When you live in a city with as much urban pride as Portland, chances are you root for one of the local sports teams. The Lumberjacks Rugby Football Club (RFC) is an all-inclusive rugby club founded about three years ago in The Rose City. On Sunday, April 8th, they are hosting a fundraiser, hoping it will help them come closer to their goal of sending all of the teammates who wish to go, to play for the Bingham Cup in Amsterdam.
PQ spoke with Daniel Bund, a Portland-area native and New York University graduate. He is the founder, and also a former head coach. He was happy to talk to us about the history of the team, and what going to Holland as a team means for them.
ProudQueer Portland: So, how long have you been involved in Rugby?
Daniel Bund: I started playing rugby in college. So it's been 13 years now. This is my fourth team now, after playing for teams in New York, Boston, and London. During that time I've been fortunate to play in pretty much every position on the field, and in practically all weather conditions, snow, hail, lightning, gales, foot deep mud, and 100 degree heat. I've been exposed to a lot of different styles of play and a lot of different examples of rugby culture.
PQP: What is your profession?
DB: I manage a local fitness studio company. I mostly handle marketing and business development for the company in addition to (fitness) training once in a while.
PQP: What made you want to start an all-inclusive club here in PDX?
DB: I grew up in the Portland Area, in Boring, and moved away to go to college in New York City. I spent 12 years living on the east coast and in the UK, and during that time I played rugby with three different gay and inclusive rugby clubs. It was a big part of my life, particularly in terms of my social networks, as most of my male friends are people I've played rugby with. For me, like a lot of kids who grew up queer, sports were not something I felt comfortable pursuing as a kid, and it wasn't until I joined a team as an adult that I discovered that I had athletic abilities. It was great to discover that I could do something perceived as tough and masculine, while simultaneously being myself, which is gay as hell.
There was formerly a gay/inclusive rugby team in Portland, The Avalanche, that unfortunately fell apart back around 2008. It was always a source of sadness for me that my hometown did not have an active club. when I decided it was time to return to the west coast after finishing my Masters degree, it made sense to come back here and try and get this off the ground. I don't think any of us who were involved in those early days, Fall of 2015, expected this process to be as fast, and as easy as it has been. It turns out it was a very good time to start a inclusive rugby club in Portland and the community has been really receptive.
PQP: What do you love best about the team?
DB: As the founder and first Head Coach, It's definitely my baby and I have an emotional attachment to the team. That being said, even compared to the other inclusive teams I've played with, this team is extremely supportive, friendly and welcoming. I'm also really proud of the diversity we've attracted. Rugby is typically seen as a very white, cisgendered, upper middle class sport; but we have a lot of members who are anything but that. Even our 'straight' players are pretty queer.
PQP: How has the team progressed in these three short years?
DB: We started out with only a handful of players, most of whom were brand new to the sport, and those who had played, had not done so in almost ten years. Since then we have been able to introduce a lot of new players to the sport, in addition to attracting experienced talent. We've grown to over 50 members (usually about 30 are actively playing during a given season). We've also gone from being a team that barely knew how to play and lost quite badly to holding our own against much more experienced local clubs. We now play two full seasons a year (fall and spring) and next year we will enter our local union as a competitive team.
PQP: Why don't you wear any protective gear?
DB: One of the things we've learned from American Football is that padding and helmets give players a false sense of security and actually create much more dangerous play. People have a greater sense of invincibility when they're playing with giant shoulder pads, and they sort of crash into each other indiscriminately- where as in rugby we are carefully trained to tackle in a way that is safer, and there are a lot of very strict rules about contact- to the point that American Football teams are now teaching rugby style tackling. It should also be noted that many of the brain injuries in football are actually caused by the impact of the skull against the inside of a helmet. Rugby has significantly fewer cases of concussion and CTE worldwide. It is still a very rough sport and people get injured. For those of us who play the roughness is part of the appeal.
PQP: What are you most excited for about the tournament in Amsterdam?
BD: The Bingham cup is now the second biggest rugby tournament in the entire world. there will be about 60 teams from all over the world- every continent except Antarctica. It's a pretty big deal for inclusive rugby, but also the sport of rugby in general. This is the first time our team will get to go to the tournament, and the first time we've ever traveled internationally. Some of our players have never even been out of the country before, so It’s a great opportunity to gain international exposure and play teams closer to our own level of experience. It's also a really crazy party atmosphere and you come home with legendary stories and new friends from all over the world.
PQP: Please, share anything else you'd care to add.
DB: I think it’s important to note, that even though we are a gay/inclusive team and we will be traveling to compete in the International gay rugby championship, most of the rugby we play is against teams in our local union. Only one of which is also gay: The Seattle Quake. We get to go to tournaments once a year to compete against other inclusive teams, but at the end of the day we're just a regular rugby team that happens to provide a safe space for (mostly) queer players.
PQP: Oh, and any additional upcoming events to get funds for June/Amsterdam?
DB: Starting on May 19th, we will be throwing a regular dance party called Rugger Cub at Analog Theater. It's a body positive party with an optional clothing check. People are encouraged to wear sports gear and/or jock straps. It'll be a fun chance for us to host a party that plays with masculine stereotypes and sports fetishisation. All money raised will go back to the club.
PQP: [while editing] Gasp! Salacious! [goes to AmazonPrime for jock straps]
PQP: How much have you raised; how much more to go?
BD: I honestly have no idea, but we'll take whatever we can get. Most of us have already paid for our trips, so whatever we raise will be given back to the players to help offset the costs of the trip.
Thank you, Daniel! Now, for those of you not necessarily into sports...I've included this rugby spokesmodel.
Just kidding. He was the one of the first images that popped up in Giphy when I searched "gay rugby." You're welcome.
Make sure to stay abreast of the Portland Lumberjacks, upcoming games, events like lube wrestling, and their upcoming dance party. Be sure and to wish them geluck, or good luck in Dutch.