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Murderball in Minnesota

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Murderball in Minneapolis
by Joe Stone

October 22nd, 2011 marked the first tournament for the Minnesota North Stars. Not only was it the first tournament of the season, it was also my own personal first tournament. My name is Joe Stone and I am only fourteen months post injury. As you could imagine, it seems that everyday brings something new to the table. Some are good, and some are not so good, but getting into Murderball has been nothing short of amazing. I have to admit though, I was quite nervous rolling into Green Central Gym Saturday morning.

The first thing that I noticed was the enormous amount of motivation in the air. I could instantly tell that every person playing rugby was the type of person that was not going to allow their disability to slow them down. I then realized that every person playing was also not going to allow me to slow them down either. That’s when it hit me just how competitive this tournament was going to be, and the nervousness came right back in full force.

Our first game was against the Milwaukee Iron. As I sat on the sideline, I witnessed my first tip off, and the game was on. I couldn’t believe how fast paced everything was. There was definitely a different vibe on the court than what I felt in practice. Part of me didn’t want to go in the game, but the other part of me knew that I needed to get these first game jitters out of my system.

Ryan approached me and said that I am going in next. He also told me that I would be the in-bounder. I thought to myself “I got this, I’ve done it a hundred times in practice”. Well, it turned out I was wrong. I went to throw my first ball ten feet to a teammate. The ball hit the bottom of his chair, and then rolled out of bounds. I was so nervous that I felt like I only had 50% of the power in my arms that I was used to. Lucky for me the rest of the team knew what they were doing, so they pulled everything together so that we could take the win. The final score was 53 to 40.

As the rest of the tournament continued I slowly got more comfortable and even a bit more confident. I realized that although everyone played on a different team, they all seemed to get along very well. I could tell that some of the players had quite the history from playing rugby for many years. I really got the feeling that this was a great community of athletes, which is something that I had been missing for a while.

As the games continued, the North Stars continued to win each game. Before I knew it the championship game was starting and the North Stars where playing the St. Louis Rams. I had been told all weekend that St. Louis was the best team at the tournament. So I knew that as a team we had our work cut out for us. I told myself that if I get a chance to play that there would be no room for errors.

As the tip off was thrown in the air the clock started. We’ve got four 8 minute quarters to play as hard as we can. You could tell that both teams were pretty evenly matched but some how St. Louis was able to keep a 6 to 10 point lead. Slowly I watched our starting players continue to get more and more tired. They were keeping things together but I had a sneaking suspicion that I may be going in.

I was told it was my turn to play. My head was in a much different place entering the court this time. I was focused and had a game plan. Although I made plenty of mistakes, there was a lot less than before. I actually assisted in one goal and scored two of my own. When the game was over we had lost 40 to 44, but I had a sense of personal victory. I felt like I had come a long way from Saturday morning. In the end St. Louis took 1st, Minnesota took 2nd, and Denver took 3rd. Milwaukee Iron, Chicago Bears, and the Rebels from Omaha finished 4th, 5th and 6th.

I think that everybody that plays rugby understands the rush of mixed emotions that were flowing through my body this weekend, and how much I appreciate being a part of rugby. On behalf of the Minnesota North Stars I would like to thank all of the sponsors and volunteers for making this tournament possible. If we didn’t have the support that we do, we would not be able to have the memories that we have.

Joe can be contacted at www.joesstone.blogspot.com
photos taken by Paula Braaten

November 2, 2011 — 1:00pm