Its home, the Wilde Rover, is in town, on Shrewsbury Avenue, and it contributes nicely to the community, one Red Bank council member says of the Monmouth Football Rugby Club.
But sorry, ruggers, you can’t practice here, the governing body told the club last week. You just play too rough.
It’s not a call that’s sitting well with the 38-year-old club.
The club had requested that it be allowed to practice two nights a week on grass at Count Basie Fields. But the idea died quickly when officials chimed in.
“This is a very rough sport,” said Mayor Pasquale Menna.
“Without helmets and protective gear, it’s a liability issue,” said Councilwoman Sharon Lee.
“It does tear up the turf terribly,” said Administrator Stanley Sickels.
But club members “would be curious to know what kind of data the borough used to determine that we tear up the field more than football,” says club president Rob Morello.
Moreover, they don’t think the club got its due as a property-tax-paying member of the community that does charitable fundraising.
“I think this is the first time we’ve ever asked for anything,” from the town, says Morello. “We pay property taxes. We hold toy drives and collect funds for charity.”
The club is now in its third year without a permanent place to practice. For 25 years beginning in 1973, the club practiced on a handshake deal at the Village School in Middletown, where it paid to have lights installed. Then, in 2008, players arrived one night to find the field padlocked, and their deal undone.
Since then, they’ve practiced after Pop Warner and other teams finish using a field in Old Bridge, where Morello is a wrestling coach. But that means players, most of whom live in the Red Bank area, must drive 30 minutes to start practicing at 8p, and then drive home.
It also means that the club may be wearing out its welcome in place that extended its hand on a temporary basis.
“It’s been a favor that’s stretched out two years,” Morello says.
The club is a rarity among Division I rugby teams in not having a permanent practice pitch, he says. Princeton practices behind a middle school, and Union practices in a park.
“This was a new challenge three years ago,” he says. “It’s gotten old.”
The club offered to join in with Red Bank Catholic, which contributes to the upkeep at Count Basie Fields as well as the debt on a new artificial field, but town officials “didn’t want to hear it,” he says.
Morello says he doesn’t want to be adversarial with the town, and will “keep knocking on doors,” but “we keep finding ourselves cut off at the pass.”