The Montclair State club rugby team celebrated their ninth annual alumni games on Saturday, April 22 at Brookfield Park in Bloomfield, N.J. This year it was a special celebration for the men’s team’s 20th anniversary since its establishment in 1997. The rugby program also awarded its fourth annual scholarship to one of the rugby players from either the men’s or women’s team.
It was a chilly spring day with some drizzle falling from the skies, but perfect for some rugby. Former players from both the women’s and men’s teams came to the park to once again play the sport which allowed them to represent Montclair State on multiple occasions in the past. There were players from the original 1997 team and the 2016 team. Both alumni teams faced off against the current Montclair State squads.
Old friends and families reacquainted and had a good time, but they also got to see the progress of the programs and the sport itself. For former player Brian Cross, it was a special moment. Cross lives down in North Carolina and can’t make it to the alumni game every year like other players.
“Coming back to play in the alumni game for me was a terrific experience,” Cross said. “I hadn’t played in the alumni game since the semester after I graduated.”
Cross was even awarded the Prop of the Decade award for his time on the team during the past decade. A prop is one of the forwards on the team.
“I was humbled and honored to have been nominated for Prop of the Decade much less receive the award,” he said. “There were a lot of great nominees who did a ton for the team over the years. I share this award with them, as every one of us who put on that jersey put as much into this team as I did.”
Cross will always cherish his time with the team and realized even till this day the team continues to offer and signify what it meant to him in the past.
“Coming back to see how many other guys found a home and community in the team as I did when I was a student at Montclair [State] was really comforting,” Cross said. “To have seen the team evolve over the years has been incredible.”
The men’s team wasn’t the only team that evolved. The women’s rugby squad will be entering its fourth season this fall, and since their commencement there’s been much excitement.
“People come to the alumni games to watch the growth of the program, see the current student athletes, and to see the beginnings of the women’s team,” director and coach of Montclair State Rugby Daniel Marain said.
Another addition to the alumni games has been the Monte scholarship award presented to one player from the entire rugby program. The $500 scholarship is in honor of former Montclair State rugby player Robert Montecallo. He was a member of the original rugby team formed in 1977. The following year the team was taken off campus and did not return until the fall of 1997 under the name Montclair State Revelers. Montecallo passed away from a heart attack at mountainside Hospital right after an alumni match approximately four years ago.
This year’s recipient was men’s rugby player, junior Harrison Browne. Given the rising costs in college expenses, coupled with the struggles of being a student athlete, the Montclair State rugby program believes a scholarship is a perfect way to give back to their committed team players. The money was collected from alumni, friends and families through fundraisers.
“The students at Montclair State that come to our program, work, go to school and play rugby,” Marain said. “Montclair State doesn’t give out free rides, so this is a way of rewarding our student athletes who have put in time in their studies and the game.”
Browne is extremely grateful and believes any amount of money can be of help to aid him in paying for his studies.
“Receiving the award is definitely an honor,” said Browne. “I pride myself on being able to juggle schoolwork and my various extracurricular activities, so being recognized for that is something I truly appreciate.”
Rugby is becoming more and more popular in the United States. New people are taking notice and realizing it’s more than what meets the eye.
“Rugby is a sport that’s known as a gentlemen sport, when one watches the game, it seems very violent, because of the tenacity,” said Marain. “It’s an aggressive game, but there’s a lot of camaraderie, discipline and respect for the ref and community.”
In the program’s 20th anniversary, the present and past is celebrated as excitement also builds up for what the next 20 years and beyond will bring to Montclair State Rugby.