ROOKIE OF THE YEAR – Stephen Moore
MOST IMPROVED – Bruce Bernstein
AMBASSADOR OF THE SOCIETY – Mike King
ASSISTANT REFEREE OF THE YEAR – Preston Gordon
BRYAN PORTER AWARD – Joel Rubin
PELICAN OF THE YEAR – Cary Bertolone
SCRIPTORIS AWARD – James Hinkin
BRYAN PORTER ASSESSED
A speech given by Bruce Carter Saturday night:
We gather tonight to celebrate our game, our craft, and our friendships.
We gather tonight to bear witness to a half-century of dedication.
We gather tonight to honor a friend, a mentor, a husband, a father, and a man of rugby.
We gather tonight to receive a torch that is being passed.
What does it mean to referee the game you’ve played and loved all your life, and then to give up your chance to be an International referee in order to help others reach for the stars of Test rugby?
What does it mean to substitute one dream for another?
Why would someone dedicate himself as the first chairman of the newly-formed USA Rugby’s Evaluation Committee in 1976, to standardize referee assessment from sea to shining sea, to eliminate parochialism among the former independent duchies of the newly-united realm, to offer the rich mother lode of Northern California for deserving visiting referees to mine, to lend his own credibility to the effort of ensuring that American international referees would be accepted as peers around the world, to serve as an IRB evaluator for many years and to continue walking the touchlines of Pelicanland happily helping even the fledglings to spread their wings?
What would inspire such efforts? What would we call such a person?
How about Educator? The word derives from Latin and means, “One who brings forth what is within.”
Having spent more than fifty years in American rugby, bringing many referees up to the Test and even World Cup level, and after having brought the best out of USA refereeing as a whole, Bryan Porter certainly qualifies as an Educator.
To inspire our reminiscence, let’s flip through Bartlett’s and see what folks have had to say about Education over the years.
We’ll lead off with Santa Rosa’s Charles Schultz:
"Try not to have a good time ... This is supposed to be educational.”
This might have served as a motto for Bryan, who always took his duties seriously. A young referee, facing that stern countenance for the first time, might have felt the fun draining out of his audition. But of course a chance to fail is a chance to excel – and therein lies the fun.
Bryan would tell you that seeing a referee master the art and advance through the ranks is deeply satisfying, and certainly constitutes a ‘good time’.
Because, as the English philosopher Herbert Spencer said,
“The great aim of education is not knowledge but action."
Spencer is the man who coined the term, “The survival of the fittest,” which came to mind whenever the sharp Porter eye was brought to focus on a referee.
The poet William Butler Yeats wrote:
“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire. “
Bryan expected those who take the whistle in hand to know the Laws of the Game. His method was to serve as a catalyst, to help a referee to forge knowledge and perception, empathy and judgment, fitness and experience all into an alloy of exceeding brightness and durability.
But Bryan never awarded passing marks merely for showing up. Occasionally a referee proved unprepared not only for games of higher caliber, but even for the game on the day. These people were Porterized:
If education is the lighting of a fire, than surely as an Anonymous sage once said,
"If you light a man a fire, he will be warm for a day; if you light a man on fire, he will be warm for the rest of his life."
Some survived such Porterization and found themselves annealed, made stronger by the process, ready for the arenas of higher-level rugby. For, as former San Francisco reporter Mark Twain knew,
"If you hold a cat by the tail you learn things you cannot learn any other way."
Bryan was and remains an Assessor. Referee coaching has developed over the past decade, approaching the same problem of referee improvement from a different psychological angle. The coach’s role may be summarized: he sugar-coats it. But perhaps Bryan would second the notion of long-time Santa Cruz resident Robert A. Heinlein that,
"I never learned from a man who agreed with me."
I remember when I met Bryan Porter for the first time. It was at the polo field in Golden Gate Park, in the early eighties. I was talking to a NorCal referee when Bryan walked by.
The ref interrupted our conversation to introduce me to Bryan and then to say to him, “You know, I’m getting a little tired of the grief I’ve been getting from the teams I’ve refereed lately. Even Hastings, normally the nicest bunch of guys you could ever hope to meet, complained about the game I did for them last week. I don’t need this.”
