It’s smooth sailing so far for Montauk as the fishing Mecca is 6-0 in MetNY’s DII.
Photos MJ Mackey, courtesy Montauk Rugby Club
The town may be called “The End” because it’s on the eastern tip of Long Island, but it’s where you begin when you talk of top DII clubs in the region. Coming off a 4-4 season in 2010, Montauk wanted more. In the end a renewed commitment to what the club meant has translated to on-the-field success.
“Last winter we got together and created a recruitment and financial committee with input from a few of the younger players,” explained club president Garth Wakeford. “We established a code of conduct and saw ourselves as more than just a rugby team, but also as a community organization much like the rotary club.”
The club got involved in Toys for Tots and blood drives. They straightened out their finances and trademarked their name.
“We set up systems for running the club rather than the usual situation of one guy doing it all,” said Wakeford. “We got a few ideas for recruitment from some of our younger players who has just returned from college and the best idea was officially, by sending out a letter, inviting local youth who had successfully played college sports, but not rugby, to the club.”
That simple move has reaped benefits. Zach Brenneman (Notre Dame lacrosse), Mark Scioscia (Villanove lacrosse), and Jarryl Walker (arena football) have all embraced the game and played well.
With Head Coach Rich Brierley having a year under him now, he was able to solidify his game plan and defensive structures.
And the returning players, led by No. 8 Mike Bunce and league-leading points-scorer Gordon Trotter have taken to it all.
“Obviously rugby is a great team sport and our success is mostly a team effort from 1 to 22 but standout players exist,” said Wakeford. “Michael Bunce has taken up a leadership role in the forwards. Eric Brierley, Ricardo Salmaron , Conner Miller, Nick Lawler and Hamish Cuthbertson from the US Coast Guard.”
Trotter, added Wakeford, has been “immense, not just on the field but as club captain.”
It’s trotter’s job to get the kit sorted out and worked on communications between the teams. It all takes work.
“Being on the tip of Long Island means we still have a fare bit of travel for away games and we struggle to fill a B side, but by becoming a well-run club with a great support structure we hope to run two full sides in the future and continue with our successful kids camp in the summer. We are also going to host an upgraded Hamptons Sevens next summer which should be a big hit with everyone.”
“The response has been great,” added Bunce, who first played for Montauk as a teenager. “We’re getting the old boys out. On the club we’re friends first and teammates second. I played with a lot of these guys and went to school with them. I takes years of saying ‘you gotta come out, you gotta come out.’ And when they finally do, it’s like a light comes on. We’re having a lot of fun – I’m having a lot of fun.”
Next up for Montauk is 3-3 Rockaway, followed by 2-4 Connecticut Yankees. They should win those games to finish 8-0. That will set them up nicely for the playoffs. For Bunce, who has played for the USA at age-grade and been on playoff and Super League clubs, where a club needs to be to go deep in the national playoffs can be elusive.
“I know the guys are excited,” he said. “They say ‘we want to travel, we want to be there.’ That’s great. I think we can be really good. We’re not there right now, but everyone is improving every game, and getting more comfortable with his game. We’re close.”