Blue Goose Rugby tightens its ship for 2003 |

Blue Goose Rugby tightens its ship for 2003

BRECKENRIDGE – Normally, this time of year is reserved for building fitness and recruiting players for the Gentlemen of the Blue Goose Rugby Club. But if Tuesday’s practice was any indication, this won’t be a normal year for the local rugby club.

Despite having lost their coach of three years, Owen Rutledge, and their club president and most valuable player, Doug Rowe, the Goose is running tighter, more intense preseason practices than it has in years.

“We got really lazy the last couple years, and we’ve been losing games because of it,” said Alex Agre, a 20-year Goose veteran who has taken over preseason practice this spring. “So I’m trying to get everybody focused and organized.”

In lieu of Rutledge and Rowe – transplants from New Zealand and England, respectively – the Goose has turned the reigns over to longtime club members. Agre is running the preseason practices (Tuesday and Thursday evenings at Blue River Elementary School), Peter Shafroth is back as forwards and game-day coach after a hiatus from the club, and former club president Buck Goroski has retaken the presidency this season.

But the club will, like most of its rivals, rely on foreign talent. Englishmen Andrew Hulbert and Nick Bridge will be arriving in June to be player-coaches for the team. The pair – minor league professional players in England – played with the Goose last summer and wanted to return this year as coaches.

“They took over a few practices last year, did really well, and they said, “we see a lot of potential in the Goose, we want to come out and coach you,'” explained Goroski.

Shafroth, a possible future coaching candidate, will run the show from the sidelines on game days when Hulbert and Bridge will be on the field.

“You can’t see what’s happening and what you’re doing wrong if you’re actually playing,” Agre said. “So that’s why (Shafroth) is going to take over on game days.”

The numbers are strong in what was the second week of practice for the Blue Goose. About 20 players ran drills, simulating game situations with tackle dummies and rugby balls, under Agre’s unforgiving watch. Mistakes cost players twenty push-ups and a lap around Blue River Field. Agre and Shafroth combined to keep the session seamless and the players engaged.

It was different from practice under Rutledge, which usually was an exercise in fitness-building. This year, the team is incorporating game-day drills and ball-work early in the season.

“There’s some good, young enthusiasm,” Shafroth said. “We have some new players and some players who played in high school. So I notice a huge change in enthusiasm this year … and I think everyone’s feeling that way.”

Part of the excitement is that the summer schedule starts with five straight home games at Kingdom Park in Breck. The season starts May 31 with the Goose hosting a sevens tournament. The club also will host the Mountain 15’s to close the season Aug. 23. In all, eight of the 12 scheduled tournaments and matches will be played at home, which should increase exposure for the club.

“We’ll have a lot more fans,” Agre said. “Everybody in town will get into it if we’re playing at home.”

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