Yellow and black stripes will be the height of fashion this week.
The Nanaimo Hornets RFC rugby club holds its 125th anniversary ‘swarm-in’ reunion Thursday through Sunday (July 21-24).
More than 250 people, including alumni, family and other supporters, are registered for the weekend, coming from as far away as New Zealand. There will be games and social gatherings each day.
“We’re excited about the whole weekend…” said Pat Durban, a member of the organizing committee. “It will be nice to reconnect with a lot of the former players and meet the new players and everybody can show how proud we are of the history of the club.”
There’s a lot of history. Durban went through old photos and press clippings to compile a souvenir photo book for the swarm-in. According to his research, rugby started in the area in 1888 with the Nanaimo Rovers, who changed their name to the Hornets in 1893.
The side was immediately successful, defeating Victoria in Beacon Hill Park on Jan. 20, 1894 to claim the B.C. championship, and went two straight seasons without allowing opponents to score during 1896-97 and 1897-98.
The Hornets disbanded and re-formed a number of times during the first few decades of the 20th century, re-starting in 1968 to begin their modern era. Some of the highlights since then include the men’s team winning the Div. 2 provincial title in 1993 and the women’s side capturing the premier-division B.C. championship in 2005.
Ian Cumpstone, chairman of the swarm-in organizing committee, said the game of rugby has changed over the years.
“The fitness levels today that are expected of the players to be competitive at first division or higher is huge, the difference…” he said. “In our day when we were playing, you run around the field for two or three laps, warm up and then you’re straight into your training.”
The emergence of rugby sevens has created a different, fast-paced version of the sport that accommodates some smaller players, Cumpstone said, and pointed out that women’s rugby continues its growth.
While rugby evolves, it maintains many of its traditions, such as the social aspect, and that clubhouse atmosphere will be part of the draw for the swarm-in.
“It’s like an extended family, the rugby club, and so once you’re a rugby player, you’re always a rugby player,” Cumpstone said.
The swarm-in, besides being a rugby reunion, is also a way to reinvigorate interest in the sport. The Hornets had 65 players at training last week, well above normal numbers for this stage of the off-season.
“So already the enthusiasm is building,” Cumpstone said. “Not just for the weekend’s activities, but for the season ahead. So it’s looking good; it’s very encouraging.”
GAME ON … The weekend’s marquee match will be a Hornets-versus-Hornets men’s game Saturday (July 23) at 12:30 p.m. at May Richards Bennett Pioneer Park. For more information about the club, please visit www.nanaimohornetsrugby.com.