Ruggerfest opens today with eldest old boys

Tim Mutrie

The 37th annual Aspen Ruggerfest kicks off this morning with over-45 and over-50 old boys action, the first of four days of largely uninterrupted rugby at Wagner Park and Rio Grande Park in Aspen.The over-35 old boys begin elimination play Friday, with the 12-team championship division and women’s division slated to get under way Saturday. On Sunday, Wagner Park plays host to the finals for all divisions.And, as if a testament to the longevity of ruggers nowadays and Ruggerfest as an entity, this year’s tournament features the first over-50 old boys division, with two teams of the most veteran ruggers playing today.The Gentlemen of Aspen will be fielding teams in the over-35 division and the championship division.The Aspen Old Boys open at 3 p.m. Friday at Wagner; they play again at 5 p.m.The Gentlemen of Aspen A-side opens on Saturday at noon against the Denver Highlanders at Wagner.Play begins between 8 and 9 a.m. everyday and continues into the evening.For the Gents’ top team, the tournament represents an opportunity to avenge a loss in the championship-division finals to the Denver Barbarians last year. The Gents had won seven consecutive Ruggerfest titles prior to last September’s defeat.Mick Melrose, head coach of the Gents, said earlier this week that the team has not prepared as diligently as he would’ve liked. He reiterated those sentiments last night.”The things I said were meant to get under their skin, and I hope they did,” said Melrose. “But we’ll find out on Saturday.””Getting fired up, I don’t think that’ll be a problem,” he continued. “I’m not concerned about that. They’ll be fired up to play and to do well. I’m more concerned about the time we’ve had for preparation. I think we’ll be a little short in that regard, but if they turn it up and want to play, they’ve all got the ability to make up for those shortcomings.”During the Gents’ training session Tuesday night, second-row player Fleming Trane suffered a laceration in his lip and mouth, according to Melrose. Trane required six stitches, but Melrose said he’s expecting him back at training tonight for the Gents’ final tuneup practice.”He told me he’ll be ready to go,” said Melrose. “I can’t see why that’d stop him from playing, can you?”Gents ruggers in the lineup include U.S. Eagles players Alec Parker and Albert Tuipulotu, and Super League regulars Tasi Mounga, Nick Gregorski, Karl Siteine, Juan Grobler, Paddy Shaw and Simon Dogbe.Pass the hat for PatPat Culley, the Gents player who was paralyzed during a USA Rugby Super League match in Boston May 1, is coming back to Aspen for the weekend.The Gents have several fund-raising events planned on Culley’s behalf, including a party at the Mountain Chalet from 6 to 10 p.m. Friday. Admission costs $20 and includes food and drink, and there will also be a silent auction with items such as Buffs tickets, U.S.-Ireland tickets, Giants tickets and autographed jerseys.Additionally, for the first time at Ruggerfest the Gents will be operating a beer tent at Wagner, Friday through Sunday, with proceeds benefiting Culley.Tim Mutrie’s e-mail is