Central Oklahoma Rugby Get Its Start
There is a rich tradition of rugby in Oklahoma that goes back to the early 1970’s when a mix of mens’ and college sides were founded in Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Fort Sill, OU and OSU. But by 2006 club rugby in the OKC metro had reached a low point. Both the OKC and OU mens’ sides were inactive. However the spirit and culture of the game was still strong in a number of older players. In particular Steve Martindale and Greg McFadden gave up their time to sponsor and coach high school teams in the Putman City and Edmond School Districts. This gave life to summer “Sevens” when Tim Holder joined Steve Martindale, providing an opportunity for men to stay involved with game. Naturally, new young players joined the older stalwart players from the inactive OU and OKC mens’ teams to play “Sevens” rugby in the summer. As our numbers grew, we decided to join the storied Fort Sill Gunners as part of their club during the 2006-2007 15’s season.
Birth of the Crusaders
During the summer of 2007 the players unanimously decided it was time for a mens’ team in Oklahoma City again. The name Crusaders was selected because of its recognition in rugby circles due to the success of the New Zealand based Super Rugby Champions. That autumn, the Oklahoma Crusaders came into existence as a member of the Texas Rugby Union Division III. Immediately the Crusaders developed a reputation as a hard hitting team going 9-1 during the regular season, yet the team failed to advance in the playoffs.
Division III Era
The team had a winning percentage greater than 80 % in its early years and routinely competed in the Union playoffs but was unable to win the championship. This patterned continued until the 2011-2012 season when, once again, the team went 9-1 in the regular season. The club then broke through in a statement game against Galveston in the semi-final match. The Crusaders dominated the game throughout and won easily, 79-5. In the finals, the Crusaders took on Alamo City out of San Antonio, TX. It was a windy and rainy day making for a soggy pitch, limiting the Crusaders speed and quickness advantage. Both sides were hungry for the championship and both played hard, ran hard, and tackled even harder. When the final whistle blew on that wet, rainy and muddy day, the Crusaders were TRU DIII Champions with a 27-24 victory.
Division II Era
Because of the club’s history of success and Division III championship, the TRU promoted the club to Division II. The team has competed in Division II since the 2012 season.
The Club In Action
OKC Crusaders Rugby Union Football Club is a not for profit organization created for the purpose of providing a mens’ rugby team in the Oklahoma City metro area. The team is an all-volunteer organization that depends on the participation of players, families, friends, and the community.
The Crusaders are a team of Rugby players ranging in age from 18 to 50 and all experience levels from Central Oklahoma. We are entering our tenth year as a successful Club, but we always need help from the local community to maintain our success. The Crusaders have developed a reputation of competitiveness, physicality, and good sportsmanship. During the coming year, we will continue to compete in the highly competitive Texas Rugby Union Division II against Dallas, Fort Worth, Euless, Tulsa, and Little Rock (referred to as our Cup Matches). In addition to Cup play within the Union, the team routinely competes in several major tournaments across the region and friendly matches against other regional clubs. The combination of cup and tournament matches provides our players with an opportunity to represent the Oklahoma City Metro in a highly competitive sport setting.
In addition to our own exploits on the pitch, many of our current and Old Boy members continue to grow the sport by coaching youth and high school boys’ and girls’ rugby teams in and around OKC.
Off The Pitch
There is much more to rugby culture than the game itself, which is often described as a barbaric sport play by gentlemen. Unlike other sports, questioning and disparaging the referee by players, coaches, and fans is frowned up and not tolerated at any level. Regardless of how contentious the match, both sides will clap each other and the referee off in recognition, and it is tradition for the home team to host the visiting team with a social after the contest, with food, drinks, and song.
The club also strives to give back to the OKC community outside of rugby, by volunteering annually with Rebuilding Together OKC, OKC Festival of the Arts, and various other organizations our members bring to our attention.