Building On A Foundation

Santa Rosa Rugby Club has been around for more than four decades, playing rugby in Northern California and has a rich history (including one national championship). Rosa has been one of a number of NorCal DII teams that in the past would challenge for national titles. After several years of great national runs in DII, Santa Rosa along with several other sides (Fresno RFC, and San Jose) moved up to NorCal’s DI. In NorCal’s DI Rosa has maintained success reaching the NorCal playoffs each of its two seasons at DI. This will be Santa Rosa’s third year in NorCal’s DI, however the landscape in changing and Rosa wants to remain in the mix. While Santa Rosa is coached by two great rugby guys; Rich Humm and Alan Petty, we were only able to catch up with Coach Petty for this pre-season coverage interview. Coach said anything that is wrong in this interview is on him and not Rick. 

Below is our chat with Coach Petty of Rosa.

Coach Petty, working with the team. 

Coach Petty, working with the team. 

The Rugby Republic (RR): Santa Rosa Rugby Club (SRRC) has had success in recent years in DII, and in the past two years in NorCal’s DI has been able to sustain success with two playoff runs. So with that what is the goal for Rosa this season? California Cup, Nationals, etc.?
Coach Alan Petty (CAP): SRRC has had 6 successful years under Rick and I, of course they were successful before we showed up also.  We want to have a great competitive season hopefully ending up with a League Championship (NorCal) and the California Cup.  As the Nationals are currently structured, we do not have any desire to participate.

RR: Can you share how Santa Rosa has gone about really building a program up there in Santa Rosa (with structure, continuity, youth programs, pitch, etc.)?
CAP: Really we were able to build the program thanks to the people that came before us.  Lynn Meister and the boys that started the team 40 years ago, also began a high school program and junior college team.  After that they built the rugby palace that is For Pete's Sake Field.  At the high school where I coach; Elsie Allen High School, we have an all-weather field with rugby markings to practice on every week.   We also have a very nice scrum machine to compliment our facilities.

RR: The fact that you have youth and college programs which feed into your club has that been a critical factor in allowing Rosa to continuously improve and also maintain competitive consistency? Or is that just a bonus?
CAP: Having the feeder programs is a huge part of our success.  Most directly is the junior college team (Santa Rosa Junior College) currently coached by Steve Wren.  He and the local high school coaches incorporate our patterns of play and nomenclature into their programs.  This enables kids to pick up our system much quicker.  When you have a team of 24 year olds with 10 years of rugby under their belts, it is a huge difference maker.  Now we have had middle school ball along with the high schools, this could really pay even higher dividends.

RR: What if anything is going to be significantly different with Rosa this season? More numbers, influx of younger players, departure of veterans?
CAP: This year should be very interesting.  We had a number of players retire last year, but now want to come back and at least contribute to the B side (which will help with numbers).  We also have some high performance teenagers that are joining the team.  We have reached out to the local Fijian community and look to have more of their players come out with us too.  It looks pretty promising for us this season.

RR: How much parity do you think there will be in NorCal’s DI this season?  We’ve had some good sides in DI and some have gone and some have moved up.
CAP: D1 should be a challenge every week.  I could see a team with 2 or 3 losses eventually being the champion.  Life West is especially interesting with their coaching staff, fiscal support and talent pool.  We will be competitive but will in no way be dominant.

RR:  You will have two matches’ vs Fresno this year. That match-up (Rosa v Fresno) or rivalry has been going on yearly for 40 years with the two facing off at least once a year for over 40 years. How important is it in today’s landscape to have those old time rivalries or just to keep something like that going?
CAP: Our rivalry with Fresno is one of the most important pillars of our rugby existence.  All the time I catch myself humming "Rally Fresno" when I am working out.  I know that our players consider that game/relationship to be the homecoming each year and really look forward to the game and festivities.  Those guys are such great hosts that our players tend to head down there right after training Thursday evening.  Hopefully they get back before the following Tuesday run!

RR: How successful do you think the Pelican’s Select Sides has been in showcasing players and how has it benefited your program in the past year?
CAP: The Pelican sides have been a nice addition for three of our players.  However, I do not think that the resources devoted to it have benefited the Union as a whole.  That being said, Adrian (Ferris) is a terrific coach and a good man to work with.  While I do not always agree with the direction that Ben Parker (NorCal President) is moving the Union I applaud him for trying something different.  Not a perfect program yet....I am still at the wait and see position.

RR: What’s the plan for Santa Rosa’s pre-season? In the past Rosa has played a fairly tough schedule to get ready for the season, now that you are in DI with a long season vs some of those top clubs now, will that be the same?
CAP: We will try to schedule a tough pre-season.  In the past SFGG put their Super League side out for us (gave us a thumping) and we have had other teams play us. We have also played St. Mary's College in the past that is a first rate, well coached team.  However it would be great if they were DII sides that would like to play, just because you noted it’s a long season.

RR: What is next for Santa Rosa as a club/program to get to the next level?  
CAP: My vision would be to have at least three sides.  The full A and B should compete in serious matches; three referees, 80 minute games, only tactical substitutions as is permitted in official match play.  At the same time I would like to have on the same day and same pitch, games for all the old boys, social players etc. to participate in for a great day of rugby.

RR:  Anything you’d like for us to share with readers or that people should know?
CAP: I would really like to see teams develop roots, while we expand.  It pains me that so many clubs have just gone away and another popped up.  I know it is tough; all clubs have had days when only 8 guys show up to training and you have a game on Saturday.  I think that we should keep moving to expand in the high schools, without losing the ones we have.  We need to allow more DIII teams to develop and DII too.  I would someday like to take part in a serious meaningful conversation in what is the difference between the levels.

Lastly, thanks Fresno!  My first exposure was reading the Fresno Bee and seeing a story about Fresno Rugby Club in the early 80's (I grew up in Fresno).  Those guys have always been great, except when they knock us out of the playoffs.

Thanks to Coach Petty. Santa Rosa. Rosa should not be forgotten in the larger DI mix as they have a system as Coach Petty pointed out to keep a flow of player who are acclimated to their style of play. For more information on Santa Rosa, check out their website www.rosarugby.com. You can follow them on Twitter @RosaRugby.