History

West Potomac Rugby Football Club is a cherished part of the Washington DC rugby football scene. Many locals claim that the team was founded in 1963 as a Division III club playing in the Potomac Rugby Union (although the actual date may be significantly earlier).

As the chronicles, passed down in oral tradition, tell it, West Potomac Rugby Football Club (WPRFC) originated in 1963 when a group of bed-wetting British Naval officers with Cockney accents were enrolled in a year-long course in International Diplomacy at the Johns Hopkins School of International Studies (SAIS is on Massachusetts Ave in N.W. DC, not in Baltimore).

One day while cruising about the provinces, observing the daily habits and activities of the Colonials, they espied a Rugby match between Washington Rugby Club (then comprised of a bunch of bed-wetters with Cockney accents from various British Commonwealth Embassies) and Club de Sudamericano (also, despite the name, comprised of a bunch of bed-wetters with Cockney accents from various British Commonwealth Embassies). After the initial shock of seeing Rugby being played in America, they quickly came to the conclusion: “Bloody Hell! We could beat that lot!”

And so they formed a team, called it SAIS RFC, had one practice, and there being only abut three Rugby clubs in Washington at that time, quickly scheduled matches and DID beat Washington and SUD. And over the next year or so, they beat them again and again. During this period, as a matter of course, they recruited some USMC officers also taking (and no doubt in need of) courses in International Diplomacy and various SAIS students to the team. In due time, the Brits finished their course of study and sailed back to Merry Old England. Almost immediately the wheels began to come off the cart!

In fact this is just the tip of the historical iceberg. What follows is an account of the team’s history and the suprising ways in which it has enriched – and impacted – on local and national events:

WPRFC and the War of 1812

August 24, 1814 is a well known – and oft misunderstood day – in American and rugby history. It is in fact when rugby first began. A group of American citizens proudly defended the abandoned capitol from the approaching British Army.

The Brits – sensing the peril that awaited – kindly asked if there was another option than death and destruction. The Americans offered them the choice of a game called lacrosse played by the Indians or “Smear the Tory” played by the local schoolchildren. If the American’s won the British would have to cross to the Western side of the Potomac and march back to their ships further down the river (hence the team name “West Potomac”).

Thinking it the more harmless of the two the Brits chose the latter. Each side chose their bravest, strongest and fastest men. As usual one team was short a man and had to borrow a player but the history books are vague on the subject.

Many rules had not yet been ironed out – however it was the start of what we call rugby. After the Americans had won the match they took pity upon the Brits and invited them to the local pub. Everyone got along extremely well – and some Americans and British soldiers actually exchanged uniforms! Unfortunately the players in their zeal and celebrating had too much porter and stout. In the drunken fest afterwards many fires were inadverntly set – burning much of Washington, DC.

The Americans realizing that the local citizenry would be quite upset upon their return came up with a legend. A story that the British entered the town unopposed and set fire to the buildings. A local woman of “loose morals” – who had remained behind after her husband had left – even chimed in with stories of drunk men in British uniforms looting and burning buildings. She even went on to claim that she had saved several paintings and the silver from her house right before the British had arrived (when in fact it was the British who saved them after she lit the house on fire).

The story worked wonderfully – and the rugby tradition of blaming everything on the visiting team began. However several of the West Potomac players left town to ensure their safety – arriving in New Orleans just in time for a rematch.

Locally, another game was played on September 13, 1814 at Ft. McHenry. The Americain’s again won the game and celebrated by firing off many fireworks – a tradition which West Potomac celebrates several times a year. These fireworks caused a lot of damage however and the American’s blamed it on a supposed “British Navy bombardment”.

One of the quicker witted among the West Potomac players – a Mr. Francis Scott Key – even claimed it as the source of inspiration for a song he had written called “The Star Spangled Banner”. Quite a few in the crowd – knowing Mr. Key for the drunk that he was – did not believe him. However, when he improvised a catchy little ditty the townspeople believed him.

Nine years later – in 1823 – a British school boy by the name of William Webb Ellis – having heard the story from his father many times – introduced the game to his schoolyard.

West Potomac RFC has been a part of many other historical events which have been passed down from generation to generation in song. These will be covered at a later date.

