Hookers essential to winning scrums on the pitch

UAF women’s rugby team preps for SpringFest

Rebecca Coleman / Sun Star Reporter

April 19, 2011

Sophomore Katie Griffin is a hooker.  Not the street-walking kind; the tackling kind. Griffin is on the UAF women’s rugby team, where she plays a position called the hooker.  This is her first semester as a rugby player.

UAF has had a women’s rugby team for about three years.  Technically, it is a club sport, but they would love to become an official collegiate sport one day, said captain Rachel Schwanke, a grad student.  For now, they are trying to get the word out about their existence and generate interest among the women at UAF.

“It’s an awesome sport because it incorporates players of all different types: big, small, tall, and short,” Griffin said.  “I used to do ballet, and I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m better built for rugby.  There’s a position for everyone.”

Both Griffin and Schwanke agree that rugby is great for its stress-relieving effects.

“I love tackling people,” Schwanke said.  “It’s a huge adrenaline rush.”

“It’s really great stress relief, running into people,” Griffin said.

Rugby is similar to football, but there are no forward passes allowed, only backward.  Also, there are no blocks, and you can only tackle the person with the ball.  To score a try (similar to a touchdown, but worth five points instead of six), a player has to carry the ball into the try zone (similar to the endzone) and touch the ball down to the ground.  When the ball goes out of bounds, it is thrown back into play, like in soccer.  There is only a scrum – reformation to restart play – after a penalty.  Schwanke is the scrum half, which is essentially the quarterback.  Griffin’s position of hooker is responsible for hooking the ball backwards towards the team during a scrum.  One of the most noticeable differences between rugby and football is that rugby players don’t wear pads.

For people interested in playing but who think it sounds confusing, “we’re welcoming to anyone who’s willing to play,” said Kayla Hackman, the self-appointed social chair of the team.  “We have lots of skilled players who are willing to teach, and we have lots of social events.  Who wouldn’t want to hang out with us?” she said laughing.

Schwanke appreciates the camaraderie of the team, and of the sport in general. “It really doesn’t matter where you go, when you meet a rugby player, you’re instantly connected,” she said.

The women’s rugby team practices every Tuesday and Thursday from 7-9 p.m. at the SRC in preparation for their first game.  They will take on a team from Anchorage – not UAA – on Saturday, April 30 at 1 p.m. during SpringFest.

“We’re not so serious that we don’t have fun,” Hackman said.  “But we want to win because winning is fun.”

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