RAK’S WANDERING RUGBY PLAYERS PLANT FLAG IN THEIR NEW HOME AT GOLF RANGE
▶ The sports club, who have been looking for a permanent base for years, finally have one at Al Hamra Golf Club
It has taken a few decades but RAK Rugby has a place to call home at last and – in true Ras Al Khaimah style – it is a bit unusual.
RAK Rugby secured a permanent home at the Al Hamra Golf Club, where its players will have the run of two international-size pitches and a stateof-the-art clubhouse. By day, the field doubles as a driving range.
As evening falls, golfers hit balls out on to the rugby field as the rugby players warm up. Before long, the golf balls that dot the pitch are cleared and the rugby team takes over.
The men’s team played their first home match on October 18, defeating Dubai Sharks 56-5 before crowds of RAK residents cheering them on from the banks beside the pitch. By the end of the match, several spectators had decided to join the club.
It was a milestone in RAK sporting history. Rugby has been played in the emirate since 1969 and its current team was established in 1981 as the RAK Goats.
The team proved to be as feisty as their original namesake, achieving varied success over nearly four decades without ever having a permanent base.
But success on the pitch, endorsement by the RAK royal family and corporate sponsorships eventually led to a permanent home for the side at the five-star golf club.
“Call it fate, call it whatever you want, but there’s been a lot of hard work put in by a lot of people over a long period of time,” said Ryan Reaney, the chairman of RAK Rugby. “We’re just lucky to be here in moment to see it finished.”
The team previously trained at Tower Links Golf Club in RAK city centre. Before that, they played on a sand pitch at Bin Majid Beach Resort.
As Ras Al Khaimah’s population shifted south to new developments outside the old city, the 30-minute commute into town began to affect attendance, which has doubled since a relocation to RAK’s more populated Al Hamra area.
The new fields offer technical advantages too, having goalposts for kicking practice.
Home games were previously played in the neighbouring emirate at the Sharjah Wanderers club, a 50-minute ride away in a mini bus. Sometimes the team played in Dubai.
RAK Rugby looks forward to hosting its first home tournament on January 31, when 12 women’s teams will compete.
As the men warmed up on Wednesday night, the RAK Rugby women held a video analysis session in Al Hamra Golf Club’s member’s room.
“For the past three seasons we’ve been going to everyone else’s tournaments and we’ve had to host our tournament at the Sharjah Wanderers,” said Kylie Masur, the Canadian captain of the women’s team.
“To be able to have our own place, show them what RAK’s about and have the home field advantage for us, is going to be massive.”
The rugby club will share the fields with RAK’s Gaelic football side, the RAK Ropairi. The new clubhouse will have the colours and logos of both teams painted on its walls later this week.
“I’m from Northern Ireland and, back home, there’s a lot that divides people,” Mr Reaney said.
“I would challenge you to find anywhere in Ireland where a rugby club and a Gaelic side were so collaborative. That’s what rugby and that’s what sport is about. It brings people together.”
The club’s members can now devote their energy to developing a junior team and community outreach projects, including work at schools and beach clean-ups in the season ahead.
The new development takes rugby back to the community, Mr Reaney said.
“People come from their home countries; they arrive and they’re not sure where they’re going. They end up getting a studio or a one-bedroom apartment in a place they don’t know anyone and it can be very lonely, expat life. Our goal is to act as family.
“Our motto is ‘one club, one team’, because that’s what we are. We are here to support each other, and that doesn’t just mean on the field – it means off the field as well.”
The club can now devote energy to developing a junior team and community outreach projects
RAK Rugby’s men’s side played their first game at their new pitch at Al Hamra Golf Club, top, against Dubai Sharks. Above, officials cut the ribbon at the opening ceremony