LIHUE — Sometimes, two people finding common ground can be the beginning of something great.
For Greg Horn and John Ioane, their mutual interest in rugby led to establishing a local club.
“When I came down here four years ago, I was trying to make a rugby (club) but they never go,” Ioane, who’s a native of American Samoa, said during Saturday’s meet at Lydgate Park. “I met Greg about six months ago, and then I talked to him about making a club down here.”
The two started organizing pick-up games on weekends and Kauai Rugby FC was founded.
They’ve been playing on-and-off for over a year. It wasn’t until about six months that they’ve been playing every weekend.
The club started small, and interest grew slowly but surely. The club has about 40 members and about 20 show up every weekend.
“Before, it was like two-one-two or three-on-four. Right now, the most we get was last month. We had like 15-on-14,” Ioane said. “We get like 20-plus people coming out now. It’s growing up slowly.”
Kauai Rugby FC welcomes all interested players. Experience is not required, but cleats and a lot of water are recommended.
“A number of guys today, it was their first time playing including my brother who’s visiting from New Jersey,” Horn said. “We’re teaching on the fly here.”
Club member Mikhail Khomenko said he was introduced to the club when he saw them playing.
“I play ultimate Frisbee here. So, we play at the same time. So, I noticed people played rubgy,” Khomenko said, who’s a native of Moscow, Russia and now resides in Lihue. “And I played a little bit back in Russia.”
He added about the club: “It’s awesome, especially because (it’s a) good team and (we make) good relationships. It’s always nice to come here.”
Club member Faafetai Mamea, of Lawai, joined the club last year.
“It’s pretty fun. It’s good exercise. Just staying healthy and stuff like that,” Mamea said. “It’s been good. And like I said, it’s good to know each other.”
For newcomers, Horn — who played for a number of years on the Mainland — summarizes playing rugby as, “Pass backwards and run forwards.”
“If fans of American football would know a lateral where you’re passing backwards, that’s basically how you pass a rugby ball,” he said. “And then you’re running forward trying to find a gap and score.”
For now, the club plays touch rugby while the novices get up to speed. The plan is to eventually play full-contact in about six months and then sign up for tournaments on the neighbor islands.
“We hope to progress to the point of having a full-on club where we can go play on Oahu and on Maui,” Horn said. “But now, we’re just trying to get the numbers out and get a consistent game each week, go from there and teach people about rugby.”
He added: “There’s two different flavors of rugby. There’s traditional rugby union, which is 15-on-15. And then there’s seven. Sevens is seven-on-seven. It’s a faster-paced game. … Ideally, we’ll find some sevens tournaments just to start getting into games against other clubs. There was a sevens tournament on Maui at the beginning of June, but we missed it. We just weren’t prepared. I’m hoping by the end of this year, we’re able to have consistent enough numbers that are coming out each week to then sign up for some tournaments elsewhere.”
Ioane shares Horn’s aspirations for competing off-island.
“Right now, we’re pretty good. But that’s our goal six months from now, maybe less than one year, we’re going to have a team,” he said. “We’re trying to put Kauai a rugby team (together). One of my friends, they keep calling me. They say, ‘You guys have a team already? We might come visit you guys. If you want to play, we can come down.’ Then I tell them, ‘We’re almost there. We’re almost there.’ Six months from now, we’ll be pretty good. We’ll be ready to go.”
Ioane said he’s made a lot of Polynesian friends since starting the club.
“All my Samoan friends, I didn’t know them until we played rugby,” he said. “All of them came out. It was like, ‘Oh, you’re Samoan?’ I’m like, ‘Yeah, I’m Samoan.’ And then all my Tongan friends, they all came out.”
Kauai Rugby FC usually meets Saturdays at 5 p.m. at Kapaa Beach Park.