News and Announcements
Michael “Hazbro” Leland was a great friend to all of us and one of the Club’s most outspoken supporters. In particular, his support of the merger between Schuylkill River and Second City Troop played a huge role in bringing our Clubs together. Unfortunately, Haz passed away in the spring of 2016. We seek to honor him by playing in an annual Old Boys match every spring on the weekend nearest to his birthday in which we have a home match scheduled. Please dust off the boots and come on out and get a run in honor of our friend and then stick around afterwards to watch the Exiles on take the Washington Irish in our final match of the 2017-18 MAC regular season and watch Troop take on Reading in a non-league match.
The match will take place on Saturday April 14, 2018 at 10AM at Pennypack on the Delaware. The entrance to the park can be located at 7800 State Rd, Philadelphia, PA 19136 or by setting your GPS to “Panther East” and finding the entrance to the park across the street. We are pleased to announce that Clarence Stringer will be coming up from Turks and Caicos to serve as our Captain for this match. If you are interested in playing please reach out to Wayne Megill (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Tim Emgushov (email@example.com) to let them know.
Details can also be found on our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/events/148604672459159/?ti=cl
Schuylkill River Rugby had our awards banquet at the IATSE Ballroom on February 24 and well over 100 past and present Skill players showed up to swap stories, enjoy each other’s company, and hand out some awards. The MC for the evening was Club Vice President Carlo Sena who was assisted by the rest of the Executive Board of Paul Abrams, Dave Codell, Ryan McHugh, and Hunter Valentine in setting up the evening’s festivities. The awards themselves were presented by the Coaching Staff which includes Biddy Boyle, Mike Burch, Richard Casey, Mike Clark, Owen Jones, Chris Ryan, and Tom Weishaupt. Ever-present in his role between the Board and Staff was Director of Rugby Pat Boyle making sure things went smoothly.
Presented below are the notes from the award’s presenters as well as the Hall of Fame induction speeches given on behalf of Michael “Hasbro” Leland and Dave Wixted. With their inductions they join Chris Bailey, Bill Jalbert, Michael Matotek, Jason Siddel, Brian Boyle, Chet Radecki, John McMullen, Steve Green, George Connell, Jim Hegarty, Jamie Catrambone, Terry Wendelken, John Hughes, Gary Kribbs, Len Borcky, Joe Howard, and Alex Yankowsky in our Hall of Fame.
It was a wonderful evening for all involved and we hope to have you join us next year.
Jason “Face” Siddell Player’s Player Award – Ryan McHugh
A teammate wishing to maintain anonymity had the following to say about Ryan:
Ryan is a veteran player who has kept himself in the mix as an A-side player despite being one of the older player in the pool and beyond that continues to be a pencil in starter at second row. When he’s on the pitch he does all the grunt work that can often go unnoticed and his support is relentless. His leadership in game as well as at training are ever present, if there’s something that needs to get done, it gets done, and rarely will you hear him make a fuss about it. It’s not to say that he has no voice at all, nothing could be further from the truth – it’s that he knows difference between making it about himself and making it about the club. When we need to be called out as an individual or as a club and it’s coming from Ryan – we know it’s something that’s heartfelt and probably true. Outside of the work he puts in to remain a major contributing player on the A-side, he’s served as a club officer in one of the less enviable positions of treasurer as well as routinely volunteering at numerous youth development events across the region. Ryan is one of the people that I first think of when I think about who’s helping to create a positive successful culture at the club. There are few people in the game that I have more respect for.
Joseph “Holmes” Harbson 15s Coaches Award – Jeff Hall
The coaches award is given to a player who exemplifies the qualities that all players should strive to possess. They are a model player and model teammate. Their presence may not always but noticed, but their absence is always felt. That is because they carry themselves without fanfare and perform their responsibilities selflessly. This year’s recipient is a player who has been instrumental to our success over the past few seasons and without whom our fall season would not have been as successful as it was given the injuries we sustained. This player is at every practice, every game, every social event, every team meeting. We are very pleased to present this year’s Coaches Award to Jeff Hall.
15s Breakout Player- Matt Giannascoli
The breakout player award is given to that player who makes you go, “where the hell did that come from?”. It can be a returning player whose committed themselves and raises their game to the next level. It can be a transferring or new player to Schuylkill who comes in as a bit of an unknown and cements themselves. This year’s recipient doesn’t exactly fall into either of those categories. This year’s recipient is someone who hadn’t even played rugby in the several years post college prior to this fall. He stepped into Division 1 rugby at inside center and more than held is own, he took it to his opposite number game in and game out. This year’s breakout player, Matt Giannascoli.
