Club History

Updated Tuesday May 3, 2016 by Niall Fenton.

Following is an extract of a much more detailed Club history written by current President Niall Fenton:

2005

  • GHSRA (Georgia High School Rugby Association) founded
  • The GHRSA had three teams: Oconee HS, Pope Greyhounds, and Lassiter Trojans
  • The first GHSRA match was played on 4 March, 2005 at Noonday Park, and refereed by Phil Sheehan (a giant in Georgia youth rugby)
  • Lassiter Trojans won the league, beating Pope Greyhounds in the State Championships

2006

  • Coaches Pete Curnin & Gary Briel founded the Alpharetta Phoenix United Rugby Club – the forerunner of today’s Phoenix Rugby Club
  • Other clubs started this year as well: Campbell HS, Sequoya (under current Phoenix coach Clinton Criddick, and others.
  • This year, there were sufficient teams to have two divisions in competition.
  • Since clubs were competing directly with football, recruitment was challenging, and filling rosters difficult.
  • Phoenix practices were held initially on an unlighted field in Wills Park, shared with the equestrian center and the occasional dog show; needless to say, the venue didn’t offer the most satisfying olfactory experience! Phoenix matches, however, were played on Friday nights at the Old Milton HS field.
  • In their first year, Phoenix started showing signs of future success by working their way to the State Championship, eventually losing to Pope Greyhounds.

2007

  • Despite persistent recruitment challenges, Phoenix continued to grow in numbers; the GHSRA grew as well, adding teams and divisions.
  • By the end of 2007, the GHSRA had grown to 15 clubs – in retrospect, the peak of that organization’s expansion.
  • Again, Phoenix earned a berth in the State Championship but were beaten by Lassiter Trojans.

2008

  • Just before the new season, Phoenix appointed Paule Barford as a coach; at the time, Paule was a skills coach for the USA Youth Eagles.
  • Also around this time, Jim Turner (who would later become the visionary President of Phoenix) found his way to the Club.
  • Phoenix went undefeated in the 2008 regular season, and participated in Carolina Ruggerfest for the first time – winning the title for the first time.
  • Phoenix again played in the State Championship – this time against Lassiter Trojans – and again lost a hotly contested match, 17-15.

2009

  • Paule Barford remained associated with the club, but this was the year that Jim Turner started his long and successful tenure as Head Coach.
  • Recruitment efforts picked up, and practices began to be held in September (instead of January) to help players build skills.
  • Phoenix once again had a very successful season, and won a divisional title at Ruggerfest for a second time.
  • In contrast to previous years, Phoenix not only fought their way to the State Championship, but won – beating Lassiter Trojans (the auld enemy) 20-12.
  • As a note of interest, the 2009 Lassiter Trojans team featured Hanno Dirksen who currently plays for Ospreys in Wales.
  • Phoenix qualified for the USA South Regionals; with only 16 players, Phoenix still managed to win 2 out of 3 matches, placing third overall.
  • Other tournament wins included the Renegades 7s and the Georgia State Games.

2010

  • Recruitment continued to grow, albeit slowly, but the roster now showed 35 players – more than Phoenix had in any past year.
  • After being disappointed in negotiations for the Old Milton HS pitch, Phoenix were able to secure the use of Alpharetta North Park for Friday matches. 
  • This relationship with the City of Alpharetta has been extremely long-lasting and durable relationship, one for which Phoenix are very grateful.
  • Early in 2010, four Phoenix players were invited to the USA Eagles Camp – Tim Barford, Will Farrell, Luke Rogusky and Jimmy Lynch. Both Tim and Will went on to represent the US in the Junior World Cup.
  • Phoenix enjoyed a very successful regular season, and represented Georgia at the USA South Regional Championship at Furman University.
  • Phoenix won the competition this year, beating teams from Maryville, TN, Naples, FL, and Chapel Hill, NC.
  • On their return from the USA South Regional Championships, Phoenix went on to beat Lassiter Trojans in the State Championship game, 39-10.
  • With these titles, Phoenix had earned the right to participate in the USA High School Nationals in Sandy, Utah, where Phoenix finished with a respectable 1-2 record (losing against the eventual winners).
  • Phoenix also won the gold at the Georgia State Games.
  • Will Farrell, Phoenix Captain, was also named USA High School Player of the Year by Rugby Magazine.

2011

  • Following on the massive success of the 2010 season, recruitment picked up, with the roster peaking at 47 players.
  • This was the first year that Phoenix had sufficient numbers to consider playing both a “A” team and a “B” team.  The teams were divided into Alpharetta Phoenix and Milton Phoenix, with both teams playing for honors.
  • At the end of a turbulent season, Alpharetta Phoenix lost to perennial rival Lassiter Trojans in the Final, 55-14.
  • Despite the loss, Phoenix was again invited to play in the USA South Regional Championship, where the team posted 1 win and 2 losses.
  • This year, Jim Turner was elected President of Phoenix Rugby, with Niall Fenton joined the staff as a coach, and Clinton Criddick was appointed Head Coach.

2012

  • Due to a dwindling pool of local teams and, Phoenix found itself travelling out of state more and more often to play matches.
  • In 2012, Phoenix elected to leave the GHSRA; along with Walton Raiders, the Club helped establish GYRA (Georgia Youth Rugby Association). GYRA achieved 501(3)c status in 2012, making contributions to the club tax deductible.

2013

  • The inaugural GYRA season saw Phoenix start on a hot streak, winning most of their games.
  • Once again Phoenix was invited to the USA South Regional Championships in New Orleans, finishing with 2 wins and one loss.

2014

  • After much soul-searching, Phoenix rejoined the GHSRA in order to get more matches on the schedule; it was also apparent that Georgia youth rugby was too small for two distinct leagues.
  • The Club formalized its name as “Alpharetta Phoenix Rugby Club LLC” and took on a number of volunteers who have since then proved invaluable to the Club’s operation and success.
  • This year, Jim Turner stepped aside as President – but was followed by the current President, Niall Fenton.
  • Phoenix was also able to negotiate an agreement with Alpharetta Recreation and Parks to have access to the fields and clubhouse at North Park – our current home.
  • On the field, Phoenix continued to be successful, winning the State Championship by defeating Lassiter Trojans in the final.

2015

  • Phoenix continued its success both on the field and off, winning the Charlotte RuggerFest and reaching a heady #8 National Ranking. A Phoenix “B” side was entered in the GHSRA league and performed well with a 4th place finish.
  • The Pope Greyhounds Rugby Club closed shop in 2015 – a sad departure for one of the founding clubs of Georgia Rugby.
  • The Phoenix Varsity team again won the State Championship with a victory over perennial rivals Lassiter Trojans.
  • For the second time, the Phoenix club secured an invitation to compete in the High School National Championship Tournament but had to be satisfied with an 8th place finish.

‚Äč2016

  • The rival Roswell Rugby Club amalgamated with Phoenix Rugby and their green colors were incorporated into the Phoenix colors. The High School landscape was reduced to only 5 clubs following the merger of Lambert with Titans, Norsemen with Trojans and Walton becoming Cobb Barbarians.
  • The Phoenix club became a partner club of the English Premiership Sale Sharks
  •  Once again, an invitation from the High School National Championship Tournament was accepted by Phoenix. This represents their third appearance in this elite competition and they are the only Georgia team ever to have competed at this level
  • The Phoenix Middle School and Junior Varsity teams both secured their respective  inaugural Georgia state Championships while the Varsity side narrowly lost to Trojans in disputed circumstances
  • John Green became the club Head Coach following the retirement of Clinton Cridick