Traverse Bay Blues

Traverse Bay Blues


The Blues 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 Sleders Tavern 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 TC and expose TC athletes to “the games”.

We formed a group of old football, soccer and basketball players and fueled a team as the host club for the 1st Cherry Pit, (which Bob designated) and became the Traverse Bay Blues. We borrowed old football jerseys (blue ones) from St. Francis High School and created what was to become one of the top 15 rugby tournaments in America.

The first tournament was a huge success and a great time was had by all. The team’s in attendance were MSU, 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. 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 and we completed our first season with enough enthusiasm for continued success for the next several seasons.

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. 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.

By 1989 Traverse City Rugby had folded as a competitive side and decided to be an old boys club only. In 1990 Tony Dell’Acqua came back from playing rugby for 3 years in California and re-founded competitive rugby for the Blues playing sevens and tens that summer with Todd Oosterhouse, Nino Cimini and Shaun “Kiwi” Innes. The following year we formed our first 15 a 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 reigns and through some tough years in the mid 90′s (terms of losses in matches – but not our hearts). In the late 90′s Darric Newman, Bill Borre and Tom Wharburton pushed rugby to a competitive level.

Since 2001 we have been in the playoffs 6 times and advanced 3 times to semi and final Midwest Championships. We look for a bright future with goals for fields, expanded clubhouse and more age grade teams to build our community.

Notable Achievements

  • 2004 D3 Midwest Final 4
  • 2006 D3 Midwest Final 8
  • 2009 D3 Midwest Playoff Qualifier
  • Cherry Pit Champions: 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006
  • 2007 Tours: South Africa, New Zealand, Ireland, Australia, Bahamas, Canada, Scotland

USA Eagles National Team Selections

  • Phillip Thiel, Prop & Hooker, Blues 2005-2006, USA 2008-Present (12 caps)