2008-09-26 / Sports

New Fisheads Spark Rockaway Second Half Comeback Victory

By Alan Shaw

Haden Kose tackles opposing flanker. Haden Kose tackles opposing flanker. The Rockaway Fisheads have a new look this season.

The youth program has finally paid off some dividends. Several years ago, the rugby club invited some high school student athletes to play along side the men's rugby club in hopes of seeing them in the future - once they graduated college.

Well they graduated, returned to Rockaway and brought a few friends with them. The core of the Rockaway Rugby Club is no longer old guys. New players have emerged!

Flashback: Four years ago, West Virginia University bound students Tommy French and Kris Callaghan asked the club to "hold on" for 4 more years.

"We along with our other [rugby] friends will be back and we'll give the Fisheads the players they've been looking for", promised young ruggers French and Callaghan.

So the veteran Fisheads said, "yeah right ... OK ... another 12oz lie"... meaning: "I'll believe it, when I see it".

The rugby club continued their playoff appearance record of an unprecedented seven consecutive years and finishing undefeated last year winning the league with a 5-0-1 record.

2004 Rockaway Old Boys vs. Young Guys Game 2004 Rockaway Old Boys vs. Young Guys Game But over the past few seasons, the Rockaway Rugby Club was known for fielding a very experienced (old & slow) over 40-year-old team and time has taken a toll on the veterans. "Youth and vigor" was now winning over "Age and Treachery".

Family, work and other commitments have filled the schedules of most senior members and new blood was needed and needed fast.

Four years have past and the college ruggers have returned and lived up to their promise. The Rockaway Rugby team has now become the youngest team in the league.

Veteran Andy Israel remarked, "not only are we young, the talent level has increased dramatically. No longer a "forward - mauling game", now it's a "backs" game with a solid forward presence".

"There are veterans who still won't hang up their cleats. As the old saying goes ... "be careful what you wish for, it might come true ...", Israel also said.

So, two weeks ago, vet Jim "Kermit" Egan rode the bench to make room for Danny Lunny at Scrumhalf. TJ Mahoney replaced the departed Mike the Russian. John "Grouch" McCann ended his 25-year streak as a starter to give Fitz a spot on the A side.

Trevor Tubridy was named player/ administrator. Brendan Lunny pushed Tyrone Sperling to Wing. Captain Brian Ward moved to Wing to give Tommy Burns a shot at Flyhalf. Next week, Tim Kelly just might see the 2 young props, Robert Palmer and Steve Werner, who have been waiting patiently, get their shot.

The start of the Fall 2008 season had its growing pains. Rockaway lost both home games to Morris and Montauk rugby clubs to start the season. Bayonne was next and last Saturday it looked like the young Rockaway team was going to be handed another rugby defeat. But things finally came together and Rockaway won their first game of the season in dramatic fashion with

37-25 victory.

The match started well for the Fisheads with Rockaway's Tommy French scoring in the first minute off a pass from Tommy Burns. Then Bayonne scored 25 unanswered points. Bayonne Bombers took advantage of early mistakes and a blinding sun.

The Fisheads headed into the half down 25-5.

The Fisheads' strategy had to changed, getting the ball to the wing and keeping ball possession were the keys to getting back in the game. Kiwi import, Haden Kose, in Rockaway for his second tour, put on a tackling show and ran through back lines which were unseen in the first half.

Haden's play set the pace from the second half kick-off until the final whistle. Flanker & center, Bryan & Tom Ambury finally got the ball in their hands and gaining excellent field position in also running through the Bayonne back line.

Jamie Prosser tied the game with great support up the middle, getting a pass from a tackled John McCann. Andrew Palmer went toe to toe with Bayonne's 6'8 second rower in the lineouts.

Tommy French added two more trys down the sideline. Tyrone Sperling had a nice pop kick and grab past a defending fullback only to run out of gas before he could find center-post. Rockaway seemed to get it together and became more relaxed with their new young teammates.

Club spokesperson, Pat Ward said it best, "we're new to each other and it's only a matter of time before everyone knows who they're playing with, so practice is crucial - get to practice young guys. And old guys, move over......"

Overheard on the sideline: Bayonne player to another Bayonne player, "This game is ours ..."

Ron Kemly asking Bob Johnson to revoke his Rockaway CIPP status so he can play for Lansdowne RFC because he didn't get selected to play A side.

Hey Ronny, maybe show up to practice first. For fear of losing his presidential position on the club, Bob Johnson was heard promising beer, tacos and midgets for everyone if elected to a 15th term.

John McCann was overheard asking the selection committee to play him opposite of Ronnie Kemly in the season finale against Lansdowne. Congrats to the new couple Jim and Colleen Brady. Brother Pat Brady mentioned, "There is a pre-nuptial agreement in place that allows Jimmy to surf and play rugby whenever Colleen says so". Good knowing you, Jim.

Scotty Blutstein missed last week's game so he can have his Old Blue tattoo removed from his upper back. Has anyone seen Mr. Dever"?

Jimmy James announced he has hit 325 pound mark passing Bill Kelly as the largest Fishead ever.

Seen on the sidelines: Oakie O'Connor was seen showing a new guy his patented "clothesline tackle - oops I'm sorry" routine. Grouch McCann was seen finally getting crushed by defending wing, when he didn't sell his fake pass. Phil "Shrek" Tufano is playing a new position- cheerleader. Barry Cowhead arriving to the game with a 1 day pass from his retirement home. Wayne "Visa" Sutcliffe gave Rockaway a full game last Saturday after Bob Johnson accidentally called him Nealon.

Rockaway Rugby's next home games at Fort Tilden will be October 25 vs. Village Lions RFC and Nov. 1st vs. Lansdowne RFC, so mark your calendar.

Come out and listen to the old guys reliving their glory days on the sideline.

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