Rugby usually conjures up images of burly men trying to kill each other within the boundaries of a playing field. Even parts of the game's terminology--scrumming, rucking and mauling--sound like criminal offenses.
The newly formed Harvard Women's rugby club is changing the game's masculine image. But only slightly. Though the women don't kick quite so far or hit quite so hard, their enthusiasm for the game equals that of their male counterparts.
"It gets a little rowdy," said club President Ingrid Jacobson. "There hasn't been that much blood yet, but there is that possibility."
The club raised a few eyebrows initially. Social Director Merry Ann Moore's attempt to buy rugby equipment at Brine's Sporting Goods drew a few comments from a salesman. "He said: 'You look pretty frail to be playing rugby,' but I told him that we were starting a new tradition," Moore recalled.
The women's decision to play as a club and not apply for varsity team status has created a laid-back atmosphere and produced a spirit of camraderie. Informal practices are held three times a week, and on Thursdays and at all matches beer flows freely.
"Rugby's a drink-up sport. We're trying to think up some dirty lyrics to sing while we play." Jacobson said.
This casual approach has lured many varsity athletes from other teams, most notably Catherine Ferrante. who made the All-Ivy lacrosse team last spring. And junior Kathy Davis, an All-American high school swimmer, joined the ruggers after putting in two seasons at Blodgett Pool.
"At the first practice, it was sleeting and cold, and we had to go down and stretch in the mud. Afterwards, we all sat around being filthy and drinking beer. I was hooked," the former aquawoman said.
Jacobson, Moore, Ferrante and junior Ann Jones started the club in the fall in conjunction with Quincy House tutor Paul Erickson. A member of the men's rugby club. Erickson enlisted the aid of other members of the men's squad.
An initial meeting in the fall drew over 40 interested women, but according to senior male rugger Roy Roberts, one of Erickson's more active coaches, "about 99 per cent of them had absolutely no knowledge of rugby."
But the situation has improved drastically. Regular practices started in March, and at this point, the women are stellar ruckers, maulers, and tacklers.
When, commitments to the men's club started cutting into Roberts' and Erickson's time, Mindy Ferer, a member of the Beantown Women's Rugby Team--the second ranked team in the country--stepped in to take over the coaching chores.
"Sometimes it still looks like a clump of people blindly chasing a ball," said Moore, but Roberts predicts confidently. "They will be a major force in rugby within a year."
Roberts and his mates on the men's team are enthusiastic about having a sister team. "I think it's great to let the girls get their agressions out," said senior Mark Cooley. But Roberts emphasizes that the two groups should be kept separate, noting that the women might not feel comfortable at some of the men's social events, such as the infamous annual pig roast, which is so crude, "it has to be seen to be believed."
However, Social Director Moore says the women are dreaming up their own debauchery.
The coming weeks will see the club participate in its first inter-collegiate matches. The snow wiped out its first scheduled meet last Saturday, but the squad will play MIT at home Saturday. April 17. Spectators are invited and urged to share in the beer after the match.