First home tournament ever this Friday

Submitted photo: Members of the Fort Dodge Rugby Club include (left to right): Isaiah Caldwell, Ben Egli, James Daniel, Thomas Daniel, Sam Daniel, Collin Munter, Antonio Prates, Cael Mason, Orion Larson-Trott, Kody Cook and Alex Read. Front: Michael Daniel and Matt Surles-Davis.

For the Daniel brothers of Fort Dodge, playing rugby is a lot like growing up as triplets.

Sam, Thomas and James Daniel live across the street from Dodger Stadium. Competing close to where they would play for the Dodgers helped give them a head start toward a future in rugby.

“Playing with my brothers is a big deal for me. We grew up across the street playing tackle football. It reminds my brothers and I of the times we spent over there,” Thomas said. “I think the grit and toughness this town has taught me and my teammates how to play, and has really helped us on the pitch.”

The Daniel triplets are entering their third season with the Fort Dodge Rugby Club, coached by Tom McClimon. They are known as the “Stags.”

“I’ve been playing rugby since my sophomore year,” Sam said. “I always thought rugby and football were somewhat similar, which first got me into it.

“It’s so much fun playing with my brothers. At first it reminded me a lot when James, Tom and I used to play sports outside the stadium with all of our buddies.”

This is the third year for the club and second season, as the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out the 2020 campaign.

“Austin Lee (a 2020 FDSH graduate) asked me to start the club,” McClimon said. “I played rugby in college (at the University of Northern Iowa), so I knew the game and how to play. But I’d never coached before until we started this here.”

McClimon played during his final two years at UNI, then for a club team out of Waverly.

“If some of them want to do it in college, there is a future there and a lot of opportunities,” McClimon said. “We just want to keep this growing, both here in Fort Dodge and just the sport in general.”

James Daniel got into rugby because of his brothers and Lee as well.

“Austin started it up and asked me if I wanted to do it with him,” James said. “I said I would as a joke, not thinking he was serious, but he actually got it rolling.

“I love playing rugby with my brothers because we have a connection like no other from doing everything together. I know I can rely on them, just as they can rely on me.”

For the first time in the history of the program, the Stags will play matches in Fort Dodge this week. The seniors for the club, who played their last football game inside Dodger Stadium this past fall, will get another chance to play on the turf.

“All the seniors, who saw it through (rugby) will get to play again inside Dodger Stadium,” McClimon said. “I remember the first year, when we didn’t even have a place to practice, we started talking about what it would be like to play inside Dodger Stadium.

“When we first started, we practiced at Expo Park.”

The Daniel triplets, who have all committed to play college football at Grand View University, love the opportunity to hone their skills while also competing in track this spring.

“As a football commit, I really thought rugby could help me with a lot of things both physically and mentally,” Sam said. “That’s one of the biggest reasons why I play.

“As this year’s season started and continues to roll, I’ve just really learned to love the game.”

Picking up the sport and making it a lifelong passion is something McClimon has seen before.

“I’ve seen a lot of guys buy in,” McClimon said. “It’s a different kind of game, but once the kids get into it, they love it.”

The Stags are off to an undefeated start this season.

“We also introduced a foreign exchange student to the team this year (Antonio Prates) who really helped us improve from a player point of view,” Thomas said. “We have a lot of solid athletes who really bring a lot to the team. I think we are a top contender in Iowa rugby this year.”

Joining the Daniel triplets and Prates on the Stags are fellow seniors Kody Cook, Matt Surles-Davis and Michael Daniel. Juniors are Ben Egli and Cael Mason.

Sophomores Alex Read, Colin Munter and O’Rion Larson-Trott play, as well as freshman Isaiah Caldwell.

Fort Dodge’s first home match will be Friday inside Dodger Stadium at 6:50 p.m. against Urbandale. They will play Ankeny at 8:10 p.m.

There will be four other rugby contests inside Dodger Stadium on Friday as well. Cost will be $5 per ticket for adults and $3 for students.


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