News, Culture and NPR for Central & Northern Michigan
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
91.7FM Alpena and WCML-TV Channel 6 Alpena are off the air. Click here to learn more.

After 5-year hiatus, rugby returns to Alma’s Highland Festival

A Detroit Rugby Football Club player runs with the ball against Flint Rogues defenders on Saturday, May 25, 2024, in Alma, Mi. The Rogues won the 15-man match 57-27.
Ellie Frysztak
A Detroit Rugby Football Club player runs with the ball against Flint Rogues defenders on Saturday, May 25, 2024, in Alma. The Rogues won the 15-man match 57-27.

Sounds of bagpipes filled the air this weekend as the annual Highland Festival returned. This time, it brought back rugby as a featured event.

Two Michigan clubs came to Bahlke Field, Detroit Rugby Football Club and the Flint Rogues Rugby Club. They played a 15-man match, with the Rogues winning 57-27.

For new and old fans alike, the game is becoming more than just a sport played in Europe and New Zealand.

Flint head coach Seamus Bannon is an Ireland native, but through his wife, finds himself coaching rugby to Americans in Michigan.

“I moved to Flint and come to find out there's a team that's been there 50 years. It's the oldest sports team in Flint, actually. This Detroit team is around 51 years. So ,there's a storied history of rugby. Rugby is older than American football."

Flint Rogues president Rob Moquin said that he has seen it grow in Michigan to multiple men’s divisions, a women’s division and even seen some high schools adopt the sport.

The game has found its way to the kids as well, with a few children serving as water and ball boys for the team.

“How they play it, it's so different. Different from, like American sports. No stops unless if it the ball goes out of bounds, or unless there's like a foul,” said Colton Hense, son of Rogues player Eric Hense.

RJ Howel, a water boy for the Rogues, says he sees the game as a community as well.

“I believe we are a family. I believe that we are a family. We're connected together,” Howel said.

Seamus Bannon said the game has set itself apart from other sports commonly found in the United States. It is more social, with the sportsmanship extending beyond the playing field.

“I think that's what draws people to play the sport, because there is a family element to it, not just your team but the wider community. And that's the same across the globe, not just in the US.”

Rugby in the United States will get a chance to shine within the next decade, as the country is hosting the 2031 Men’s World Cup and the 2033 Women’s World Cup.

Ellie Frysztak is a newsroom intern for WCMU.
Related Content