Bryan considered for a moment and then replied, “You know, I’ve been reading the reports as they come across my desk. I think you’re right. You don’t need this.”
Porterized. I think I got a contact-singe.
A few years later as a budding blower I found myself trying to find favor in Bryan’s reports. I often had to take refuge in the wisdom of American humorist Don Herold, who said,
"The brighter you are, the more you have to learn,"
and also from Robert Pirsig, who wrote in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance,
"The best students always are flunking. Every good teacher knows that."
We all suspect that Bryan was way ahead of the philosophers on this one.
Fifty years on, Bryan continues to influence generations of referees. For, as Henry Adams, grandson and great-grandson of presidents wrote,
“A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops."
Pioneers blaze trails – the rest of us follow. But the trail leads onward for those who pick up the charge.
Bryan’s work isn’t finished. As a result of his dedication, Northern California is positioned to provide the top tier of American rugby referees for years to come.
All of us who continue to benefit from his expertise and his example should be mindful of the words of Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche:
"You are rewarding a teacher poorly if you remain always a pupil."
Let us dedicate to Bryan the fruits of the seeds he has sown, the bountiful harvest of Northern California rugby refereeing, which will sustain our game far into the future.
Ladies and gentlemen, Bryan Porter.
RUGBY PLAYED HERE
Palo Alto Summer Sevens
Begun in 1972, this granddaddy of USA Sevens tournaments has moved to a new home for 2010, the artificial pitches at the corner of El Camino and Page Mill.
Thirty-eight or thirty-nine teams were there, including a Renaissance of women’s teams after a few lean years. They were strapped for refs late in the day because all of the referees in attendance had to leave for the NCRRS banquet well before the games ended.
But that won’t be a problem July 10 and 24. Make plans to attend and help out. This is good stuff.
SFGG Hosts Two
SF/Golden Gate – GHA RFC (Scotland) Referee: Joe Androvich
ARs: Jim Crenshaw, Eric Rauscher
The visitors won this game. That’s all we know.
SFGG 53 – NZ Navy Side 14 Referee: Preston Gordon
ARs: Tom Zanarini, Eric Rauscher
Rocca Field, 1530, Sunday June 28th
It was great to be a part of this. SFGG's usual hospitality was on offer, and although we had to delay the kickoff by about half an hour, that wasn't a problem for anyone. There was some sort of street blockage on Market Street in San Francisco most of Sunday - it took me nearly an hour to get from downtown to Treasure Island.
SFGG scored a couple of early tries, followed by an NZN intercept try. The Kiwis got another one in the first half (converting both), to leave the score at 15-14. The SFGG kicker couldn't get near the posts and left all 3 of their first-half tries unconverted.
Things were looking pretty good until about the 30' mark, at which point one of the NZN front-rowers injured his arm and was unable to continue. Since they were out of qualified players, a winger was put into the front row and we had to go to uncontested scrums. As it turned out, this gentleman was the New Zealand Consul General himself, who was up from Los Angeles as part of the diplomatic delegation for the naval visit.
In the second half SFGG was able to make the most of their attacking opportunities, using their large and fast backs to open holes in the defense. The Navy side had some good runs as well, but ultimately ran out of gas and people (open subs favored SFGG) and was not able to score any more points. I was told later that their match against British Columbia the preceding week was even more one-sided, perhaps because they had several Canadian internationals playing, and that several key players picked up injuries that ruled them out of this week's fixture.
One point of contention: The NZN was surprised when SFGG did a pick-and-go play from the back of a 5m attacking scrum to score a try. According to them, that shouldn't have been allowed once we went to uncontested scrums. I disagreed, but certainly saw their point. In the end it probably didn't make much difference as the game was pretty far out of reach by that point. SFGG ended up winning 53-14.
The after-match function was well attended by many other members of the two ships' crew (the frigate HMNZS Te Kaha and the supply ship HMNZS Endeavour) and SFGG. The New Zealand Ambassador made an appearance, along with the two ships' captains and the Consul General mentioned above.
