MISSOULA – The best rugby athletes from the Treasure State shared the fields of Target Range School in Missoula on Saturday, as Rugby Montana held its first-ever tryout to choose members for its all-star teams.

Ninety rugby players will make up the four all-star teams that will compete in the Great Northwest Challenge, a USA Rugby regional cup tournament in Corvallis, Ore. June 23-24. High schoolers and middle schoolers from the northern Idaho and eastern Washington areas also competed for roster spots.

In the past, club coaches recommended players to make the team. But this year’s tryout meant players would have to earn a roster spot practicing with the best of the best. And here’s the key to doing it.

“Number 1, first and foremost, is attitude,” said Missoula Iron Vixens head coach Misty Zahn. “If we’ve got a kid that’s complaining, (saying) ‘I don’t want to do that’, using profanity, or just is not coached well, somebody who’s not coached well; they’re not even considered to be a part of the group.

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“We don’t want them representing the state, representing their school, their hometowns.”

“You can’t teach effort,” added Helena Hooligans head coach Howard Reed. “We started out with a heck of a fitness test. We had a lot of running, and a lot of time measurements there. The whole idea behind that was to see how much effort and try they were going to put in, and if we have any quitters out there, which good news is, we didn’t have any quitters out there. So we had a pretty good effort all-around from top to bottom, so we’re pretty happy with that.”

Another benefit making this team is the attention that athletes can garner from national scouts.

“We’ve never had a college recruiter, except for our local colleges — [Montana State and Montana],” Reed added. “They take a look at some of our state tournaments, but it’s not highly recruited. So this is really the only tournament that’s out there, that these kids get to go somewhere and get to be seen by national panel coaches, and things like that.”

“Our kids don’t get the exposure that they might if they were somewhere else,” Zahn said, “so going to this tournament is their opportunity to play in front of these college scouts, play in front of the national team scouts, and play in front of some of the different academies that are involved, and really make an impact and potentially get themselves looked at for a scholarship.

“It’s our chance to shine and really show off.”

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