Skill Rugby Tours Turks and Caicos
Skill Rugby goes on an international tour every two years. Following our 2016 tour to Ireland and our 2018 tour to South Africa we went to Turks and Caicos in 2020. While it’s generally true that what happens on tour stays on tour we were able to trade notes with Brian Taylor (BT) and Austin Lucas (AL) to declassify some information and tell us a bit about the trip.
When did you fly in and how long were you there?
BT: We flew into Turks and Caicos (T&C) around 10:00 am on Friday (Feb 28th) morning. The gang carpooled on the way up to JFK. We had the target goal to leave Philly at 6:00 am however that got delayed due to Austin being extremely hungover and waking up late. Joe Lee also had to do his hair so that delayed our journey even more. Due to are lateness, Austin averaged around 95mph on 95 on the way to JFK. I feared for my life but we ended up making it to the parking lot where we were happily greeted by our fellow teammates to take the shuttle to the airport. The lines were crazy getting through security but once we cleared, we all met up for a couple of pints at the finest pub JFK offers and waited till the last second to board our flight.
Unbeknownst to everyone but me, my passport was scheduled to expire on March 3rd and our return flight was scheduled for March 2nd. Luckily, upon arrival at customs, Joe Midwig and I smooth-talked their TSA agent who was a vibrant and flirty T&C native and she did not give my passport expiration date a second look. I cleared customs and embarked on my first tour with Schuylkill in a foreign land.
AL: I agree with Brian about my flawless driving skills. COVID was just beginning to become a topic regarding flying and some already had masks as we waited forever to get thru security. Once in T&C they even had us declare on forms what exposure we may have had. Our return flight home was improved as we got to start it off with Round 2 of Kangaroo Court earlier on the beach. We essentially had to manipulate half of the tour to take the 1st van back, thereby allowing some of us those precious extra 45 minutes.
What were the accommodations like and what was the highlight?
BT: The accommodations were a bit tight but could not complain. We had 3 units right next to one another on the corner of the hotel property that faced inward to a pool. Since Carlo did not have a bed to share with his lady friend, he haggled with someone that owned an additional unit on the property and they got to stay in a whole unit by themselves. I got to share a couch bed with Cat Stevens and we both learned that we like to watch Netflix to fall asleep so we bonded over the Formula 1 racing series before falling into a deep drunken slumber
AL: The accommodations were quite ideal for us as a rugby tour. We stayed at the Island Club in “villas” rather than small rooms so we were able to stack 6 of us in with multiple bathrooms, a living area, and nice kitchen. We had three of these villas in a row so we all could easily congregate and hang out on our patios when the night was coming to a close. We had a solid pool within 10 ft that we thoroughly made our own and plenty of mini-iguanas running around to entertain us. The Island Club helped greatly in arranging accommodations that fit our particular needs. I think they would love to have us again.
What did everyone do on Friday? [Hang by the pool, team dinner etc]
BT: Once we arrived, we made our way to stock up on booze that was very expensive compared to prices in the U.S. We talked to locals, and they stated that is because there are no taxes in T&C so there is more money left in the resident’s pockets to purchase groceries and booze. Also, it’s an island in the Caribbean so this factored into the upcharge of alcoholic beverages. We hung out by the pool and got comfortable and once it was time, we got ready for our fancy dinner and all dressed up in our tour-issued Hawaiian shirts. Since we needed to take two different vans to the restaurant, the first group was tasked with ordering the appetizers which I took it upon myself to champion. It had to be light on the seafood because some members of the group, specifically Austin, do not enjoy food from the sea.
We had an extremely large budget for the dinner, so we spared no expense letting the cocktails and delicious food flow. The other patrons at the restaurant looked over curiously at our large group with a lot of questions about what we were doing on the island. “Is this a bachelor party?” “No,” we responded. “We are here to play Rugby,” we replied with Pride.
After dinner wrapped up, we went back to the accommodation where some people passed out, specifically Austin, and the rest hit the downtown to explore the bars and local nightlife. We were well situated near some happening spots and most of the crew danced the night away until closing time. Some people ended up on the beach but that is a story for a different day.
AL: I cannot differ from or deny Brian’s account of what happened.
Saturday was match day. Did you guys do anything before the match? What was the level of competition like and what were some highlights?
BT: Saturday morning, most of us went over to a nice breakfast spot across the street and quenched our thirst with some hair of the dog and a bit of water. After breakfast, we hung out in the sun until it was time to tour Turk’s Head Brewery. After our tour we got to sample all of the beers they make which are all named after local sayings and expressions such as I-Soon-Reach which in T&C means that you’ll be there soon but won’t really be there soon. You’ll get there when you get there is pretty much the gist of the expression. We bought tons of cases of beer from the brewery since it was much cheaper than the supermarket. Unfortunately what we thought was a lot ended up running out before Sunday began. After the brewery tour, we got back to the accommodation and had 45 minutes to relax before it was time to get ready to walk over to the pitch which was a 15 minute walk. The pitch had lovely grass and was in the middle of a bunch of vacant land on the island. Apparently it was built all from the funds of one rich dude from Canada who is the president of the club there.
