Roots & All is a project where we pick a few teams that don’t normally make the spotlight week in week out and feature them regularly throughout an entire campaign. Last season we had an “international representative” in the project in the form of Cannock RUFC from Staffordshire in England. This year, joining our three Irish teams Claremorris RFC, Naas RFC and Queen’s University Belfast RFC, we have a club that can be found a little bit more in the westerly direction…
My History of San Francisco Golden Gate Rugby by Sharon Lovell
The San Francisco Golden Gate Rugby Club (SFGG RUGBY) was formed in 2001 through the merger of two Northern California clubs, San Francisco RFC and the Golden Gate Rugby Club. SFGG RUGBY was formed with the intent of creating one of the strongest clubs in the country, and through the course of our short history, we have already accomplished that.
SFGG Rugby competes in the Elite Cup that embarks on the maiden season in the spring of 2013. Formerly, SFGG Rugby competed in the Rugby Super League, America’s premier division of rugby union. In the eleven seasons since SFGG was formed, we have never missed the RSL postseason. We have seen two Rugby Super League titles in the years 2009 and 2011 under the coaching of former SFGG Rugby Director Paul Keeler.
SFGG Rugby currently plays host to the Emirates Airlines USA Rugby Club Championship 7s tournament held annually the first weekend in August.
In addition to excellent results on the field, SFGG RUGBY is proud of its record of incubating players for the USA National team. Numerous past and present USA Eagles have played at SFGG. Rugby World Cup 2011 saw Chris Biller play for the USA Rugby Team in New Zealand. Most recently, SFGG RUGBY has seen Samu Manoa embark on a contract with Premiership Rugby team – the Northampton Saints. Samu also earned Man of the Match honours in the Heineken Cup game against Munster in 2012 where he went head to head with legend Paul O’Connor. Impressively, SFGG RUGBY players Danny LaPrevotte earned his first cap in November 2011 with the USA Eagles 15s a side. Equally as important is the rise of USA Rugby 7s players such a Mile Pulu, and Folau Nuia. In 2007, Thretton Palamo and Tasi Mounga appeared for an impressive USA Team at the Rugby World Cup in France.
Past international players include Jone Naqica, Shawn Pittman, Saimone Laulaupeeaulu, Mose Timoteo, Shaun Paga, Mike McDonald, Matt Sherman, Pat Guire, Britt Howard, Robbie Flynn, Paul Jennings, Jay Wilkerson, Grant Wells, Karl Thomson, Mark Scharrenberg, Paul Still, Steve O’Boyle, Aaron Satchwell, Olo Fifita, Sam Vaca and Jay Hanson.
Our reputation and club strength also drew Wallaby World Cup champion Tony Daly, who captained our 2003 RSL team. He is the most capped foreign national who has come to play in the United States.
November 2005 marked the beginning of a new chapter in SFGG RUGBY history with the opening of our dedicated field-side clubhouse and new pitch. With these in place, SFGG RUGBY now has some of the finest rugby facilities in America. These facilities are shared by our Elite Cup team, D1 Team, Developmental, and Youth Squads.
Spring 2012 saw our pitch rededicated and renamed for Ray Sheeran Field for a fine club supporter who fought hard for our current site and pitch. Ray was also a proponent of youth rugby and a great many a player owe their rugby career to his hard work and dedication to SFGG Rugby.
August 2012 saw Bruce Thomas take the helm as Club Director.
THE SAN FRANCISCO RUGBY CLUB
“Onward through the Fog”
In 1969, Rugby Magazine nominated San Francisco RFC as the Number One Team in the USA (equivalent to what is now the National Championship). City also won the Aspen Tournament, which remains one of the premier tournaments in the USA (now known as the Aspen Ruggerfest).
In the ’70s, the club fielded five teams on a regular basis and made several overseas tours, which included England and Wales, New Zealand, Hong Kong and the Orient. City was a regular participant in the Monterey Rugby Tournament and the Golden Gate Tournament, which City founded in 1970 to celebrate the Centenary of Golden Gate Park.
The ’80s brought an increasing percentage of US-born players into the club, reflecting the increasing popularity of the game in the country. The club’s strong support of youth rugby programs also contributed greatly to this trend. At one time, San Francisco RFC was providing coaches to seven different high schools in the Bay Area.
‘City’ continued to play excellent rugby throughout the ’90s as a mainstay of Northern California 1st Division rugby. A number of key SFGG players were a part of City in this era, including current former Norcal Squad captain Mike Walker, Toby Jackson, Johnny Mitchell and Brendan ‘Boody’ Dobel.
THE GOLDEN GATE RUGBY CLUB
“Defenders of the Golden Gate”
The Golden Gate Rugby Club was formed in 1988 through the merger of two Division II clubs, the Castaways and Barbary Coast. The two teams merged in a bid to enter Division I, and quite quickly became a powerhouse in national rugby circles. Several founding members of Golden Gate are still heavily involved with SFGG RUGBY , including Greg Rocca, Greg Schmidt (both on the Board of Directors), Mike Roddy (owns the sponsoring pub LaRocca’s Corner) and Jon Spear (who still plays!).
The club was a regular participant in playoffs and finals for the Pacific Coast championship through the ’90s. In 1996, the club made it to the “Final Four” of the USA National Club Championships in Chicago. In 1999 and 2000, Golden Gate made it to the National Final Four, reaching the championship game in 1999. High profile players in this era include the USA’s most capped center, Mark Scharrenberg, powerhouse flanker Olo Fifita, and USA players Britt Howard and Steve O’Boyle. Former players Grant Wells, Karl Thomson, and Robbie Flynn were also important components in the late ’90s squads.
Golden Gate was also a founding member of the Rugby Super League in 1996. In order to develop the game and make it more appealing to spectators, Golden Gate made a rugby field out of San Francisco’s Boxer Soccer Stadium. It remains the home field for SFGG RUGBY ’s RSL games, and has hosted the USA Eagles and Collegiate National Championships numerous times. We also hosted the 2003 RSL Grand Final at Balboa Park (the informal name of Boxer Stadium).
We’ll learn more about SFGG in a fortnight…next week on Roots&All, updates from Claremorris & Naas.