The Mendocino Steam Donkeys rugby

The Mendocino Steam Donkeys rugby

By Jonathon Dewey

Special for the Daily Journal

Rugby is played all around the world and is popular everywhere including Mendocino County. In 2005 the Mendocino Steam Donkeys Rugby club was founded by Liam Kidd. The first practice only had eight players but the team has been growing ever since.

The Mendocino County Rugby club is based in Ukiah but has seen players from all of Mendocino County including Ft. Bragg, Laytonville, Boonville, Willits, Hopland, and Covelo according to Kidd. The club has also seen players from all around the world. The current coach Steve Richards is from England and player Mike Winter is from Australia just to mention a few. The club has played all over Mendocino County playing games at Potter Valley High School, Eagle Peak Middle School, Ukiah High School and Pomolita Middle school.

The team has improved each and every year of its existence. The first couple of years were growing years for the club which set a good foundation for the future. Most of the players from those teams were rookies to rugby and have developed with the help of the original veterans to become veterans as well. In the last few years the club has seen an influx of young talent and is now a competitive side, coming just one game short of the playoffs during the last season. Last year the club featured players like Manny Griego from Willits, Luke Kuhns from Willits, Justin Carson from Ukiah, and Jason Paige from Ukiah just to name a few.

Most of those who have played for the Steam Donkeys started with no knowledge of rugby and had to learn certain basic rules. Forward passes are not allowed and the fifteen players per team on the field are playing both offense and defense (and must alternate between the two within seconds). Each game is comprised of two 40 minute halves with very little stoppage of play. It makes for a very exciting and physically rewarding experience for the team and an entertaining afternoon for spectators.

The Steam Donkeys play between 9 and 11 regular season games a year in Division Three Men’s Club Rugby. They travel all around Northern California, from Humboldt County and Redding to Santa Cruz. They also travel to Reno to play games. The club also participates in tournaments throughout the year going to Dunsmuir (near Shasta), Reno, Redding, Colusa County, and have even hosted their own tournament in Willits this summer. The tournament was a huge success and was a great time for everyone who attended.

The Steam Donkeys officially began preseason training in mid-September and look to have another great season that starts in January. The club is sponsored by a variety of local business, Ukiah Valley Medical Center and DBI industries to name a few. We are always looking for new sponsors and players.

For those of you looking for a new sport, rugby could be for you! Rugby is an excellent way to have fun and stay competitive at the same time. The Steam Donkeys don’t require any prior experience and will take anybody willing to play and work hard. If you are interested it is never too late– contact the club at 707-841-0462 or search “Mendocino Rugby Club” on Facebook and click the like button.

The Steam Donkeys are a growing part of our community and would like to expand so anyone with or without experience in rugby come out and give it a go.