The highlight for me was our approach to the pitch. We appeared in a narrow clearing out of nowhere all in our tour Hawaiian shirts blasting dreams and nightmares by Meek Mill on our highly powered portable speaker. It must have been super intimidating to the opposing team who watched in awe and terror as we approached the entrance to the field. The Turks team was extremely athletic with tons of speed. While they did not have tons of Rugby experience, their speed in the forwards and backs alike gave them an advantage over a not fully sober Schuylkill squad. The match was even in the first half as our forward physicality allowed us to be successful.
As we began to tire in the second half, their rotating subs and speed became too much for us to overcome. The 3rd half was great as they had a big barbecue right next to the pitch which had a clubhouse on it with tons of great local food. After chatting with them, we learned that their fullback is actually a sprinter for their Olympic team and their 8 man who was man of the match for them was a sprinter at LSU.
Another highlight was all of the people that showed up. You would think that they were all locals but I would estimate that roughly half of the crowd there was in attendance due to our promotion of the event on Friday after talking to all of the vacationing people that we met out. This was mainly due to Joe Lee telling every person that we came in contact with that we were playing a match and much to our surprise a lot of people showed up to watch. We hung out on the pitch for an hour or so and then walked back to the accommodation to get ready for another night on the town. It was also Becca’s birthday so we got a cake and candles for her from the supermarket and all celebrated together.
AL: Tiny spent his entire day fighting his crusade that we should not have scheduled any rugby on our rugby tour. Once we all enjoyed the Brewery Tour and began to walk to the pitch, a majority of the Club felt he was wise for his position. An ideal rugby tour to T&C should be dedicated entirely to Friendship.
Sunday was hanging out at the beach. How was that?
BT: Sunday was great having the match behind us so we could wind down and truly get after it all day. We took vans to a beach spot that had a restaurant right next to it. We noticed a cool gazebo-like structure that was reserved for people getting massages but we did not see anyone using it so we took it for ourselves. We hung there pretty much all day. There was a fishing dock which was a nice height above the water level which made it fun jump from the dock to the ocean. Every 15 minutes or so, Austin or Glatts would lead a charge of players down the dock to jump in the ocean together. It was quite the scene. There was also a lot of sand wrestling which occupied the time. Some of the Turk’s players met up with us and hung out at the beach. Two players, Davidson and Levardo, hung with us the whole time. They also drove us all back to the hotel and helped us source relatively-cheap booze for the kangaroo court. They chilled with us until kangaroo court was over and I’m pretty sure Davidson slept on one of the couches in one of our units.
AL: Prior to our get-together at the beach bar recommended by the T&C rugby club, a few of us went on a snorkeling adventure at a nearby resort. The water is incredible in T&C and you can see so many shades of blue as you look out. We were allowed to get near the reef but had to keep our distance due to conservation efforts. Still, we swam right through schools of various fish and even were within arm’s reach of majestic turtles. Truly Incredible.
What was Monday like?
BT: We had a hard check out time at 11:00am. Due to late-night activities during the early morning from kangaroo court, the owner of the establishment was less than pleased with us. However, we did our best to clean up and headed over to our breakfast place where we were now local celebrities due to our fame gained on the dance floor at the local establishments. As we checked out, it was nice to hear from the owner’s wife that she was happy with how clean we left the place and stated that we were actually one of the best-behaved rugby teams that have come through. She allowed us to store our big luggage there and then we proceeded to hit the beach. We landed right next to the ritz or some fancy hotel that had beach equipment laid out on the sand in front of their establishment. We commandeered this for a bit until we were asked to move because these chairs and umbrellas were reserved for guests of the hotel only. We hung out on the beach as long as we could and then caught a van ride to the airport and flew back to JFK.
Brian – This was your first tour with Schuylkill. What are your thoughts and what are you looking forward to for the next one in 2022?
BT: I have nothing but positive things to say about the tour. While it was my first with Schuylkill, I’ve gone on several tours with my team in Madrid in the past and this one ranks high up there with them. Austin, Joe, and Izak did a great job of organizing everything and it was nice to just throw them my money and have everything pretty much sorted. It was awesome to get to know some of the players on the team a bit better and also meet some new people for the first time. I’ll certainly be back for more tours to come; especially any that take place on islands :)
Austin – this makes 3 tours with Schuylkill for you. How do you feel that traveling with your teammates has helped build Club culture and what do you most look forward to on tour?
AL: Every International Tour includes the wildest mix of players. Ages, positions, maturity, depravity – the entire gamut is represented. The fastest ways to bond with your teammates is either bleeding next to them or travelling with them and these tours give you both. Our tradition of touring also helps build the credibility of our Club and recruiting fodder. When we travel to these countries, the locals are always so intrigued and supportive of everyone playing the game. Skill Rugby leaves an impact when they travel.
I look forward to the chance of these tours. I might never get a reason to travel to South Africa, but rugby and this club gave that, and I took advantage of it and will always cherish the memories. I now have three different countries under my belt that I likely wouldn’t have had otherwise. I cannot wait to choose what’s next and I hope they keep getting wilder, more unique. When you return from a tour, you always feel closer to those that went with you and you feel bonded and like you are part of a unique bunch on a club that is already overflowing with unique guys.