They graciously extended an invitation to me and a guest (Catherine) for a cocktail reception aboard HMNZS Te Kaha the following evening, which I certainly didn't plan to miss. That was another great event with ~150 people enjoying hors d'oeuvre and drinks under a tent set up on the aft helicopter deck. The Ambassador's speech was very good, and the music and haka performed by the cultural team (made up of crew members) were moving. There was a proper receiving line awaiting the guests, and at least 3 USCG flag officers onboard, one of whom was a Vice Admiral. After dessert we took a short tour of the ship and a couple of pictures. They're tied up at Pier 27 and will be leaving sometime on Thursday - I'm not sure if they'll be open to the public before then. In the meantime you may notice a higher-than-usual number of New Zealand accents around San Francisco!
Thanks in particular to Tom and Eric, who did a excellent job on the touchline.
MIDNIGHT SEVENS – JUNE 19/20
East Palo Alto qualified for the Club Championship Series sevens final tournament in Las Vegas next February, to be held in conjunction with the IRB Sevens.
They did this by finishing second in the qualifying tournament played at the Midnight Sevens, losing to the mostly-BYU Humless team.
Pete Smith and Bruce Carter flew down to represent the Pelicans among the refs.
iRB NATIONS CUP 2010
Week 2 Report by Aruna Ranaweera
TUESDAY June 15:
Match day. As the reserve referee for all three 2nd round matches, I was at the stadium all afternoon, but fortunately, no one got injured. Instead, I managed to get a workout at the stadium gym. The first match kicked off in sunny 85F heat (which suited South African Marius Jonker just fine) and the last match involved a steady downpour (which suited Scotsman Neil “Paddy” Paterson just fine). I was particularly impressed to see first-hand how calm and confident Marius is when he referees (he makes it look easy), while Paddy’s movements on the field are so precise they belong in a textbook. iRB referee assessor Patrick Robin (France) has arrived in Bucharest, so he will do the referee evaluations for the remainder of the tournament. Bryan Arciero’s dad, Danny, is also in town with us.
Round 2 Match results:
3pm: Italy A 21, Georgia 3; Referee: Marius Jonker (South Africa)
5pm: Namibia 23, Scotland A 20; Referee: Bryan Arciero (Canada)
7pm: Romania 24, Argentina Jaguars 8; Referee: Neil Paterson (Scotland)
At the end of the 2nd round, unheralded Namibia and Italy A had emerged as the only 2-0 unbeaten teams, while surprisingly, pre-tournament favorites Scotland A and Argentina Jaguars were both in the cellar at 0-2. Media reports:
We all went to dinner at a fancy restaurant decorated like the inside of a medieval castle and everyone ate too much. I learned that the citing commissioner from France was a frequent visitor to San Francisco since his son’s family lived there. We ended the night at another nice outdoor lounge in Bucharest where, while enjoying the scenery, entertaining tales were exchanged about rugby and other matters.
WEDNESDAY June 16:
Most of the referees spent the afternoon relaxing at the Ramada pool next door, but I had to catch-up on work so stayed indoors. Dave McHugh and I went over the DVD of my 1st round match (Namibia vs Romania) for about 2 hours, which provided valuable new insights. His coaching feedback was very useful.
Prior to our departure for the official tournament dinner at an upscale outdoor sports club (owned by the Romanian rugby president), Dave announced the referee appointments for the 3rd (final) round of matches on Sunday. Paddy and Marius are to referee the first two matches, while I was to referee the last match between Scotland A and Argentina Jaguars. Although the pre-tournament favorites are 0-2, pride is at stake and they are both under huge pressure to avoid the wooden spoon, so I’m really looking forward to Sunday’s contest, which is sure to be intense.
On the way to check-out the opening of a new club in town, the match officials (and many others) were caught in a sudden thunderstorm which gave us the opportunity to bust out a spirited extended version of “singing in the rain” (and other rugby songs). Meanwhile, James Jones, easily the best dressed of the referees, was mistaken for a Celtic soccer celebrity and was given VIP treatment at the club. The good-natured singing was continued back at the hotel bar (open 24-hours), where we were joined by a motley assortment of curious onlookers.
THURSDAY June 17:
Lead by Emil Pirtoc and Vlad Iordachescu, we piled into two minivans for the 3-hour drive to the Black Sea city of Constanta, the second largest city in Romania. The weather was cooler than usual, so the beach-town was relatively empty, but we stumbled upon a European satellite beach volleyball tournament in Mamaia. We made an attempt at touch rugby, but found too may sharp objects in the sand.
