There’s been a lot of talk recently about a potential hockey franchise coming to Seattle, as well as the dream of welcoming back a basketball team. As many fans wait patiently for official word on either, another sport has arrived on the scene: professional rugby. The Seattle Seawolves had their first home game April 22.
Eric Duechle plays back row position for the team and has been playing rugby for 14 years. He first discovered it in high school when he was looking for a way to fill time before the football season. He had to choose between rugby or lacrosse, and rugby won.
“One thing about rugby is that you have to play offense and defense. Football, you only play one. Everyone is a specialist. I love that nonstop aspect of just you’re always on the hunt,” Duechle said.
This is the first professional league for the city and for Duechle. He says some of his teammates from places such as South Africa, Australia and Fiji grew up with the game.
"They have a much higher level of competence in the sport. Rugby in America has always been amateur, up until this point, and so it was more of a social game. And I grew up in that," he said. "You know, just years of we hang out together and then we drink. That's what we do. And now we want to be professional because we have goals to be the best."
When it comes to the rules of the game, matches last 80 minutes, you can run with the ball, kick it or pass it, but only side-to-side. Players are heading toward the goal area where you can go for what’s known as a “try,” which earn you five points.
There are conversions and goal kicks, as well as a lot of other rules. But most people will tell you to go to an actual game to get a better idea about how the sport works. And people have been filling up the stands at the Starfire Stadium since the team's first home match.
Duechle says, sure, it’s fun to play rugby, but after more than a decade with the sport, he’s found it’s become something more.
“I was in the Air Force for 10 years, and that was the life given to me because my dad was in the Air Force. So it was what I was going to always do. Doing that job, I was never inspired to be the best version of myself," he said. "But now that we’re under the microscope with these electrifying games, you know, sold out games; never been in front of that. You wanna entertain. You wanna show your virtue that you have within on the field.”
Duechle says he feels honored to be playing this sport, in Seattle, in front of all those screaming fans.
The Seawolves play the NOLA Gold in New Orleans Saturday May 11 at 10 a.m. You can watch the game on Root Sports. The next home match is May 20 at the Starfire Stadium.