By Brantley Watson, OC Register
Before Aaron Matthews and Travis Heer board their flight to London, they’ll think back to their beginnings together.
At age 12, the two picked up the sport on a whim, joining the same team due in large part to advice from their older siblings. Luckily for them, the Back Bay Youth Rugby Club, under director Jeff Bonnett and coach Warren Julian, got the ball rolling in Costa Mesa in 2004.
For the untrained eye, an accurate description of rugby is “football without the pads.”
Not completely true, but not completely false.
Matthews and Heer are both football players – Heer at Huntington Beach High and Matthews at JSerra. But a recent phenomenon of footballers crossing over into rugby has taken Orange County and the Back Bay Rugby Club by storm.
During football’s offseason, Bonnett says an influx of local high school football players, even those with scholarships, make their way to the rugby pitch in order to keep in shape, sometimes to the chagrin of their coaches. But, after seeing the results, the coaches often change their mind.
“Football players will come play rugby, and then when they go back, they’re way better football players, for whatever reason,” Bonnett said. “These high school coaches, they’re buying into it now.
“Football is first, but it gives us more ground to stand on with all these great athletes.”
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