Greenville Rugby in the 1970s and 1980s
By George Luttrell
The recent Greenville Rugby Football Club 50th Anniversary Celebration brought back an absolute ton of memories and quite a few players from the early days. A large contingent of GRFC players with whom I took the field, were in attendance either Friday or Saturday or both.
The “era” I reference was from 1974 to 1982. It was a time of significant growth of rugby, in general, and Greenville Rugby, in particular. Since the club was founded by Brian Leach, Malcolm Williams, and John Page, in 1969, they worked hard to recruit players and find opponents. The core of American Rugby growth was the college programs and they were part of the expansion and had just started to “supply” players to town teams, such as the Greenville RFC.
When I joined the Club in ’74, we were a bit of a rag-tag bunch and played in solid blue jerseys (I was told they got tired of everything in Greenville having to be green). By ’76, we had taken on the blue and white hoops. And, as can be seen in the Spring ’76 Team Photo, had expanded quite a bit. No less than 32 members are in the picture.
The Club experienced an infusion of talent and experience, at that time, from area colleges like The Citadel and the SC Gamecocks, along with Clemson and others. And, the GRFC became a team to be reckoned with by winning four Palmetto State Rugby Football Union (PSRFU) championships in the next 10 years and competing in the finals in a number of others.
GRFC hosted and won the inaugural State Championship in ’76. We also won in ’78, ‘82, and ’86. We won the Consolation Championship at the ’81 Savannah St. Patrick’s Day Tourney, playing against the likes of Georgia, Maryland, Detroit, and Savannah. The team represented South Carolina-Palmetto State in the National Rugby Club Championship, Mid-South Region Eastern Rugby Union Group III, held in Charlotte in ’79, ’81, and ’82 competing against Norfolk, Nashville, NC State, Charlotte, and Memphis. We were fourth in the first two but went 1 -1 in ’82. Several team members made the Palmetto State Select Side and participated in the Southeast Select Side Trials. We also played in a select side tourney in Tallahassee.
We played and had success against, not only Palmetto State RFU teams but teams from neighboring states, Georgia (Atlanta teams: Renegades, Old White, Renegades, High Country; U of Georgia, Medical College of Georgie), North Carolina, Tennessee.
An amazing number of GROG from that era participated in the 50th Anniversary Weekend festivities.
Prop George Luttrell
Hooker Colin Cottingham
2nd Row Bob Huff
Loose Forward Cooter Douglas
Scrum Half Brian Leach – Founder
Fly Half Warren Muir
Center Tom Reid
Wing/Fullback Ronnie Looper