by: Heidi Atter
Erling Andersen stood with a microphone in front of over a dozen tables and about a hundred people. This was not his first Condor Rugby Club banquet; although, this was one of the largest. The Condors Rugby Club is celebrating its 50th anniversary.
“There’s not many clubs or teams that get close to that,” Andersen said after the banquet. He spoke with pride about how the team started and how large it’s grown.
The Condors Rugby Club started 1967 with 10 men sitting in a basement.
Andersen was 19 when the Condors Rugby Club was formed. “It was a matter of playing time,” Andersen said about forming the team. “The All Blacks were the only team in town, they were full of huge guys that had experience,” he said.
Starting with a small group, the team grew over time. “We got along with each other and we enjoyed each other’s company,” Andersen said. “The ones of us that were married, our wives dug in and supported us and drank beer with us, and it’s no different than what’s today, what I saw on the weekend [of the banquet].”
The Condors Rugby Club now has 41 active registered players and an ever-growing community of supporters. To celebrate, the yearly banquet was larger than previous years, full of Condors and supporters alike.
Darren Carter catered the banquet and has played rugby since 1987. Carter joined at 17 and began to like the sport immediately. “Getting to smash things, feeling of family, camaraderie, and team… it kinda fit me like a glove.”
When Carter finished high school, he joined the Condors. “It was the family. You join a community,” Carter said. “My peer group grew out of the sport I was enjoying and essentially my best friends and through a long line, my business partners came from that as well. We created these relationships and these bonds and we were ready to tackle some strange objectives.”
By “strange objectives” Carter meant he and his partners--he met through the Condors and rugby in general--began by buying a real estate property, then started Willow on Wascana Restaurant, followed by Beer Bros Gastropub & Deli.
“[Before rugby and the Condors] I was actually going to school, looking at a sort of different career path,” Carter said. “I had planned to do fieldwork in Greenland doing Geomorphology… then my life’s evolved.”
“My favorite [Condor] memory right now would be watching my son start in the city finals at 16 years old,” Carter said. “The one before that, probably my favorite memory would be when I was captaining the club… but as of right now, it’s Roen starting.”
Vice-President of Regina Women’s Rugby and a starter of the Lady Condors--the female offshoot of the Condors Rugby Club--Madeline Berry began playing rugby in 2007. “We were all kinda learning,” Berry said. “The Condors started coaching us in Grade 11 and at the time they were only a men’s team. We didn’t really want to stray away from [them] because we knew them pretty well, so we made our own team.”
The Lady Condors founded in 2011 is similar to the male Condors in that it was started by 19 and 20 year olds. “I’d say the biggest thing is the camaraderie between and within the team and other teams,” Berry said. “Within the club, it’s a lot like family. It’s also one of the only sports where the men’s and women’s side play not only on the same field but at the same time and work as one unit.”
Currently, the Lady Condors have about a dozen registered players and hope to grow and currently volunteer with the Regina Mini Rugby Program and Regina High School Program.
“Probably the best memory would be stepping onto the field the first time as the Lady Condors in 2011. Being like ‘We did this. We made a team. And now we’re gonna play.’ It was surreal.”
President of the Condors and given the nickname “Papa Condor”, Shaun Zunti has played since 2013.
(Center) Shaun Zunti. Photo by Heidi Atter.
Zunti is passionate about the sport and the team. He said respect is what makes rugby different than other sports. “There’s respect for everyone on the field. There’s respect for the refs--in rugby the ref is in control. If you backtalk to him, your teammates are going to pull you back and then you’re going to get penalized or thrown out of the game.”
“[Condors] were the guys that you wanted to sacrifice your body for. You gotta do that in rugby.”
Zunti said his favorite memory was at a Rugby Tournament in Edmonton when he had a mock wedding with his now-wife. A teammate asked them to do their vows. “I did some sappy heartfelt thing, it was pretty funny, and then Jess (wife) says ‘I know when I marry him I marry everybody’. Everyone just lost their minds, it was fantastic.”
“For one of the clubs in Saskatchewan to be turning 50 and being the oldest club still in existence in Saskatchewan is impressive,” Zunti said. “It’s a testament to how much effort guys put in.”
The Provincial Governing Body is the Saskatchewan Rugby Union. Executive Director Jordan Astrope called the 50th anniversary a huge accomplishment. “The Condor Rugby Club is essentially the oldest rugby club in Saskatchewan. They were a founding member of the Saskatchewan Rugby Union,” Astrope said.
“It makes us stop and smell the roses a little bit,” Astrope said. “[We] look back on our history and see how far the sport has evolved and how important those early pieces to this big puzzle were back then.”
For each of the four Condors, the team was and is important in their lives.
Erling Andersen played until he physically could not, and was glad to see the 50th anniversary of what he helped start. “I have a lot of pride. Pride to just see it last that long. There’s not many clubs or teams that get close to that.”
Darren Carter said “I think a defining moment of my life was when I stopped playing hockey… and I started playing rugby. I found my peer group, I found a place that I was comfortable, I built up relationships, met my wife after that… all my best friends to this day have come from that.”
Madeline Berry said she doesn’t know where she’d be without the Condors. “They have definitely taught me a lot of things,” Berry said. “[They] shaped me as the person I am today.”
Shaun Zunti said the Condors are very close to him. “You join a family. The Condors are the kinda guys that if you need help, they’ll drop everything to come and help you. I think that’s rare to find nowadays. These guys will do anything for you.”
From the fall of 1967 to the fall of 2017 the Condors have been building. The team hopes to grow and become more community involved in the future. Andersen stood proud in front of the banquet. “When I first started out, I mean who would have thought. Fifty years and still going.”
Article First Published on Jschool.ca