Shockerz rugby team growing in Great Falls
There’s a new game in town.
It’s men’s club rugby with the Electric City Shockerz.
Their first home game is this Saturday at 1 p.m. at West Kiwanis Park. The Shockerz are playing the Bozeman Cutthroats.
Over the years, there have been several unsuccessful attempts to establish a men’s rugby team in Great Falls.
At one point, there was a joint team with Helena, said Shad Pepion.
Pepion played for the University of Montana, tried to play while serving in the Marine Corps and when he came back to Great Falls, discovered there wasn’t a team. There are high school and youth club teams in the area and Simms High School has a team, he said.
Another UM player, Connor Greene, was moving to Great Falls around the same time and they were talking to people with the Montana Rugby Union who told them there were several high school players who had graduated and stayed in the area.
Pepion and Greene started reaching out to those guys and had an interest meeting in the fall to see if they could make a men’s team happen in Great Falls.
There were some guys in Great Falls and the surrounding area who had played rugby in high school since Simms. There were high school players graduating who stayed in the area, so they reached out to them and had a meeting in Great Falls to see if they could build a team here.
Pepion said they’ve been working since November to get it going and in January they formed a nonprofit to fundraise. Their costs are low, but they need to pay dues to the Montana Rugby Union, USA Rugby and registration fees for tournaments.
Jeremiah Johnson Brewing Company and Big Mouth BBQ have sponsored the team.
They have been accepted into the Montana Rugby Union, now one of 10 teams in the state.
The group generally practices Tuesday and Thursday evenings at Great Falls High in the gym, but once the weather improved they moved to fields in city parks.
Greene played for the UM team and the Missoula Maggots.
He said a lot of the guys are learning the game, but brushing up on rules and techniques is good even for those who have played previously.
“We’re trying to tune our basic skills,” he told The Electric during a practice in mid-March. “We’ve seen a ton of improvement so far.”
During practice, they’ve spent time focusing on body technique in what is typically a game with significant physical contact.
“The tackling style is different than football,” Greene said. “If you learn the technique, you’re less like to get injured.”
But even with proper technique, “you get a lot of bumps and bruises,” Greene said.
“We ruck and scrum and we do it all,” Pepion said.
Pepion said they started with five to 10 guys, and now they have about 25 guys on the roster. They usually get 10-15 guys at practice due to varying schedules and other commitments. They need 15 to play a game and can field up to 23.
They flooded Great Falls with fliers and some radio ads to recruit interested players, whether or not they’ve ever played before.
Pepion said about three other veterans have also joined the rugby club and they’re hoping for more. They have five to six members currently assigned to Malmstrom Air Force Base.
The club is open to all male players aged 18 and older.
They’re hoping to go to Maggotfest, a major rugby tournament, in Missoula in May and the registration fee is $500, Pepion said.