The celebration of 40 years of Morris Rugby began with a New Year’s Eve party at the Dover Moose and culminated this Saturday Down on the Dirty Boulevard of Broken Dreams at the Mountain Lakes Club. (for those of you keeping track at home, that was Jackson Brown, Lou Reed and Green Day all referenced there and no doubt referring to the toney NJ suburb and also musically spanning the same time period)
Big Al began the festivities with the introduction of the Pride of Denville, NJ and Morris Rugby, our own Lady Eagle, Tess Feury. After getting her first Cap this year at the Women’s Rugby World Cup, we were all grateful to have her break training to spend some time with us. Congratulations Tessie, we are all proud of you!!
Next up was the Ambassador of Castleisland, Ireland to the United States, Seamus Brosnan. A unique and integral part of the Morris Rugby tradition is the Very Extra Special, Once In a Lifetime, Never to be Repeated, tour to Ireland. Now entering the 6th tour, Seamus has coordinated these tours, mixing craic with the extended Brosnan clan, a match between Morris and Castleisland, and along with, of course, a Munster Rugby game. From the Captain of the Castleisland side, Seamus presented John Sutherland and Mike Ryan with the prestigious Arthur J. Guinness award. John received it for his outstanding and meritorious play on the pitch. Mike? Well, he holds the record for purchasing 17 pints of Guinness at one time. Some of them he even shared with the other patrons.
The keynote speaker for the evening was Joe McGrath. In his spare time from being the CEO of Unisys, he was one of the founding members of Morris Rugby. The Men’s Team was formed in 1977 and many original members were there and in fine fettle. The Women’s team began in 1992 and was represented by none other than the Mayor of Life, Lil Rimac. The youth program began in 1999. Joe passed on some of his favorite memories of the first years, of the players, of the bars we got thrown out of, of that memorable Halloween match where …. NO-NO-NO!!! MyMy had jumped to his feet and was prepared to bum-rush the floor and forcibly remove the mic from Joe’s hands.
The party brought out players we have not seen in ages. Jerry “Fatman” Francisco was there, last seen on the Argentina tour. He was there along with his date, Rick “Murdock” Merrill. Over the past few years, Sasquatch has been sighted more frequently than those 2. My old roomie from the 2015 World Cup Tour, Doc Steve was there. An interesting anecdote from that tour. No, not that Steve did not wish anyone to take a dookie in his room’s toilet. No, it was that in the course of 2 weeks, rugby brought together 3 of the world’s premier spinal surgeons in one place at one time.
Jake Feury stepped forward to introduce the team awards for outstanding service. The young lad clearly likes the spotlight and shows potential, although he will be hard-pressed to surpass his father’s version of “The 7 Days of Rugby” that we heard in Wales in 2007. Before yielding to the individual presenters, he took the time to note that Emily Laura of the Women’s Club hits harder than his brother. I thought this was quite harsh. I mean, Blaze is not slowed down by that massive tangled mane of hair, so he will get to the breakdown quicker than Jake and thus by sheer magnitude of opportunities, may miss a tackle or 2. (of course, me questioning anyone’s tackling abilities borders on heresy, but that topic will remain for another day).
Ross Coccheo would step forward to present the Men’s Club award to Bill Dobbs. Under Bill’s steadfast guidance, the Club would advance to the #5 ranked D2 team. Bill, ever the shy, reluctant type, did not take the stage. He did stand at his table to accept the presentation. . . I think … who could tell?
Following on Jake’s introduction, Emily would take the stage and grab Jake by his longhairs and fling him on top of the nearest chandelier, inducing a knowing smile from Blaze. She would then calmly take the mic and pronounce the Women’s team winner as Kelsi Bitgood. Clearly a popular choice, she was engulfed by her teammates as she returned to the table.
Chris Walsh and I were introduced to present the Masters award. The nomination process took only slightly less time than the 2016 Presidential election cycle, but in the end was given to Allan “Big Al” Grace. Although he does not play as frequently as he used to, Al is a key member in maintaining the social aspect of the game, from coordinating events such as the New Year’s Party and the 40th Anniversary gala, to serving as a chef for all clubs, to acting as technical advisor to the Dover Moose on their kitchen renovation. Al is always ready and willing to assist.
At this point, we went off script. MOBPACAS (Morris Olde Boys Port And Cigar Appreciation Society) serves as the off-season training for many Morris veterans. In recognition, Andy Steinberg presented an award to one of it’s founding members, Phil “S@$t-head” Stumpf. As Phil was not there to personally accept the award, brother Petey stepped forward in his stead. After taking the stage, he immediately had second thoughts about accepting. The award was a hat in the shape of a long, coiled piece of excrement. The only things missing to add to the authenticity were the hot steam and a lung clogging odor.
Safely back on script, John “Big Toe” Sutherland would take centerstage for the Morris Rugby Lifetime achievement award. The award winner was not a player, but a person who has strived to increase the safety of the game, as well as to increase its popularity and acceptance at a grass roots level. Her biological children now grown, she has embraced the rugby culture as her extended family, and works tirelessly to serve as a rugby advocate and ambassador. The well-deserved lifetime achievement award was presented to the President of NJ Rugby, KJ Feury.
With the awards done and victuals eaten, it was time to turn over the dance floor to the Brass Roots until the Mountain Lakes Club booted us out the door.
Our thanks and gratitude to Mark Miller, Big Al, and the team of volunteers that put this shindig together. It was a blast and I cannot wait for the 50th!!