Dinner was at a seaside restaurant and was lively to say the least. Dave led the good-natured morals court (no one escaped) and there was lively singing for several hours, which was entertaining not only for us, but also the highly amused restaurant patrons and waiters.
FRIDAY June 18:
The sun was out, so the beaches were packed with people. I waded into the Black Sea for a quick swim. Two things made it clear that the beach culture here is different from California: (1) there are topless sunbathers everywhere, and (2) despite the perfect waves, not a surfer was in sight.
On the way back to Bucharest, we had lunch mid-way at a nice outdoor restaurant. We passed rows of communist-era apartment buildings before reaching the city center. Most of the referees went running. At the soccer world cup on TV, USA was down 0-2 to Slovenia at half, rallied back to tie the match 2-2, and was unlucky to have the game-winning goal disallowed by the FIFA referee. Some of the other match officials were also interested in the NBA finals and were happy to hear that the Lakers had won Game 7. We had dinner again at the Radisson poolside and watched part of the England v Algeria soccer match.
SATURDAY June 19:
We returned to the Dubliner to order cottage pie and watch more rugby matches on Sky Sports: New Zealand v Wales, Australia v England, and South Africa v Italy. I was relieved to find Gatorade in a nearby grocery store.
After learning that today is Marius’ 41st birthday, we arranged for dinner and birthday cake at the Hard Rock Cafe. Meanwhile, Andy and Paddy were overjoyed to hear of Scotland’s 2nd test victory over Argentina in Argentina. Since tomorrow is match day, we all went to bed early.
SUNDAY June 20:
Match day. Despite thunderstorm forecasts, the sunny 80F weather held up nicely. Paddy was suffering from food poisoning, so James took his place as referee for the first match. Host Romania requested that their match be played last, so my match was moved to the 2nd time slot. My Assistant Referees are Bryan Arciero (Canada) and Radu Petrescu (Romania).
Round 3 Match results:
3pm: Namibia 21, Georgia 16; Referee: James Jones (Wales)
5pm: Argentina Jaguars 33, Scotland A 13; Referee: Aruna Ranaweera (USA)
7pm: Romania 27, Italy A 22; Referee: Marius Jonker (South Africa)
As expected, my match was both intense and challenging as both teams were under pressure and included players with test match pedigree. Scotland stayed close for about 50 minutes, but Argentina found their groove in the fourth quarter and pulled away to win comfortably. In the second half, I encountered several situations which forced me to improvise, so this match will provide good material for future reference. Overall, it was a valuable experience. Dave provided the match DVD and gave me some quick pointers. I will later receive a formal assessment report from Patrick.
As expected, Marius did a virtuoso job refereeing the last match which was played in front of a large and boisterous local crowd. In the end, Namibia, the only unbeaten team, won this year’s Nations Cup, while host Romania ended on a high as runner-up in the standings to the jubilation of the locals. Media reports:
The strong showing by the Tier 2 nations is surely encouraging for the iRB’s High Performance program. Later this year, Churchill Cup teams USA and Canada are scheduled to face off against some of the Nations Cup teams, so that will close the loop prior to next year’s RWC.
After the festive post-match Nations Cup reception party near the stadium, we bade farewell to our Romanian colleagues who have provided us with excellent hospitality. Local referees Vlad and Horatiu Barguanas took us downtown to celebrate the end of the tournament. Since it was Sunday, we returned back to the hotel fairly soon and said goodbye to the folks who were to leave early the next day including Dave who did a great job as our referee manager and mentor.
MONDAY June 21:
The remaining match officials were driven to the airport where Andy, Marius and I relaxed in the business lounge before our flights. We also viewed some clips from my match with the French citing commissioner. Both Andy and Marius are on their way to South Africa (Andy will run touch during this weekend’s South Africa v Italy test match), while I am on my way to Switzerland for work (back to reality), returning to California on June 25. We wished each other well and agreed to stay in touch.
Overall, I would like to thank USA Rugby and the iRB for giving me the opportunity to referee at this year’s Nations Cup. It was an amazing experience and I will be a better referee as a result. The best part of this trip was spending time with the other match officials who were not only supportive and professional, but a great group of people to hang out with. I have no doubt all folks involved will move onto to greater things in the years to come.
