Rugby has been firmly established in The Bahamas since the 1930’s and
40’s when the local teams were called the Reds and the Blues.
The 1950’s saw the emergence of the Sea Scouts who carried the rugby flag right up until the 1960’s when, in 1963, the Buccaneers Rugby Club was formed in Nassau, soon followed by Freeport Rugby Club in Grand Bahama.
Since the 1960’s, there have always been 4-clubs in The Bahamas although
many of them are no longer in existence: the Arawaks, Bootleggers,
T-Bird Flyers and Waterloo all came and eventually went the way of the Dodo. The clubs that currently make up the Bahamas Rugby Football Union
are Baillou, Buccaneers, Cuckoos and Freeport with Cuckoos being the most recently formed club in 1997.
IFrom the 1960’s to early 1980’s the clubs were heavily populated by ex-pats from the UK who were in The Bahamas on short term contracts usually as teachers or in the financial services sector. A few local Bahamians picked up the game by chance but they were in the minority.
The regular flow of ex-pats injected fresh blood into the rugby community and introduced new ideas and modern standards that were passed on to an otherwise isolated rugby community. The Bahamas also received regular Navy ships and touring teams each Easter from the UK which provided a much needed break from the limited domestic competition.
With the advent of structured league rugby in the UK the touring teams dried up completely. This lack of regular touring teams was amplified by the government severely restricting the number of work permits to foreigners and the flow of ex-pats came to a grinding halt.
Rugby in The Bahamas entered a period of isolation with sporadic exposure to the pace the game of rugby was developing in the major rugby playing nations.
Clubs were now made up of older players who were well past their prime with very few new recruits.
The single biggest development in the history of world rugby came in 1994 when the game changed from amateur to professional. This led to a revolution in the overall standard of rugby in the major rugby playing nations as new professional standards filtered down to the amateur levels. Basic fitness and skill levels improved immeasurably during the following 10-years.
Unfortunately, The Bahamas missed this watershed due to its geographic isolation.
Rugby in The Bahamas stumbled along for the next 10-years, a sleeping giant with enormous unfilled potential. In the late 1990’s a concerted effort was made by a dedicated few to introduce rugby in the local government schools in an attempt to attract home-grown players to the sport. This youth program was short lived but ultimately hugely successful, the end result was that the new players recruited helped form the Cuckoos and also make up the spine of the National Sevens and Fifteens teams.
The last two years has seen a small revolution in Bahamas rugby. A determined executive spearheaded a dedicated youth rugby program with coaches volunteering to teach rugby in several local schools. This culminated in several successful schools sevens tournaments, most notably the annual Lennox Paton Youth 7s and the Premier Importers Club Trials and the establishment of an Under 18’s team by each club. Already, some of these recently recruited youth players have filtered their way into the senior men’s clubs.
Freeport Rugby Club have also made vast inroads into developing their own youth program to help replenish their ranks.
They’re efforts have been justly rewarded with the current Freeport team averaging 21-years of age.
The Winton rugby facility recently received a major facelift leading up to the June 2005 Rugby World Cup Northern Caribbean qualifying round that The Bahamas had won the hosting rights to. Major improvements include the addition of showers, referees changing room, home and away team changing rooms and new rugby posts. The single biggest improvement was the addition of an underground sprinkler system which guarantees a top class playing surface year round. Other planned projects in the works include the addition of floodlights to the main pitch and the reseeding and installation of a sprinkler system on the second pitch.
Underlying these recent developments is a much larger project for the Winton complex, The New Providence Sports & Educational Centre. All the information you need to know on the NPSEC can be found by visiting the following website, www.100caringcompanies.com. Please take time to visit this website in order to gain a better understanding of this worthwhile venture that will assist enormously in producing the next waive of
Bahamian rugby players as well as helping athletes from other sports.
Many thanks to Andy Davies for taking the time to write this piece.