D1 Back MVP- Brian Keown
There are a select few positions on the field that require stability. The team is an engine but without someone driving us forward we can find ourselves not quite hitting that top gear. You can switch out bits and pieces here and there and the engine is still going run, but it won’t function the way you want it to. You need that someone to propel things forward, that takes all those bits and pieces and gives them direction. You switch out this person and we don’t run at top speed. This year’s recipient has given us stability and direction at a position that requires both. The D1 back MVP is Brian Keown.
D1 Forward MVP- Ben Janssen
When asked to name some of the best players we have played with, everyone in this room has someone they immediately recall. Someone who at times as a player you find yourself a spectator during the game just watching them do their thing. I don’t know if this guy remembers, but I refereed him for high school games when he played for Coatesville. I would get excited calling scrums to Coatesville because he played 8-man and I knew he was going to do something special. He has continued to do special things and he’s a special player here at Schuylkill. The D1 forward MVP is Ben Janssen.
D2 Back MVP- Jon Hines
This year’s D2 back MVP is a player who has played consistently and improved consistently over a number of seasons with Schuylkill. His performance on the field has become highly reliable and he has taken an additional step by becoming a vocal leader on and off the field. His teammates look to him to be a catalyst through his positive play to raise the performance of the entire team. He has delivered time and time again and we look forward to his continued growth. The D2 back MVP is Jon Hines.
D2 Forward MVP- Ian Glatts
One of the most important qualities any player can possess is reliability. Our d2 forward MVP is so reliable that we all know exactly the type of game we’ll get from him. Double digit tackles, double digit carries, 1 or 2 diving penalties, 1 or 2 side entry penalties, and bottomless encouragement of his teammates. We’ll continue to work on those penalties. But you can live with a players minimal errs here and there when they give so much of themselves on the field. Our D2 forward MVP has been a welcomed addition to Schuylkill, Ian Glatts.
7s Premier MVP – Josh Mastomatto
Josh came back to Philly this year and really brought our team to another level. He was the most feared player in the MAC this year for good reason, and he got better every week which was even more impressive. His footwork and speed out wide made him a threat to score a try every time he got the ball and he ended up being our leading scorer this season.
7s Coaches Award – Ben Janssen
Ben does all of the little things on the field that go unnoticed but without them you would lose. He was our best defensive player, always played a full 14 minutes per match, and held everyone on the team accountable both on game day and during training. Ben was always one of the first to arrive and last the leave and constantly provided a positive example for his teammates to follow.
7s U-23 MVP – John McCurdy
For two years in a row John has been the heart and soul of the U-23 Academy team. He has exceptional talent which is why he is the MVP, but his ability to lead is even greater. It’s one thing to be able to get the job done yourself, but to show others how to handle their business as well is what helps build a special team. John’s future in this sport is incredibly bright and we are very excited to see where his development takes him.
7s Breakout Player of the Year – Pete Mulville
Peter was a player that we knew had potential but we weren’t sure how he would adapt to bigger and faster competition. We were pleasantly surprised as he exceeded every expectation that we had for him. He didn’t just belong, he began to dominate, towards the end of the season.
Brad Smith’s speech on behalf of Michael Leland
Hazbro embodied what it means to be part of a rugby club. While he wasn’t the best athlete to ever step on the pitch, Haz gave his all when he was out there and his most important contributions were made off the pitch.
Back when we started playing, when dinosaurs still roamed the earth, rugby clubs were formed not just to be competitive and win games, but they were also social clubs for those who were not always accepted elsewhere. A common unspoken theme was, “My drinking team has a rugby problem”. The best thing about rugby in those days was that no matter what your talent level or ability, if you were part of the club, you got a game on Saturdays. Hazbro made sure that people coming into the club knew that, and he showed that no matter who you were in our club, you were a valued and important part of it.
For me personally, Haz quickly became my best friend in rugby after we met during a Second City game in 1987. Despite being opposites in several ways, like he was a big black kid from the city and I was a little white kid from the suburbs, we found that we had a lot of things in common. Neither of us was exactly a perennial A-side selection, but we both loved to play the game, hang out with our teammates, and sing rugby songs in the bar. I’ll never forget rooming with him on the ‘92 tour to England and Wales when he came out of the bedroom of our host’s teenage daughter the morning after an almost all-night post-game drink-up.