CHAPLESS IN MINNEAPOLIS
Exchange Report – Mark Bingham Cup
As a veteran of three Mark Bingham Cup tournaments as a player I was thrilled to get a chance to referee at the tournament this past weekend. My wife was also thrilled since being sent as a ref meant I was far less likely to come home injured. We had been looking forward to the trip for months as it was chance for both of us to see old friends and enjoy being part of a very special event.
We arrived in Minneapolis on Wednesday afternoon and were whisked off to the home of a high school friend who had a home just about ten minutes from the National Sports Center where the tournament was held. The location was ideal as it was close to the pitch and contained three young children for my son to play with. Hooray for family vacations!
On Thursday we thought we’d head downtown and catch a Twins game in their beautiful new stadium. No such luck. Even with a division leading team and a shiny new park my theory that a 12:00pm game on a Thursday would still have walk up tickets proved false. Instead we met up with other MBC visitors, had lunch, and strolled around down town Minneapolis. As is our habit when we’re in a new city with time to kill we checked out the library. The new library downtown is huge and architecturally interesting. It’s also a great place to entertain a one year old and cool off for a bit. Minneapolis itself reminds me a bit of Toronto, it’s a city, but it’s really clean. Almost like downtown Disney. Thursday night was a bit dodgy with tornado warnings going off across the state. I was awed when the whole world outside the house turned yellow. I’d never seen anything like it. When it all turned green an hour later I was informed that instead of awed I should be concerned. When it all turned red and purple I figured we were all going to die but learned that a red sky was a good thing. Whew.
Finally, after an evening of being subjected to watching “So You Think You Can Dance” instead of game seven of the NBA Finals it was time to referee some rugby. The wonderful and gracious Tammy Cowan picked us up in the morning and brought us out to the tournament. I was stoked to see how many friendly faces I recognized from my previous exchange to Minnesota, as well as Minnesota refs I’d seen out here in NorCal. Also present were Luann Campbell and Jay Trello from SoCal and my former teammate Matt Bluske now reffing for Eastern Penn. After picking up the day’s assignments I learned that Jay was about to mic me up for an eval on my first match of the day.
Friday Pool Play
NY Gotham Knights A 83 – Nashville 0
The game went just as the score suggests. Gotham was simply faster and stronger than Nashville. The Gotham backs displayed laser precise passes and ran with high knees. Nashville was decent in the scrums but their backs couldn’t find continuity. Again and again a Nashville center would get isolated and then abused by the Gotham backs and loose forwards and then it would be off to the races for New York. Even though it wasn’t the best kind of game for an evaluation Jay gave me great feedback and coaching. One of the nice things about an evaluation at a tournament is that you can put the advice into practice right away.
Sydney Convicts A 80 – Atlanta Bucks 0
My afternoon match was only slightly more competitive than my morning match and even then it was only the score that was closer. The game opened on a rough note with the Bucks captain sustaining a torn ACL and MCL within the first five minutes. After the delay for the injury play resumed but it understandably took Atlanta a while to get back into playing mode. Unlike the Gotham game the Bucks were completely overmatched. The general tone of play was some combination of kickoff, broken tackle, pass, try. Every so often there was a ruck. We even had a couple scrums. It was not a good day to be an Atlanta captain as the replacement captain also left the game with an injured shoulder. There were a few times when a player or coach would encourage me to let things end but with seeding tie breakers in mind I was inclined to let the game play the full time.
In the end Sydney came away just short of Gotham with 12 tries on the day for the Aussies compared to 13 for New York. Imagine my utter lack of surprise when the two teams I watched dominate the first day ended up playing for the cup on Sunday. One note on reffing blowouts, while any of the fifteen players on the winning side could go for a bit of a run and end up scoring there’s only one person who has to chase every one of them all the way down. I was tired by the end of it. Once again I was happy to receive a bit of coaching from Kevin Terpstra who watched the first half of the Sydney game and part of the previous Gotham game.
