AND I don’t mean those you find in the streets, with their hand hidden under their shirt as they clutch a plastic bag full of rugby.

These girls—Beekay delos Santos and Aiumi Ono—are the real deal. They played for the RP team in China and helped bring home the Div. B title after a 20-0 drubbing of Malaysia.

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Sure it’s just the Div. B title but it was also just their first tournament abroad.

First try, first title.

Not a bad percentage.

Rugby in Cebu is relatively new and is alive because of a few rugby-loving individuals who try to help the sport gain a foothold in the local scene.

One club, the Flying Dragons, has been organizing one-day meets and even dual meets with Manila teams to help spread the sport.

Now that’s dedication.

Rugby, like cricket, is one of the sports that I have a hard time understanding—you can’t pass forward and a goal is called a try (So can you try for a goal?). Still, I often watch for a few minutes if I catch a few games on TV. It’s one tough game and it’s not for sissies.

A year ago, when my friend from down under, Graeme Mackinnon, came to Cebu, we got to spend a few hours with the other sports reporters in a mini-reunion of sorts.

I grilled him about the rules of both cricket and rugby and even after that—I guess the drinks were to blame too—I still have no idea about both sports.

But this I am sure.

The local rugby scene is sure to grow by leaps and bounds—international achievements usually do that.

Efren Reyes did it with pool in 1999, Manny Pacquiao did it in boxing in 2003. Sure the RP team are no Magicians and Pacmans, but what they did is just as amazing.

Coming from a nation, whose people think of rugby as one that makes things stick, and being able to compete successfully in the international level is something that doesn’t happen by magic.

It’s the product of dedication, hard work, perseverance and talent.

Basically what a national sports association needs—aside from funding of course—to succeed.

Now, the RP team is waiting if the Philippine Sports Commission will allow it to compete in the Asian Games. But judging from the doomsday scenario the PSC has been issuing regarding its funds for the Asiad, I doubt that it will get a spot in the roster.

And that’s too bad.

To continue its growth, the team needs more exposure internationally and though it’s been doing well on its own, eventually it’s going to need some support from the government.

Let’s give rugby a fighting chance.

FEEDBACK. Glen Soco wrote me the other day and said he’s still pretty much involved with sports development in the province.

“I realized that there is still so much more that can be done, not only in volleyball but to sports in general. We are working on right now that each of the 51 LGUs in the province to adopt their own LOCAL VOLLEYBALL DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM which would include trainings, seminars and organizing their own local volleyball tournaments and activities.

In this way, we can ensure that our volleyball programs will be sustainable.

Hopefully, with the further support of the Provincial Government, Cebu will emerge as another powerhouse in the sport of volleyball and produce more volleyball legends.”

That’s quite a goal and I think it’s doable.

It’s just too bad that there are no national tournaments for volleyball. Had there been one, I’m pretty confident Cebu’s going to own the title.

(mikelimpag@gmail.com)