Five years ago, Sean Mahon was a high school freshman, sitting in his mother’s car in Glen Ellyn and trying to decide if he wanted to attend his first rugby practice. He couldn’t know it at the time, but the future of Fenwick’s rugby program hinged on the decision.
He refused to get out of the car. “It was a bunch of big dudes with beards, running around playing a sport that I’d never seen before,” Mahon said. “I was like, ‘there’s no way I’m doing this.’ ”
Undeterred, Kerri Mahon dragged her son back to Glen Ellyn the next day and this time, he got out of the car. She picked him up after his first rugby practice, and Sean had some news.
“He said it was the most fun he ever had playing a sport,” said Bill Mahon, Sean’s father. Sean talked friends Casey Walsh and Lorenzo Martino into playing rugby with him for the Glen Ellyn Ducks and coach Alex Eves. They also fell in love with the sport and by the time the boys were juniors, Bill Mahon and Casey’s father, Bob Walsh, tried to form a rugby club at Fenwick.
Fenwick athletic director Scott Thies was reluctant to start a new club, but Walsh and Mahon assured him that the rugby club would be self-run and require little involvement from the school. After Thies signed on, a movement to sign up players for the inaugural 2012 season of the Fenwick Friars Football Rugby Club began. And it didn’t matter who you were.
“You didn’t even need to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time,” Bill Mahon said. “It still doesn’t matter. We’ll take anyone who wants to play.”
Forty-three players signed up, and most of them had no idea how to play rugby. Fenwick grad and first-year coach Terry Hanson and his staff got the boys ready for the club’s first rugby match. If rugby seems confusing with its rucks and mauls and scrums, playing it for the first time against live competition was especially so.