After the day was done the refs retired to a nearby sports bar and grill. It was here that my wife learned two things, one chicken and wild rice soup in the Midwest is always cream based, and two, refs are sarcastic. After my better half went on a five minute rant about how the waitress should mention it being cream based she was treated to forty-five minutes of ribbing from our hosts. A good time was had by all.
Saturday Pool Play
Dublin Emerald Warriors 8 – Phoenix Storm 5
I’ll be honest, coming into this one I expected another blow out. Instead I was treated to my first competitive match of the tournament. Phoenix started the game with a cheer borrowed from the movie “Bring it On” which prompted the Irish kicker to remark “They’re awfully happy, you’d think the match was over. Someone should remind them they haven’t won yet.” To me it was funny that the same cheer had been the Washington Renegades B’s signature at the 2006 Bingham Cup. You have to appreciate the meta-irony of stealing a cheer borrowed from a movie about stealing cheers. Only in gay rugby. But I digress.
The Irish clearly had the stronger team but no one did in fact tell Phoenix. The Storm were strong in the scrums but just not crisp enough in the backs. I was very nearly saddled with what the Midwest refs call a “common score” when, with no time left, the Warriors lined up for a fifty meter penalty kick. The ball hung in the air and seemed like it had no chance, then like it was sure to go through, then it clanged off the upright. The Storm gathered the ball in field and tried to counter attack. After two phases I caught the storm halfback for an interesting bit of playing the ball on the ground. The player somehow found himself lying on the ground next to the ball, which had squirted out the side of a ruck. With Irish players bearing down on him he picked up the ball between his calves and flung it towards his flyhalf. The Warriors made the ensuing penalty kick from fifteen meters out for the win.
Saturday Cup Quarterfinal
San Francisco 56 – Dallas 0
I was very happy to get the assignment to ref the NorCal representatives at the Bingham Cup. Coming off their playoff appearance in the NorCal matrix this past season the Fog came out showing why they are Cup contenders every time out. After Gotham and Sydney took the top two seeds in the knock out rounds third seeded SF took on sixth seeded Dallas. The Fog dominated with a full 15 effort. There was no phase of the game that Dallas could answer. San Francisco’s tries came from far out and close in scored by backs and forwards alike. The Fog showed power in the rucks and finesse in the backline scoring eight tries with eight conversions. The local boys rolled on to face Sydney in the semifinals.
That night it was BBQ, reindeer games, and a trip out to the Minneapolis Eagle with the Minnesota refs. This was my 5th Eagle having already been to Philly, Charlotte, DC and New York. The leather requirement was waived for the night. It was also clear how well the refs were doing to that point when one forgot her ID and the players informed the bouncer “You have to let her in, she’s like the best ref in the world!” She was let in.
Sunday Plate Semifinal
Seattle Quake A 0 – Los Angeles Rebellion 7
It was nice to see another competitive match to finish my weekend. This one went back and forth between the 22 meter lines as neither team could quite overcome the other’s defense. In the end two yellow cards doomed Seattle (who had the best looking kits of the tournament) especially the one that came with the Quake driving for a possible score until the Seattle ball carrier decided to drop a People’s Elbow on a would be tackler. The ensuing penalty kick ended the game and LA went on to win the plate later in the day.
Sunday night, after a last couple pints with the refs I headed out with some former teammates. All sorts of rugby tourish type things went on but I will relate only this cautionary bit of advice, if you are alone in a nearly empty bar it’s a bad idea to call members of the gay rugby team “fags.” The chances of your night ending poorly increase dramatically. In this particular case the young man was let go with a warning and we retired to another establishment for a more peaceful pint.
In closing this was one of the most enjoyable weekends I can remember. Then again the Bingham Cup is always fun. From winning a break dance battle in London in 2004 to my wife telling the cabby we were staying at the “Crown Royal” in Dublin in 2008 I’ve never failed to have a smashing time. There’s a ton of people to thank of course. Many thanks to Bjorn, Bruce and Tammy for setting me up. To Kevin Terpstra for running the show on the referee end. To the tournament organizers, the players, the Minnesota refs who were so hospitable. To Jay and Terpy for the coaching. To Luann for putting up with my jokes. Thanks to my wife for wrangling the baby all weekend so I could spend Father’s Day doing rugby. You’re all awesome!
