If you were to attend a post-game gathering for rugby players you would see people in line for hot dogs, socializing and singing songs.
But where it veers off from any other party after a sporting event is the people invited.
It is not just the home team. The visiting team also comes to eat, socialize and sing profane songs about rugby, side-by-side with a team they just played in a pulverizing match. In a world where a simple handshake after a professional football game can go awry that is unusual.
“It’s pretty weird because, in the game, you’re trying to knock someone’s head off,” said senior Patrick Keady “We leave everything on the field and it stays that way. Off the field you can go get a beer with someone … it’s pretty cool.”
The camaraderie among rugby teams is one of the main reasons Keady said he is attracted to the sport. He likes to meet new people who share a common interest in rugby.
Contrary to high school, he can also have a beer with them.
He enjoyed himself just as much on the field in his final season that came to close on Nov. 3.
Keady was the linchpin, connecting the new players and veterans for the club team.
“He talks to both veterans and new members to help teach the game,” rugby club president Michael Fleming said. “And to help build team chemistry on the field.”
The position Keady played was flanker, which required him to provide support on offense and be one of the first out of a scrum, when the opposition takes hold of the ball he has to make the tackle on defense.
Keady was a four year veteran on the team and one of the few players who gained experience in high school.
He said he welcomed the role of educating players on the tricks of the trade.
The team does not keep individual stats, but if its record was any indication, he educated them well as played up to par in the team’s first year in Division-1AA of the USA Rugby Union, after they were 7-2 last year in Division II.
Before getting injured, he helped to guide the team to a 4-2 record. The rugby team lost the last two games of the season without him.
“He’s been our leader,” coach Andrew Stead said. “He’s one of the top talent … he does just about everything for us.”
Keady played for the Northville High School club team all four years. Since the first day of practice as a freshman, he said he knew the sport was for him.
“It’s just a release,” Keady said. “I’m a pretty aggressive person and when I get out there, I can be as aggressive as I want to be and it’s exhilarating because you never know when you’re going to get hit.”
He was not a kid who would do well cooped up inside, growing up. He played on every team accessible in school, and stuck with rugby, along with football, swimming and wrestling in high school.
“If I can’t release that aggression,” Keady said. “I just get in a foul mood.”
He whittled the number of sports down to one in college.
Despite the brutality of rugby, he had mostly gone unscathed in high school and college before the last two games of the season, protected by a bull-like physique with broad shoulders that has caused an injury to another. He said he “snapped” a player’s collarbone in two, last year.
“It was a guy my size. We were both going toward each other,” Keady said. “And I just won. I won the battle.”
In a shorter after-game social gathering, he asked one of the teammates of the injured player if he was alright and the player said he would be okay.
Keady has played eight years of the non-stop, unprotected and punishing game of rugby. He is now finished with a consistent schedule of games.
He said, before the season ended, that he would be happy to move on and pursue a career after playing in a sport that has translated to skills off the field.
“It’s made me a much more confident and outgoing person,” he said. “I decided I wanted to go into sales. Rugby really helped get me more open and to talk to people I don’t know, and that’s something for my life, my career, and my job that I know how to do.”