They have nicknames like Pukie, The Chef, Crazy Lou, The Mexican, Mr. Barbecue, Tortuga and Colossal. They push themselves hard during practice to win a spot on the “A” squad, and tackle boozing after a game with the same vigor.
“We call ourselves a mental orphanage – nobody will have us,” wing Cagney Kobrin said.
He was talking about how the Miami Rugby Football Club practices on a soccer field at the Miami German American Club, plays their games on a variety of soccer pitches and football fields around the state, and gets little recognition despite being around for almost 40 years. But in another way, he's referring to how the mix of players from all over the world, all as tough as over-cooked flank steak, come together for the camaraderie, discipline and victories.
Coach Kevin "Mac" McDonough, 49, has coached rugby for 10 years and played linebacker for Barry Switzer at the University of Oklahoma in 1980. He brings his big-time football program experience to the MRFC, constantly pushing his players to work harder in practice, and demanding discipline and dedication from the team. If you don't practice, you don't play. The competition to get on the first team is fierce.
On a hot, humid Saturday in February, with gold and black striped jerseys, the players look like surly, beefy bumblebees as they sprint around the field and collide with the green-clad Naples Hammerhead Rugby Club players on the Estero High School football field. Naples eliminated Miami from the playoffs last year, and with both teams tied at the top of the division at 7 – 2 this is a battle for first place and bragging rights.
Miami jumps to an early lead in the first half, but McDonough reminds the team to stay on point.
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“Grab 'em by the throat, squeeze the windpipe and they're done,” McDonough told the team during a huddle as he curled his hand into a fist.
After Miami came out strong and dominated the first half, Naples surged back in the second half barely losing to the Black and Gold. The score was 36-32. With the victory, Miami moves into sole possession of first place. Three Miami players were injured during the course of the Naples game, but with the “W” in the books, none of that matters – it's nothing a few beers won't cure.
The following Saturday, Miami RFC clinched the state title with a win over Boca Raton. -- Tovin Lapan