 

Latest Posts

What: Polar Bear Plunge with West Potomac Shivering Beavers
When: 2017-01-28 11:00
Where: Sandy Point State Park
Description: <p>We will be joining thousands of other polar bears for our 4th year to dive into the frigid Chesapeake Bay in support of the Maryland Special Olympics. EVERYONE IS WELCOME TO JOIN US - BRING YOUR FRIENDS, WAGS, WIVES, KIDS!</p> <p>Cold? Yes! Fun? You bet! Huge heated bar/band tent on the beach to get lubricated and warm. We will be proudly flying our West Potomac colors and showing the other Polar Bears how it is done the West Potomac way!</p> <p>You must officially join our team via this link:<br/><a href="https://shar.es/18aQlt" class="linkified">https://shar.es/18aQlt</a></p>
RSVP: www.meetup.com/westpotomac/events/236068286/
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What: Team Workout or Touch Rugby (weather dependent)
When: 2016-12-10 11:00am
Where: One Life Fitness in Alexandria or Gravelly Point Park
Description: Depending on the weather we will either be heading to OneLife Fitness in Alexandria ($8 per person for a guest pass) for a rugby specific lifting session or playing touch at Gravelly. Then heading to Rocklands for the elections.
RSVP: www.meetup.com/westpotomac/events/235983242/
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What: Fall Close-Out, !Elections!, and other Shenanigans
When: 2016-12-10 14:00
Where: Rocklands Barbeque & Grilling Company
Description: Gents, The Fall 2016 season has come to a close. Now, we start preparations for the future. This meeting will serve a couple of purposes.

First and foremost, we'll hold a quick postmortem on the Fall season. We'll discuss what worked, what didn't work, what we would like to see more of, and perhaps what we don't want to see any more of. This discussion will allow us to improve as a club going forward as we incorporate these lessons-learned into future activities.

Secondly, we're going to hold elections for the Executive Board. The positions and (brief) discussions, are as follows:
President: Oversees all team activities; approves game and social calendar schedules; approves major spending actions; selects team coaches; sets overall policies and directions; and ensures WPRFC adheres to our club traditions. Currently held by Ben Wojtasik.
Vice President: Responsible for overthrowing the established order; sowing chaos and disorder; communications with the Illuminati; controlling the Electoral College; and, providing jello shooters as appropriate. And memes. Currently held by Dave Dickerson.
Treasurer: Manages financial aspects of the team including collecting dues; making payments; providing financial reports; managing bank accounts; and, filing with the IRS. Currently held (and always held) by Paul Gessner.
Match Secretary: Coordinate all practice and game sessions. This includes filing for fields; arranging for referees; identifying possible matches and tournaments; coordinating logistics; and, ensuring compliance with USA Rugby requirements for roster and game reporting. Currently held by Tim Suess.
Social Chair: Coordinate an active social calendar, including post-match socials, the annual banquet, and traditional WPRFC events. Responsible for ensuring a good time is had by all. Currently held by Jeremy Hoover.
Communications/Recruitment Chair: Coordinates and oversees external communications (facebook/twitter/instagram/snapchat/tinder/etc). Responsible for developing and executing a recruitment strategy to ensure a consistent flow of new recruits into the club. Currently held by Russell Meadows.
Corporate Development: Arrange philanthropic activities and sponsorship activity. Currently held by Bill Evans.
All positions are open to members in good standing with the club. Tenure is one year, beginning immediately after the elections. If you have any questions about what these positions entail, please let any officer know.

RSVP: www.meetup.com/westpotomac/events/235872842/
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West Potomac Rugby shared Lucy M. Evans's photo.

Hi, I am Lucy M. Evans and I just completed my 14th season as head cheerleader and halftime frisbee entertainer for West Potomac RFC.

I have really enjoyed cheering you on from the sidelines and occasionally freshening up the pitch right before 1st kick off.

Please have a safe and happy holiday season and I look forward to seeing you on the pitch in 2017.

In the mean time, feel free to "like" my Facebook page so we can keep in touch.

WOOF!
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Rugby, woof!

Hi, I am Lucy M. Evans and I just completed my 14th season as head cheerleader and halftime frisbee entertainer for West Potomac RFC.

I have really enjoyed cheering you on from the sidelines and occasionally freshening up the pitch right before 1st kick off.

Please have a safe and happy holiday season and I look forward to seeing you on the pitch in 2017.  

In the mean time, feel free to like my Facebook page so we can keep in touch.

WOOF!

Bob Hallahan, Zander Da Zealot and 8 others like this

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Marco SalgadoMy sleeping partner

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