Haz was a guy who could talk to anybody about anything without judging, and he made it his business to get to know everyone who came into the club and try to make them feel appreciated. He played a big part in creating and maintaining the sense of family that helped Second City be so successful in the ’90’s. I think his popularity in the club post-merger with Schuylkill is a testament to that, because as I’ve hung around with Schuylkill guys, the word about Haz is always positive.
To me, Haz was a guy who showed that the social side of rugby is just as important to a club as the athletic side. Here’s to fallen brother!
Alex Yankowsky’s speech on behalf of Michael Leland
I met Haz at Temple University in 1986. We both stuck out. A hippie kid and the dude who sang show tunes. Haz was the kind of guy that was inviting to all. If you were a good or bad player, it didn’t matter. It mattered if you liked this new game. He was there to invite you to this great sport for the camaraderie. The friendship, craziness, and fun times were how he was from the day I met him. He always made it a point to show up and join in and I know his teammates saw that quality. Especially if you ever saw him walking out of the distant tree line coming to a game even in another state. He then brought me to Second City Troop which ultimately led me to Schuylkill River and I will always be thankful that he introduced me to the people that I’m friends with today. In turn I was able to introduce him to friends he had for life. I know that Michael would be beyond honored to receive this award, so on behalf of him. Thanks! Love you HAZ
Chris Bailey on behalf of Dave Wixted
Dave Wixted is a man of many nicknames – Dr. Death, Wixy, Wix, Wasted. Most of these nicknames are the result of Dave’s after game propensity for enjoying the nightlife. Dave’s motto was taken from a South African coach we once had who would often say, “Play like you party, pretty freaking hard.” But Dave is more than that. I first came upon Wixted a few decades ago in the early 90”s at LaSalle University. At the time, believe it or not, we had a pretty talented team and Dave and four other guys came out for the team and seemed more interested in perfecting their best Eddie Vetter grunge look instead of playing rugby. They quickly became known as the “Pearl Jam backs”. They were not a large sized imposing group but they played well together and more importantly, they were tough and played hard.
After college, I recruited Dave for Schuylkill. It was not much of a sell as Wixted is as loyal as a puppy dog. Dave would go on to have another 15+ years playing men’s rugby at Schuylkill, and in Chicago and Florida ultimately coming back to Schuylkill, his home base. Every time Dave came back, he would excitedly say, “Bailey, these guys who I played with are soft, they are not bred the same way we are”. Dave always had passion and I reserve this statement for only one other person that I have known, Jay Face Sidell, but I think it applies to Dave as well. Whatever Dave did and whenever I encountered him, he had such life and enthusiasm. On or off the field, there was energy and passion. Whether Dave was chosen to play A or B side, the guy played hard. In my day, Wixted and Mike Metotek were two of the best tacklers that I have come across. Dave, as you can see, is not a big guy. But his tackling was so technical that he often took down men double his size. His low center of gravity allowed him to poach balls in so many key situations. Whenever you started a season, Wixted may not have been your starting Flanker but by the end of the year he was and you did not want to take him out. He never complained, would play both A and B games, if needed, and would never shy away from a Sunday meaningless tournament game after a hard Saturday night out. Dave’s rugby IQ was extremely high. He was always in the right place at the right time. Whether it was scoring a try in a key point in the game, poaching the ball on our defensive goal line or making a tackle on a flyhalf to stop their offensive flow, he was a true asset on the field and a tremendous club guy who never complained about his role.
As we get older, we start losing friends, family, work colleagues and we are left with the memories of those who we have lost. Luckily, after 20 years of playing ball, I still have my brain intact and the games that you all compete in every week become more like films in my mind. I have so many great memories with Dave from college into the men’s club. We won and lost games together and I am lucky enough to still vividly remember his contributions on the field. He is a tremendous friend and tough player, often underrated and underappreciated which is why I am so happy for Dave and am proud to introduce him into our Hall of Fame.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Dave Wixted!
The Narberth Otters won the Frostbite 15s Tournament in Lancaster over the weekend with victories over Unionville, Hempfield, and Chambersburg. Traveling with only 17 players, a few of whom were rookies, meant that Narberth had their work cut out for them on the day.
Things started off with a 20-12 victory over Unionville featuring tries by George, Ifeyan, Nick and Cameron. With a game under their belts the guys started getting the hang of it and won their second match against Hempfield by the score of 15-0. Try scorers for that match were Antonio, Evan and Cameron.
For the final match of the day Chambersburg were down a few players so the Otters agreed to play 10s which allowed them to take advantage of their speed and run in tries from Cameron, Nick, Mason, Nate, George, and Evan. After dealing with ludicrously strong winds throughout the day Nate was able to go 5/6 on drop goals to put the squad at 40 points.
