Local rugby clubs holding Olympic watch party to expand interest in sport

Japan 2020

Des Moines Nemesis player fends off Northern Iowa tackler. (Photo: Jonna Berry, Courtesy of Des Moines Nemesis)

CLIVE, Iowa – Local rugby teams will be cheering on Team USA Wednesday night and hoping to gain new supporters for the sport as the US Women’s Rugby Team takes on defending gold-medal winner Australia.

A watch party hosted by the West Des Moines Wombats and the Des Moines Nemesis, both senior-level clubs, gets underway at 7:30 p.m. at Pally’s Bar & Grille in Clive.

The Wombats and Nemesis are hoping the Olympic stage helps lead more people to the exciting, aggressive — but also inclusive — sport.

Annie Myers began her rugby journey playing for the Des Moines High School Girls’ Rugby Team while at Roosevelt High School. She also played while at the University of Iowa, for Chicago North Shore while attending law school, and later for the DC Furies.

Now an attorney for the State of Iowa, Myers is the treasurer for the Des Moines Nemesis. Her love for the game is evident.

“It’s amazing to see this incredible sport I grew up playing on an international stage. Everyone needs to know rugby is a sport, culture, and community that is undoubtedly inclusive and welcoming of all people. Both the men’s and women’s USA teams show us that. There’s just so much respect and love in the sport,” says Myers.

High school rugby in the state has not yet reached varsity status and a year off because of COVID-19 hurt the number of clubs participating. The Iowa Youth Rugby Association is hopeful that growth will pick up again with increased exposure through the Olympics, the start of Major League Rugby in the US, and increased college varsity programs.

“We are excited that rugby 7s is in its second Olympic games, and is the version of rugby that we play in Iowa high schools. We feel that the exposure the Olympics games continue to bring to rugby will create more interest and growth in the sport, as rugby is still considered an emerging sport in the US,” says Clinton Gadbury, Operations Director for the IAYRA.

Ryan Gray coached Roosevelt High School to the 2021 Class 1A Girls State Championship and also plays for the Wombats. He says, “The level of competition has improved every year in the IAYRA and in the past two years Roosevelt has sent girls to college at UNI, Iowa, Iowa State, and D1 National Champions Lindenwood.”

Wednesday night’s match is the last one in pool play for the US women’s team. They’ve already defeated China 28-14 and Japan 17-7, securing a spot in the quarterfinals no matter the outcome of the Australia match.

If you can’t attend the watch party but still want to view the US take on Australia, you can watch the match LIVE on USA Network or NBCOlympics.com at 8:30 p.m.

The US men’s team finished out its 2020 Tokyo Olympics earlier this week with a 3-3 record, putting them in sixth place among a 12-team field.

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