Deaf Rugby being played prior to Maori All Blacks v USA Rugby

USA Rugby and James Mortimer     23 Oct 2013     USA Rugby

19, 2012. Wearing borrowed jerseys from the Washington Rugby Club, as well as utilizing a few of the club’s players to fill out the squad, All Deaf lost to the Washington Renegades’ Division III B team. This past spring, the All Deaf battled the Renegades’ A team. They lost again, but not as badly and to better competition.

“We have come a long way since that first 15s match,” All Deaf President Mark Burke said.

Burke started a high school program at the Model Secondary School for the Deaf in 2009 and founded the All Deaf Rugby Football Club. The two programs make up the constituency of deaf rugby in America, but the interest is growing.

“The interest in our club has increased as we have had many new players come and give rugby a try,” Burke said. “They have varied from college students to older adults who were looking for a physical sport.”

All Deaf finished the 2013 spring season 6-4 with a Pax River’s Celtic Cup championship and looks forward to the upcoming high-profile match against North Penn Rugby Football Club Saturday, Nov. 9, prior to the Men’s Eagles’ match-up with the New Zealand Maori All Blacks. The match will kick off at 11:00 A.M. ET.

“First and foremost, we want to show that deaf people can play and compete with anyone,” All Deaf Secretary and Treasurer Roberto Santiago said. “We’re more than a feel-good story; our goal is to compete first at a local, then a national, then an international level.

“I also think our guys play with an enhanced sense of pride and determination, because they know they’re representing their community.”

All Deaf had the opportunity to give back to the rugby community this fall with a match against the Washington Scandals, a gay rugby club. All Deaf defeated the Scandals 103-0.

“We were happy to have played them as it allowed them to gain playing experience,” Burke said. “As with any new clubs, they will struggle in the beginning. They were still optimistic about their play after the match and look to improve through the season.

Burke said there are plenty of deaf women’s rugby players hoping to start a club in the Washington, D.C., area, as well. Maggie Hoyt and Leslye Kang led a team of deaf and hard of hearing women in a controlled scrimmage last month against the Frederick Women’s Rugby Club.

With thousands of rugby fans flocking to Philadelphia in November for the Maori All Blacks match, the All Deaf Rugby Football Club is ready to showcase its viability as a rugby team and grow the game for those wishing to play despite being deaf or hard of hearing.

“Every match we play in is extremely important for us as we move forward in the growth of deaf rugby,” Burke said. “The impact of us playing is huge, but at the end of the day we’re just regular guys playing rugby. I think [fans] will come away realizing that we’re not any different than the hearing people and be impressed with the athletes we have on the club.”

Tickets for the Maori All Blacks match are selling fast, with just 3,000 tickets left for sale.

The New Zealand 'Deaf Blacks' recently took part in a match against Australia's 'Silent Knights'.

To get tickets to see the Maori All Blacks take on USA, click here.

To learn more about playing Deaf Rugby in New Zealand, click here.