After the tournament I spoke with Head Coach Gabe Gliwa who told me that he was “incredibly surprised and happy with the performance this weekend. To travel up there with so many question marks, so many new players, so much inexperience, and to see within a single game, everyone click and find their rhythm was just awesome. We travelled with only 17 bodies and everyone pushed through a long day to win convincingly in our first two games. To still go the extra mile and give a team struggling for a numbers a friendly game of 10 v 10 even though we had their forfeit made me proud. Seeing the talent we have on the field together has me pumped for the season.”
I also caught up with Captain Cameron who said “we are super excited to have won the tournament for the second year in a row. We had a lot of new players and inexperience in the lineup, but everyone stepped their game up and had fun while winning. Even from the first game into the second the growth and play on the field was measurable. We were thrilled with how well our new players took to the game, specifically Freddy, Antonio, Ryan, and Ifeyan. Additionally, we had some great plays from our sophomores Wyatt, Phil, James, and Henry, and we look forward to having them play for Narberth for two more years. Coach Gabe did a great job preparing us through preseason and leading us on Sunday.”
It’s a good start for the Otters but it’s a long season so let’s hope they’re ready to keep rolling into May!
Tries: Cam (3) George (2) Evan (2) Nick (2) Ifeyan (1) Antonio (1) Mason (1)
Cons: Nate (5)
1. Geoff, you promised to bring me Chegg (Chicken or the Egg) from LBI approximately 6 months ago. Where is my food?
Really your first Chegg experience should not be take-out that takes 2 hours to get to you but I’ll bring some to a practice this Spring. I just want you to experience it in all its glory, so you may have to visit.
2. How many years have you played rugby?
This is my 5th year playing.
3. What other Clubs have you played for?
I played for Vassar College for two years, University of Nottingham for a year, and now two years with Schuylkill River.
4. We’ve previously stated that John “Cat Stevens” Vizzachero is the best dressed man in American rugby. Would you like to advocate on behalf of former menswear blogger Tom Weishaupt for that distinction?
Look as much as I love Tom, and he is an incredibly fashionable man, Cat is the best dressed man not just in American rugby but probably in America outright. I think it is because it’s just harder to find fashionable clothes in Tom’s size so Cat gets the advantage in selection, but really there is no doubt that Cat is and always will be a fashion icon.
5. Who doesn’t know how to spell their name correctly, Jeff Hall or Geoff Matthes?
According to Wikipedia the name Geoffrey is derived from Godfrey, meaning God of Peace. Jeffrey is derived from Geoffrey. In a sense we’re both wrong, but the important point is that he’s much more wrong than I am.
6. What is your proudest rugby moment in your career so far?
My proudest moment is being selected for the University of Nottingham’s Varsity squad at the end of my season in England. It’s an incredible honor and one that surprised myself and most of my teammates, so I feel proud that the coaches had the confidence to select me for the biggest game of the year.
7. What do you hope to accomplish in rugby going forward?
Rugby has been pretty much my biggest passion in life and in addition to playing I enjoy watching and talking about it too. I think at some point in my life I’d like to get involved in refereeing, coaching, and helping the game grow in the States, but for now I am just trying to have fun and play to the highest level I can.
8. You’re coming with us to South Africa in a couple of weeks. What are you most looking forward to on that trip?
I relish the opportunity to soak up different cultures and life experiences so as much as the rugby in South Africa excites me I’m most looking forward to all the great activities off the pitch that I’ll get to experience with my teammates. And Biltong. Definitely Biltong.
9. This isn’t your first international rugby experience, tell us about your time in England.
I was lucky enough to do a Masters program in Oncology at the University of Nottingham and got to play for their university team while there. In my first game there I started at loosehead for the 1st XV against Bath, and got absolutely rocked in the scrum by a 5’9’’ 18 year old. Needless to say, I spent most of the year being a solid 2nd XV starting prop and occasionally cracked into the 1st XV bench. I got to experience teammates that played professionally for Belgium, Scotland U20, Samurai 7’s, and in the Greene King IPA Championship, as well as coaches with years of international experience for England and Wales. It was a great source of information and growth in my understanding of the game.
10. My sources tell me that you used to be a drummer in a band, what was your band’s name and how terrible were you guys?
I played in a showcase with some guys while I was taking lessons but I was never good enough to be in a band. Mostly because all of my musician friends are incredibly gifted and I am really, really bad at drums. I play with enthusiasm not skill.
