Ruggerfest back in Aspen after year off, McIntyre among rugby HOF inductees

Aspen’s annual Ruggerfest rugby tournament returned on Thursday, Sept. 23, 2021, with the men’s 55s playing at Wagner Park in downtown Aspen.
Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times

Cameron McIntyre is humbled to be joining the exclusive group that makes up the Gentlemen of Aspen Rugby Football Club’s Hall of Fame, but also feels it’s a bit premature.

This is mostly because the native Australian, who first came to Aspen in 1993, continues to be an integral part of the club’s organization, including as a coach for the Gents’ main side and for the local high school club that operates out of Willits.

“To be in their company is something I never expected to happen,” McIntyre said of being inducted into the hall of fame. “Of course, I’m honored, but I felt a little embarrassed in some ways because I feel I’m still going. I’m still trying to do something, trying to help where we need to look to get the club to and take the steps to do it. It’s not a mission accomplished yet by any means, and maybe it never is.”

McIntyre will be one of four individuals, plus two businesses, as part of the 2021 hall of fame class that will be inducted on Friday at the Mountain Chalet in downtown Aspen. The ceremony begins at 7:30 p.m. and is open to the public and helps kickoff the return of the annual Ruggerfest rugby tournament this weekend to Aspen.

Coach Cameron McIntyre of the Gentlemen of Aspen Rugby Club talks to the players ahead of the main drills during practice on Thursday, July 15, 2021, at Rio Grande Park in Aspen.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

Joining McIntyre in a group that will be 44 members deep by Friday evening are former players Phil Kenney, John McDermott and Ty Storlie. Also being inducted are the first two businesses in the Melville family’s Mountain Chalet, as well as Eric’s Bar and the Casper family, both of which have been generous supporters of the club for many years.

“We are kind of looking for that all-around good player, good teammate and a good contributor to the club,” said Aspen RFC hall of fame committee chairman Bill McEnteer, himself a member of the hall of fame, on the selection criteria. “Usually it starts out with No. 1 they are probably a pretty good player. That’s a key. No. 2, are they a good teammate? We’ve had players on the teams where they were good players, but they weren’t much of a good teammate. They weren’t around. The third thing is, do they still support the club after they retired?”

All six additions to the class this year fit that mold. The club’s hall of fame was started in 1993, which was the club’s 25th anniversary, and included the club’s primary founder, Englishman Steve Sherlock.

People watch from the rooftop as Aspen’s annual Ruggerfest rugby tournament returned on Thursday, Sept. 23, 2021, with the men’s 55s playing at Wagner Park in downtown Aspen.
Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times

Ruggerfest returns

This is the 53rd Aspen Ruggerfest tournament, a year delayed after the 2020 tournament was canceled because of the pandemic. It’s one of the country’s most prestigious and longest-running tournaments of its kind still left and draws in high-level players from all over the world.

McIntyre, who played a bit with the VOMITS 55s side on Thursday, is glad to have the tournament back this fall.

“Hopefully the town feels so, as well,” he said. “The participants that I’ve spoken to today certainly feel it’s a lift off their daily grind to be able to come up and revisit again.”

Play officially started Thursday with the men’s 55s division, with the KC Blues going 2-0, the VOMITS going 1-1 and the Cardinals going 0-2 in round-robin play. The KC Blues and the VOMITS will meet again in Sunday’s championship match; the Blues beat the VOMITS on Thursday, 31-14.

Friday’s action includes both the 40s and 50s divisions, with games being played at both Rio Grande Park and Wagner Park throughout the day. The men’s and women’s open divisions begin play Saturday, with the championship matches for all five divisions taking place Sunday at Wagner Park. There is no cost to spectate.

“Ruggerfest is one of the last really old, traditional tournaments in this part of the world. There are just not many now,” McEnteer said.

Aspen’s annual Ruggerfest rugby tournament returned on Thursday, Sept. 23, 2021, with the men’s 55s playing at Wagner Park in downtown Aspen.
Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times

About those Gents

Aspen’s main side is again coached by Ben Mitchell, who plays professionally in Major League Rugby, and will include a mix of the club’s summer roster and a handful of players only here for the weekend. A few of those players do have professional rugby experience, as do many players on other rosters.

The Gents last won their signature home tournament in 2018, while the Dark ‘n Stormy Misfits won it all in 2016, 2017 and 2019. Again, there was no tournament in 2020.

The Misfits are back, but they have reorganized as the Denver Waterdogs. McIntyre said the other team to keep an eye on will be the American Raptors, a side of cross-over athletes that is based out of Glendale’s Infinity Park, in the Denver area.

As of Thursday evening, the Gents were still piecing together their roster ahead of their first matches on Saturday morning.

“Come (Friday) night we’ll know what we have settled on,” McIntyre said. “There is always a hiccup here or there or someone who surprises that comes through that will make a huge difference to us.”

Of note, the Gents picked up a substantial sponsor this year in J.O.R_20, which makes a range of fine jewelry and is based out of the Dalwhinnie Farms shop in downtown Aspen.


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