HIGH SCHOOL ALL-AMERICANS NAMED
Thirty players have been named to the All-American squad to play in Canada in July.
Six of them are from NorCal. There’s an excellent chance you refereed an All-American this past year!
Included among their number is Carl Hendrickson, son of Pelican Rob Hendrickson.
Congratulations and best of luck to the boys!
REF NEEDED ONCE A YEAR IN NEW ZEALAND
Only One Ball Counts in Nude Rugby
(June 24) -- Rugby is tough enough when you're clothed, but it's even harder when you're naked.
But that may just be the selling point of the annual nude rugby match at Logan Park in Dunedin, New Zealand.
The seventh annual event was held June 19, and the freewheeling (and free-balling) contest attracted around 2,500 fans, willing to spend the first day of winter watching a very stiff competition between the undefeated Nude Blacks and the visiting Welsh Leeks.
Players compete in a nude rugby game at Logan Park on June 19 in Dunedin, New Zealand. A naked rugby match is a traditional prelude to a New Zealand All Blacks Test match in Dunedin against a visiting team.
The prize? A toilet seat trophy.
The event is the brainchild of Ralph Davies, who told Perthnow.com.au that nude rugby was in keeping with the student-dominated city.
"Dunedin students are well known for getting their kit off and running around, so that's how the idea really became, and it's just blown out of all proportion since then," Davies said.
Although some folks might be offended by the idea, Davies said every effort is made to keep the game -- and the players -- clean and tidy.
"It's not a nudie perve, it's a kick and giggle," he said.
The event actually ties together two separate but equal events: National Nude Day and a test match against a local team by the All Blacks, a rugby team in New Zealand that is as popular in Kiwi country as the New York Yankees, Dallas Cowboys or Los Angeles Lakers are in the U.S.
Rugby is a brutal sport, and players don't wear nearly the amount of padding that football players do, so playing completely naked is obviously even more difficult. Despite that, Davies said there haven't been any serious injuries since the very first tournament.
"One guy did pop a shoulder once, but apparently this frequently happened, and it was popped back in and he went on to score a try," Davies said in an e-mail interview with AOL News.
"One lady in the crowd did get in the way of a tackled player out of play and was bundled over, but no damage. I am not sure if she appreciated the hugs from the players to see if she was OK. But I think the smile on her face presumed all was OK."
Considering the game took place on the first day of the New Zealand winter, it might seem that wind chill could be as much of a danger as an untimely kick in the wedding tackle. Luckily, that was not the case this year.
"[We had] brilliantly fine conditions -- a balmy winter's afternoon in Dunedin [64 degrees] was a far cry from the frozen beach for the first match in 2002, which was around [37 degrees]," Davies said.
But there were some problems. For instance, every year the event is plagued by some spectator who insists on streaking while wearing clothes. Inevitably, this scofflaw is arrested by a naked constable. This year, a woman fan chose to get in on the fun.
"This year, we had a totally random woman drop her kit and run on to the field to the delight of everyone, including the players as she kissed and hugged them," Davies said. "She carried on to take part in a line-out and score a try of her own."
Although playing nude might be a deal breaker for some teams, Davies said he's never had a problem finding teams willing to do it. But even if he did, he has that covered.
"We've never had any cancellations," he said. "A core group of Dunedin University students -- or 'Scarfies' -- makes up the Nude Blacks, and they can provide extras if we get short on the visiting team."
This year, the Nude Blacks once again won the trophy, and now, according to the Sydney Morning Herald, the team already anticipates next year's nude rugby World Cup.
"We know what the Scots wear under their kilts, so we can expect an interesting matchup for that fixture,'' Davies said.
Since the Nude Blacks don't wear britches, there's no chance of the team getting too big for them. Davies understands the appeal of nude rugby is based on its now-you-see-it, now-you-don't quality.
"I think if it was held every week, the interest would wane," he said. "So we only pull it out once a year as a precursor to the big matches and thus maintain the interest and fascination of the public.
THAT TIME OF YEAR
Y’all have a happy and glorious Fourth of July!
THIS WEEK’S PHOTO
Bryan Porter is fêted for fifty-plus years of service to Northern California and USA Rugby refereeing by, among others, Aruna Ranaweera who is just back from the Nations Cup in Romania.
For the Senate