he Traverse Bay Blue’s were formed in 1973 when Bob Brick initiated a meeting between Dr. Tom Hall, Bob Inglas, the athletic director, and basketball coach at NMC, and Steve Joynt at Sleder’ to discuss the prospects of introducing rugby to TC. Tom Hall and Steve Joynt had both played in college and Bob Ingles was on the all west Canada rugby team. We decided if we could host a tournament, we could get other Michigan teams to come to Traverse City and expose Traverse City athletes to “the games”.
We formed a group of old football, soccer and basketball players and formed a team and became the Traverse Bay Blues. We borrowed old blue football jerseys from St. Francis High School for the first event and created the 1st Cherry Pit Rugby Tournament. The first tournament was a huge success and a great time was had by all. The team’s in attendance were Michigan State University, Detroit, Kalamazoo and The Blues. All the teams wanted to come back the next year and were eager for Rugby to become a prominent fixture for them up North. The Cherry Pit grew each year and in 1981 became recognized as one of the top rugby tournaments in the country. At its peak we had over 20 teams participating We played very well for being so inexperienced and the first taste was so good that the first players became the nucleus of the team for years to come. Bob Ingles’s connection to the college created a feeder system for additional players the next fall (1974) and we completed our first 15’s season with enough enthusiasm for continued success for the next several seasons.
Through the years over 2,000 players have played for the Blues and it’s been very satisfying to me to have been one of the founding members.
In 1983 we purchased the home of the Blue’s Alumni – “The River Pitch” which has steadily evolved into one of the best kept rugby club house secrets in the rugby world – Put me in coach . . . I’ll play. It is now a rental property to bring income into our organization.
By 1989 Traverse City Rugby folded as a competitive side and decided to be an old boys club only.
In 1991 a co-founder, Tony Dell’Acqua, came back from playing rugby for 3 years for ARMY and re-founded competitive rugby for the Blues playing Sevens and Tens that summer with Captain Nino Cimini and Coach Shaun “Kiwi” Innes (1990-1998). We recruited like crazy and the following year we formed our first reborn 15’s side and played our first match in years against Grand Rapids RFC, who came up to TC twice that year to help get our club get going.
Nino Cimini took the reins and through some tough years in terms of wins and losses, from 1991-1998. In the late 90’s Grand Traverse Rugby Club creator Darric Newman, Bill Borre and Tom Wharburton pushed rugby to a competitive level and put the club in good standing financially.
Since 2001 we have been in the playoffs 8 times, advancing 5 and 3 times to Semi and Final Midwest Championships. Coach Bill Borre and Tony Dell’Acqua took the remnants of that team and played some dangerous rugby fielding 2 full sides and advancing in playoffs and winning the esteemed Cherry Pit Rugby Tournament over Detroit. In the millennial Coach Matt/” Scotland” moved to town, played prop and became the coach by 2011, Matt Szatkiewicz helped stabilize the club through a tough economy where many players left the area.
Blues Old Boys 2020
In 2005 female rugby became part of our culture, Coach Stephanie Kehrer started a HS girls club under GTRC, our non-for profit and won 5 State Championships. Many of the High School Girl's players go on to play in college and on a women’s team after graduating. Several of our players have also been selected to play at higher levels of rugby, such as Michigan Select Side, Midwest Select Side, and even for our National Team, the United States Eagles.
In 2015 our sisters created a Women’s team. In the short time they have been around their impact has been felt in the local community and in the rugby world with 3 players moving on to play D1A Women’s college rugby and beyond.
We look for a bright future with goals for fields, expanded clubhouse and more age grade teams to build our community.
Traverse Bay Blues Coaches:
Bob Warren 1986-1988 (folded 1989)
Shaun Innes 1990-1998
Cornel Olivier 1999-2001 (Youth 2004-Present)
Shaun Innes 2002-2004
Bill Borre 2005-2007 (Youth 2013-2016)
Tony Dell'Acqua 2007-2011
Matt Szatkiewicz 2011-2019
Derek Braun 2020