jessica LaMoe, who in spite of her slight build plays forward and locks arms with her teammates in the nose-to-nose scrums for which the sport is best known, also cited camaraderie as rugby’s biggest attraction.
“It’s like a community,” said LaMoe, who began playing in February. “It’s like a family.”
Leading the Rogues’ family is the men’s D-2 side, comprised of players who Younker said have up to 20 years experience at the full-contact sport.
“We’re the most successful military team in Europe,” he said.
Whether the Rogues can continue that success at the D-2 level, at which some teams field professional players, remains to be seen.
Coach Matt McKee thinks this year’s Rogues, primarily comprised almost entirely of returnees from last season’s title-winning team, are up to the job.
“If they play physically, they’ll be OK,” he said. “That’s the biggest thing. The Germans don’t like physical play.”
As might be expected, the Rogues are always on the lookout for fresh talent, given the personnel turbulence endemic to a military community.
Nothing except desire, although experience with the padded offshoot of the game might prove helpful.
“If they’ve played football,” McKee said, “they’ll be OK.”
Interested players of all levels can contact the club, which presently is practicing on Thursday afternoons, through its website, ramsteinrogues.com or on Facebook. The club’s email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org.