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Rugby rising in Granite Bay

John Kimble builds program from ground up
By: Robbie Enos, Press Tribune Correspondent
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Despite its global popularity, rugby has struggled over the years to gain attention at the high school level. America prefers sports such as football and baseball. But that has not stopped Granite Bay High School from attempting to establish a dominant rugby team in the Roseville area. This January, Granite Bay will compete in just its second season of rugby. It all began last year when John Kimble, an avid fan and Granite Bay parent, got the program on its feet. "I was a fan of rugby since high school," said Kimble. "I mainly got the program started because my son was going there, and I thought the school should have a program." Kimble has played rugby all over the world, predominately in Germany. He got Granite Bay into the Sacramento Valley Rugby Conference. The conference was established in 1984, where many schools participate, including last year's champion Jesuit. Kimble's first challenge was to find and recruit players for the program. "I did a lot of marketing. I put up banners, called parents, that sort of thing. Most of the kids that started had never seen a rugby ball before." After finding the players, Kimble was committed to teaching them the rules and fundamentals of the game. It was somewhat challenging since many of his players were involved in football. While the sports seem similar, their rules are quite different. "The number one thing is no blocking in rugby. But probably the most important rules are about tackling. You have to wrap up when you tackle. This is for safety reasons." Last year the program featured one junior varsity team. The team was made up of 29 players, and played eight games. In the NORCAL Junior Rugby Classic, Granite Bay made to the finals and lost a close match to Marin to take second place. Kimble also started up a junior high team that played six games and featured 30 players. They made it to the playoffs, but lost to Mother Lode Rugby in the first round, 22-20. This year, Granite Bay will feature two high school teams, and both will aim for a championship.