Sept. 9, 2019 By Shane O’Brien
An Astoria resident established a rugby club in Queens over the summer and has already recruited 35 members.
The club, aptly called Queens Rugby, was formed by Astoria resident Daniel Browne along with Mike Cotto, a long-time member of the New York rugby community. The pair hope to boost the sport’s profile in Queens and serve a growing rugby-playing population.
The 35 members the pair have recruited are largely American born, although Browne is trying to tap into the immigrant community–particularly the Irish– to boost numbers. The sport, founded in England in the 19th century, is popular in Ireland, a nation that is a strong contender to win the upcoming Rugby World Cup.
Browne got word out about the new club through social media, particularly on Reddit and Facebook. He also put up posters in western Queens.
Half the recruits are new to the game and the club is playing in the lowest division in the New York tri-state region.
Browne said his goal was to introduce local people to the game and form a club that is about building camaraderie. The club trains at Queensbridge Park, off Vernon Boulevard.
“It’s lots of fun to still play a contact sport … and then after the game we have a social with the other club at the bar. Basically, we hit each other for 80 minutes and then drink with those same guys,” Browne said.
Browne formed the club after being a member of the New York Rugby Club in Manhattan. He grew tired of the commute to practice–at Pier 40– and wanted something nearby.
In his pursuit to establish the club, he came in contact with Eric Mace, who set up a high school rugby team in Flushing last year, also called Queens Rugby Club.
Browne and Cotto have partnered with Mace to create a pipeline of local rugby talent and they hope to get as many middle and high school rugby players to continue playing with the senior team.
The new club is getting some funding from a Long Island City resident who owns the professional team Rugby United New York. The donor, James Kennedy, has paid for the club’s jerseys and training equipment.
The club played its first ever competitive match on Saturday against Fairfield Yankees in Division 4 of the Empire Geographical Union (GU) leagues. Empire GU is the governing body for over 100 rugby clubs in New York State.
The fourth division has been recently created for new clubs and developmental sides consisting of players new to the sport.
Queens Rugby Club trains every Tuesday and Thursday at Queensbridge Park at 7 p.m. and will play most of its matches on Randall’s Island, which is the home of rugby matches in New York City.
However, Browne said that the club is exploring other playing venues such as McCarren Park and Flushing Meadows. He said that it has proved difficult to find a field big enough to meet the league’s requirements.
For more information on how to get involved with Queens Rugby contact [email protected].