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Rugby tournament set for Aug. 4 at Junkanoo

By Staff | Jul 25, 2018

A Naples Hammerhead player runs on his way to score a try during last year’s Beerfoot Beach 7’s Rugby Tournament. FILE/MICHAEL?PISTELLA

Back by popular demand, the 16th Annual Beerfoot Beach 7’s Rugby Tournament is almost here. This year, Florida’s favorite beach rugby tournament is on Saturday, Aug. 4, and is moving to a new location on the beach – in front of Junkanoo and the Red Coconut RV Park at 3040 Estero Blvd. Besides Junkanoo, Beerfoot also will be hosted by the Naples Hammerheads, a Southwest Florida men’s rugby club established in 1993.

“The tournament… brings rugby players from all over the country, a few international teams, and local spectators,” said Naples Hammerheads Rugby Club president Todd Fischer. “It has always been on Fort Myers Beach in a few different spots depending on the tournament vision, sponsorships, and event needs. The rugby format for the event consists of teams of seven players, playing in two, seven-minute halves, with a championship trophy, with men’s, women’s, and old boy’s formats, which provides something for everyone to enjoy.

“Plus, the sponsor this year is the Junkanoo which is a fantastic restaurant with a real ‘Florida’ feel,” Fischer said. “And (Junkanoo is) partnering with Momentum Brewhouse to serve Naples Hammerheads beer.”

For those who have never watched a rugby match, it features unprotected contact, fast-paced action and constant battles between rivals.

“People are most surprised with the physicality of our sport,” said Tatum Walker, Beerfoot 7s director. “We play without pads as you see in (American) football, but with all of the tackling and same rules for the men’s and woman’s teams.”

Fischer said many people are also surprised by the female rugby players.

“Surprisingly, many viewers are shocked by the women’s teams’ ferociousness on the field and the camaraderie off the field,” Fischer said. “Players put aside the differences on the field to reminisce about superb play and missed opportunities.”

To add to the fun, this year has a new Competitive Bracket for men and women. Teams entering in the Competitive Bracket will compete for a cash prizes this year. Both the men’s and women’s winners can win up to $1,000 in cash, depending on the number of teams in the bracket. The Social Bracket includes Men’s, Women’s, and Old Boy’s (Rugby term of endearment for 45+) Divisions, playing for bragging rights and the trophies. Teams will be limited to 40, so register soon. There’s also a Spectator Bracket.

“All ages would enjoy watching this event,” Walker said. “With Junkanoo as the host, spectators are able to view from their dining table or the bar, if they chose to not want to be on the beach. Kids might also find it something they would be interested in and can speak to representatives from Fort Myers Youth Rugby, or Naples Youth Rugby. There will be space for extra pick up rugby games for new players or people interested in giving the sport a try.”

Fischer has been both a player and organizer of the event through the years and said his favorite part is the memories that are created each year and that build on each other.

“As a player and organizer, my favorite part of Beerfoot is the memories made,” Fischer said. “There are numerous individuals that attend every year, telling great stories from years past about events and participants that have passed away and these stories serve as a passing of a torch from the old generation to the new and create the tradition of Naples Hammerheads Rugby.”

The day will be action packed, with awards following the tournament as well as the Pub Crawl, which will begin at the Junkanoo and proceed to the other local sponsors: The Sandbar & Grille, Tuckaway Cafe, Shamrock Irish Pub, Lani Kai, The Cottage, Mermaid Lounge, and Sunset Beach Grille. In addition, Momentum Brewhouse will feature the Naples Hammerheads Beer at many of the locations. There are also other industry sponsors from around town, many of which the players actively support.

“Unlike other rugby tournaments, Beerfoot has traditionally been the last rugby tournament of the summer, is played on the beach, and features… many of the local restaurants on Fort Myers Beach,” Fischer said. “Combining these elements creates an event that allows memories to be made between new and old teammates, generations, and friends and it serves many individuals a reason to return to their old stomping ground every year, providing a revenue generator for all businesses involved.”

Walker said organizers are happy the event is on Fort Myers Beach.

“We are fortunate to have Fort Myers Beach to host our event, as it has the wide spread beaches that we need, and also the community of down-to-earth fun,” Walker said. “Please come and watch and patronize at Junkanoo and, if you’d like to follow us on the Pub Crawl, you only need to buy our tank top and you’re in.”

To register, visit beerfoot7’s.com. If you’re a spectator, entry is free.