In The Beginning: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, then he sent John Young to Little Rock - well, kind of… Rugby in Little Rock started in Memphis! In the late spring of 1973 John Young moved to Little Rock after playing four years of rugby at the University of Florida. Having already had two years of coaching as the oldest and most experienced player at the university, he chose to reunite with his mentor, Phil Whyatt, playing rugby for the Memphis Bulls in the fall of 1974. With the costs incurred by traveling to practice twice a week, every game being an ‘away’ game and the serious gasoline shortage John was encouraged to try and start a team in Little Rock. One of the away games with the Memphis Bulls was at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. At the social after the game John met several players who were going to graduate soon as well as some good contacts in Little Rock of alumni from the U of A. He contacted several of these players in the spring of 1974 in an attempt to bring rugby to Little Rock. The first attempt at holding a practice was a little disappointing in that only one person with no experience and a dog joined John! However, the second practice really started things off with Dave Clark and Dick Harwell leading the recruiting. That spring was all practice, some on the field, a lot in the bars, and a few choir practices all in preparation for their first game. RiverCity Rugby Club’s first game was won against the B side of the Memphis Bulls in the summer of 1974, and rugby was born in Little Rock, Arkansas!
Attending that first game was Warren Edris and a small group of experienced ruggers that were living at Little Rock Air Force Base. Warren started a second team in the area, The Lyons Rugby Football Club that played their first game in the fall of 1974. That fall also saw the first rugby tournament in Little Rock which was organized by the University of Arkansas Rugby Club. This tournament soon became an annual affair better known – and still known today – as the Ozark Tournament. This year will be the 36th Annual Ozark Tournament.
During the spring of 1975 the two clubs organized the Arkansas Rugby Football Union and formally applied for membership to the governing body of the Western Rugby Football Union with four charter members: RiverCity R.C., Lyons R.F.C., Fort Smith R.F.C. and the University of Arkansas R.F.C. Ouachita R.F.C and the University of Harding R.F.C joined in the fall of 1975. In the winter of 1976 the name was changed to the Ozark Rugby Football Union to give a broader base to the area that the union would encompass. In the spring of 1977 Siloam Springs R.F.C. joined the union and the University of Oklahoma joined during that summer. In 1980 RiverCity R.C. and Lyons R.F.C joined together to form the Twin City R.F.C. In 1985 Twin City became what it is still known as today – Little Rock Rugby Football Club.
In the spring of 1986, Little Rock Rugby Football Club went on tour to Ireland (25 players) and in 1989 there was a second tour, this time to England and Wales. In 1986 Little Rock R.F.C won the division I Ozark Union Championships and in 2000 after changing to division II won the Ozark Championships again in 2000, 2002, and 2003. After the Ozark LAU dissolved in 2007, Little Rock Rugby Club applied and was admitted to the Mid South Rugby Union which is in the South Territory of USA Rugby.
Chapter 2 - Adam Gets Lonely
After a certain period of time, God then sees that Adam continues to remain alone so he creates Eve who’s first words upon witnessing a rugby game are: “Hold on just one darn minute - What about me?”… In 1976, two years after John Young started RiverCity Rugby Club he helped Linda Lewis start up a women’s team. At first no one could think of a name for the team, but at the Ozark Tournament of that year they were listed as the Ozark Ladies and the name just stuck! Starting with just a few players, the club soon grew to a full competitive side. The Ozark Ladies joined the Ozark Union that was created by the men’s side and started playing clubs from Missouri, Texas, Kansas, Colorado and more.
John Young coached the women’s team for the first 6 years. In 1982 Wilma Keller took over that position and coached for the next 15 years. For a period of about 6 years in the 90’s the Ozark Ladies were a highly competitive and successful team. They went to the Nationals three years in a row and placed 6th in the nation in 1995 under the 'Warden'. In 1996 after Jules McCoy took over as coach they went to nationals again both in 1996 and 1997. In 1998 and 1999 the team qualified for the Sweet Sixteen which was the new format to qualify for Nationals. Jules later went on to be a highly successful coach at the international level.
In 1995 the Ozark Ladies were able to raise enough funds for a tour of their own. Helped along by their two kiwi teammates, Lee Hobson and Louise Loto-Smith (Wheezie) the team had a successful and no doubt FUN tour to New Zealand for two weeks in June of that year. Along with regular Ozark Ladies, two New Orleans players, Tania Hahn and Andrea Wheeler went along and played on the tour.
Ozark Ladies Tour to New Zealand, June 1995 Back Row: Lori Gilbrech, Glenda Cisne, Louise Loto, Leslie Taylor, Andrea Wheeler (New Orleans Halfmoons), Christiana Jamison, Debbie Whitfield, Linda Bozada. Middle Row: Lee Hobson, Bridget Mosley and Laura Cabrera Front Row: Wilma Keller, Tania Hahn (New Orleans Halfmoons), Allyson Simmons
(Often Omitted) Adam and Eve sign the pre-nup: We got organized… In 1978 the three clubs around Little Rock (RiverCity, Lyons and Ozark Ladies) got together and created Greater Little Rock Rugby Club Inc. This was and still is a non-profit, tax exempt entity that is the umbrella organization under which all three clubs fell. The idea came about as a joint effort to purchase land and help rugby in the area. It became the financial base for ALL rugby in the Little Rock area. Equipment, select player sponsorship, club expenses – it all fell under the Greater Little Rock banner. In 1980 the two men’s teams joined to form the Twin City Rugby Club which meant that there was now one men’s team and one women’s team in the area. Later on tthe Ozark Ladies also changed their name to Little Rock, both teams are still under the Greater Little Rock Rugby Club Inc.
Chapter 4 - God Creates Eden
Then God said, "Let the land produce vegetation, according to their various kinds (hops and barley being the most important of course)." And while he was at it he created this little place we like to call ‘The Land,’ but we don’t mind if you call it Eden. We know, we knowww – its pretty damn amazing! Learn more about the Land here.
Chapter 5 - Cane and Abel
But better behaved! When Greater Little Rock Rugby Club Inc. was formed, one of its chief missions was to promote and encourage the sport of rugby in Arkansas. What better way to do that then to get a youth program started. In 2005 Pat Beaird took over the task of getting the youth progam off the ground. More about the youth team can be found under the youth page. Greater Little Rock Rugby Inc. and the men's and women's rugby teams together known as Little Rock R.F.C have a rich history that any club would be proud of, and we look forward to adding more cool stuff to this page in the future! Thank you to all the ruggers that have gotten us this far and for not only keeping rugby alive in Little Rock, but for allowing it to thrive.