Big hits, bloody mouths and muddy uniforms are the norm in a typical rugby game. It is not a gentlemen’s game and certainly not a game for wimps. This physical-natured sport, along with football, is one of the most popular sports in the world today.
Bellevue College offers a wide range of sports for student athletes, from golf to softball, so it seems logical to ask why are two of the world’s most popular sports are not played at our school.
The simple answer is that the school holds a no-contact sport policy, which a man named Ajmin Shahijani hopes to change.
About a month ago Shahijani started up the Bulldogs Rugby Club, which meets Sunday mornings on the school soccer field at 9:30 a.m. The club currently has 18 members. It practices lots of conditioning and advances game skills while playing touch scrimmages because of the school’s no-contact liability policy.
Initially, Shahijani planned on coaching the school club but he says, “We have two brothers on the team, and their dad is Levi Tamaivena, who played on the Fiji national team and he offered to do it. So we jumped at that opportunity.”
Shahijani played professional rugby with his brother Pavbrick for the Indian National team for two years before coming to America. More recently he was playing for the Old Puget Sound Beach (OPSB) rugby team in Seattle and the Eastside Axe Men.
Years ago, before our school changed its name to Bellevue College, BCC had a rugby team. For liability reasons, the college decided to enact a no-contact sport policy, and the homeless BCC rugby team turned into the Eastside Axe Men.
Shahijani’s main purpose for creating the Bulldogs Rugby Club is to turn it into a sanctioned school sport. If that were to happen, Shahijani promises to bring championships to the school. “I know we would be the best team in the state; almost all the men on our team have played professionally. We will beat the University of Washington and Western. The only team that might give us trouble is Central.”
Shahijani went on to say that he doesn’t think the school believes they are serious about making a team.“I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t believe we couldn’t win several championships. I just want the school to understand how serious we are about this. We are all in, and we want this to happen badly.”
Shahijani also touts that his team would need no school funding to be an official college team. “In the U.S., you don’t win trophies, you win money. All of our winnings would be put back into the team and we would be self-sustaining.”
The college is talking with the club about possibly revoking the school’s no-contact sport policy but it’s going to be an uphill battle. “I would say right now we have a 40 percent chance of making this a reality. But I’m closing my ears and hoping for one hundred percent,” Shahijani said with a smile.
To make matters worse, rugby season is fast approaching, beginning in mid-May and lasting through August, allowing little time for this situation to be sorted out. “We are hoping to have an official school team by the end of spring; if not by then, it will be too late.”
If the Bulldogs Rugby Club cannot be turned into an official school team, Shahijani says he and many others on the team will likely return to playing for OPSB. But he hopes that he and his team will be representing the school at rugby tournaments this summer.