Thursday, May 28, 2015

Reports of Rovers' Demise A Bit Exaggerated

As Cleveland is set to give rise to a premier side on the shores of Lake Erie, a group of players is trying to keep a part of the city's rugby history alive. A contingency of the rugby community plans to play under the banner of the Cleveland Rovers in the 2016-2016 season and field a new U-21 contingency to compete on a collegiate level.
Cleveland Rovers logo

According to a release sent by Dale Linville, the men's team will compete in Division III in an effort to continue the Rovers' 37-year tradition of competition in Cleveland. Linville will act as Head Coach of this team as they strive to compete, improve and replenish their numbers.

"We strive to continue playing smart rugby, working on our structures and perfecting our defense," he said. "I don’t see the level of our play dropping in any way, as long as we continue to dedicate ourselves to being the best we can be."

The Rovers competed in Division III a few years back, and the landscape hasn't changed much, though the personnel on the teams might have. In-state competitors, Akron, are still entrenched in the DIII scene, while Erie and the Highlanders are waiting to welcome the Rovers back along with a pair of other Pennsylvania-based sides. The main difference this time around is that the Highlanders were at the top of the table at the end of the most recent season with Erie five points behind them. It will be interesting to see how the new-look Rovers will be able to compete in the season to come.

The men's efforts on the senior stage will be supplemented by the addition of the U-21 side. This newly-minted side will compete in the NSCRO Division and will face off against teams like Cleveland State University, John Carroll University and Ohio Wesleyan, to name a few.  In Ohio alone there are 14 teams, so this new side will have no shortage of competition to choose from, a fact that plays directly into its intended purpose: "giving graduating high school seniors in Northeast Ohio a place to play if their universities currently do not have a team."
List of Ohio-based teams in NSCRO for 2015.

The Rovers have entrenched themselves throughout the Northeast Ohio rugby scene, with former players at the helm of some of the top teams in the region. They plan to use those connections to jump-start this new U-21 team and make it strong, and in the process create strong players to move into the lineup for the senior club.

"Utilizing this network currently involved in coaching high school and collegiate teams, the creation of an Under-21 side developed as a way for the Rovers to continue to strengthen the foundations of the club," Linville said.

The face is that the Rovers are sticking around'albeit in a different form, and with the addition of their U-21  component, it appears as if they are planning to stick around, rebuild and be a permanent fixture on the Cleveland rugby scene.

"The Cleveland Rovers have been a staple of Cleveland rugby for nearly four decades, and that proud tradition will continue on in the fall of 2015," Linville said. "With the creation of the new Under-21 side, the Rovers continue to aim to build the Cleveland rugby community by working to provide all those who wish to play rugby a place to do so."

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