11. What made you decide to join Schuylkill River?
Well I was recruited by former player and coach Tom Weishaupt because we both went to Vassar College. He talked to me about the club during my senior year when he was at our alumni game. After doing a little research I realized that it was without a doubt the best club in area, so the hour and a half commute is worth it to play at the highest level I can.
12. Now that you’ve been around Philadelphia for a couple of years have you started using the word jawn at all or are we still building up to that?
I actually grew up right over the river in Marlton, New Jersey, so I’ve been familiar with jawn since high school. So much so that I’ve begun mispronouncing my father’s name, John, as Jawn.
13. Are there any official Geoff Matthes cheesesteak recommendations?
Not living in Philly really handicaps me in answering this question but I’ll always be partial to my first ever authentic cheesesteak at Jim’s Steaks.
14. What was your impression of Philadelphia rugby before you joined our Club and do you think that impression has changed at all since you’ve been with us?
My impression of not just rugby but all Philadelphia sports was gritty and hard-nosed. It’s about being angrier than your opponent, working harder, grinding them down. You’d think that would be accentuated in rugby but personally I haven’t felt that way about my experience with Schuylkill. Yes, this team works incredibly hard, but there’s a lot of intelligence and finesse in the way we play against our opponents. I think we’ve got the best of both worlds here.
15. What is on your pre-match playlist?
Lots of pop-punk. Mostly The Wonder Years, A Day to Remember, The Story So Far, and always ending with Four Year Strong – Heroes Get Remembered, Legends Never Die.
16. As a second row/prop you have to do a lot of the dirty work on the field. What sort of mentality do you take onto the pitch with you and what’s your goal heading into each match?
Most people that know me think I’m a teddy bear and that the aggression shown in rugby really does not fit my personality at all. But I view the sport as my outlet so I definitely love the dirty work. I honestly approach each game as if the opposing team is trying to kill me so I can rationalize hitting them harder as self-defense. As for my goal, it’s to make guys regret having to tackle me or being tackled by me.
17. Besides the trip to South Africa what are you most looking forward to this spring season?
After missing most of the fall through injury I really just want to get back on the pitch. Besides that, winning our league matches and making it to nationals would be great.
18. The fact that you can play two tight five positions gives us a lot of flexibility. Which position do you prefer and which do you think plays better to your skill set?
I had never played lock before getting to Schuylkill and I am absolutely loving it. If I worked on my scrummaging more I’m probably better suited for the prop life, simply because I’m not a lineout jumper and that’s absurd for a second row playing at a high level. I just wasn’t meant to leave the ground. It’s why my basketball career never took off.
19. Of all the guys coming with us to South Africa who are you most hoping to avoid having as a roommate?
I’m gonna go with Austin on this one. I’m not a big drinker and that dude knows how to party. I would not be able to keep up. Plus, he’s carrying an injury so he doesn’t have to worry about playing against the locals slowing down his drinking. I’m expecting him to carry a week-long buzz starting the moment we step foot on the plane.
20. You seem to really enjoy watching our second side play and being a strong supporter of our Club from top to bottom. What advantages have you seen in our structure which features two sides in league play and allows everyone to get meaningful minutes?
As I said before I really just enjoy watching rugby in general and it’s even better when you know the guys playing personally. I think the change this year that allows D2 to have the same schedule as D1 and keep our club together on game day is huge for building everyone’s comfort in the system and each other. It’s clearly worked because due to other commitments and injury we’ve missed some incredible players this season and yet a lot of D2 guys slotted right in and kept the quality up. It’s probably creating some selection headaches for the coaches but it’s great for the club as a whole and for guys to know they can play their way into the minutes.
The elite Atlantis 7s program has chosen four Schuylkill River Exiles to compete for their U-23 team at the Las Vegas Invitational this weekend in the men’s Aces division. This division features some of the country’s top programs as well as some international competition. As usual, the Schuylkill guys are homegrown Philadelphia rugby players competing at a high level and you can find former U-23 Academy players in their ranks as well as guys who have represented our Club at Nationals on the premier stage. We are proud to see these guys take the next step in their development as players and participate in big events like this.
The aforementioned players are:
John McCurdy – Malvern Prep, University of Delaware
Paul Diorio – Bishop Shanahan, West Chester University
Cody Bukowski – Nanticoke High School/Wilkes-Barre Breakers, Drexel University
Brian Keown – St. Joe’s Prep, University of South Carolina
You can follow their progress at: https://www.usasevens.com/las-vegas/las-vegas-invitational/