Jay “Tyke” Nollman Memorial Fields

Jay “Tyke” Nollman Memorial Fields

Tyke NollmanIn April, a group of Chicago Lions attended a dedication ceremony at LaSalette Academy in Georgetown, Illinois. The ceremony marked the official dedication of the Jay “Tyke” Nollman Memorial Fields. The day’s event was capped off with an unveiling of the monument, flag raising ceremony and a number of speeches.

Tyke became involved with the Lions from LaSalette seven years ago. This school of 80 students are currently playing in the first division of Rugby Illinois and have been quite successful. The two main playing fields and one practice field all are regulation dimensions with 55 foot goal posts on each pitch. It was quite a setting, the rain and wind cancelled the game scheduled to play the Arlington Stallions, Paul Bergman’s and Vinnie LaPiana’s club.

The generosity of Tyke and his wife, Jane, are being felt in the rugby community not only here in Chicago, but downstate at this high school as well. We are proud to count Tyke as an alum of the club and wish nothing but the best to the La Salette rugby team!

A total of 14 Chicago Lions Old Boys attended the ceremony, it was noted that the significance of the 14 former players joining together to celebrate a great day with Jane and relatives.

The Chicago Lions presented LaSalette the Chicago Lion which has been given on 61 other occasions to foreign side team both at home and away. The LaSalette Lions were invited to play a curtain raiser once the Chicago Lions unveil their new Fields.

Nollman fields

Fourteen Chicago Lions were present, one space was left for Tyke.

On Saturday, April 29th, the Notre Dame de La Sallete Boys Academy in Georgetown, IL, dedicated their rugby pitch in honor of our late great friend, J. Tyke Nollman. I was part of a large contingent who headed downstate to commemorate this event.

Tyke was a stalwart, standup, ambassador of our great club, The Chicago Lions RFC. He dedicated his life to our success both on and off the pitch. He served as President of the Lions back in the late ’70’s and early ’80’s. In fact, he was at the helm when I first put the black jersey on. His attitude and professionalism embodies and permeates the club to this day. He is someone I will never forget!

Cheers to you, my friend.

Ray Karenas

Chicago Lion

What do You Want? Take our Quick Survey

What do You Want? Take our Quick Survey

Jeff SimonWe have worked hard to reorganize the Chicago Lions into a professional organization which serves players, members, alumni, the local community, and the game of rugby union in the USA.

With the addition of talented people in key positions, we are close to achieving our goal but more work needs to be done.

However, we have noticed a drop-off in Alumni participation. While we only have 2 home games scheduled this spring (besides potential playoff games), we are excited about making them eventful weekends for our fans and alumni. Please take this 5-question survey so we can plan accordingly for you.

It will only take 30 seconds (or more if you are older and need to find your reading glasses) but is important.

Thank you.

~ President Jeff Simon

New Orleans Trip Report

New Orleans Trip Report

The Lions took a squad of 26 players to New Orleans for a pre-season tour and friendly against fellow MLR hopefuls, New Orleans RFC. The squad left in the early hours of Thursday morning, flying to New Orleans before getting straight down to business and training. The squad trained for two hours, focusing on units, defense and game plan before heading to the nearby hotel for a pool recovery session. The squad assembled once again for training Thursday night where the squad focused on individual skills, ruck and restarts.

Chicago LIons in New Orleans


The day started with an early morning mobility session on the ground of the hotel to ease out some of the stiffness from traveling and a double training day on Thursday. Coach Dave and trainer Jacob took the players through a series of stretching routines before the players left for practice once again with 40 minutes of units work and a 40 minute captains run lead by captain Dan Coci and Vice-Captain Frikkie DeBeer. This was a fantastic session and had the squad feeling that things were starting to click. The players had another recovery session before being given the afternoon to explore the scenic streets of New Orleans and take in their surroundings before a team dinner where the management brought in some local food to a hotel conference room and ate as a group on the night before the big game.


Saturday, Game day. The team began with an earlier start or 7am having had kick-off moved back to a 12pm start. Breakfast was followed by a spotters session at the hotel which saw the players do some activation work, hand eye coordination work and walk through some of their set piece plays at a walking pace. The team then travelled in convoy to the New Orleans home ground where there was a Jersey presentation and some final words from the coaching staff before warming up and kick-off in the 78 degree heat.

The starting team for the day was: Angus McClellan, Patrick Rappleye, Frikkie DeBeer, Joe Forgy, Jonah Taylor, Thomas Kacor, Cyrus Shariff, Dave Whitney, Kevin Lydon, Robert Stortz, Brian Rooney, Luke Thiem, Dan Coci (c), Jordan Highberger and Quinn Macali.

The game got off to a disrupted start with the referee awarding multiple penalties and stoppages throughout the first half which did not allow either team to build any momentum. Both teams and some early possession and displayed huge levels of physicality with the Lions getting the better of the territory but without the final execution or patience to convert territory to points. The half time score of 9-6 to New Orleans with the Lions points coming from 3 penalties from the boot of Quinn.

After a half time team talk and some positional adjustments, the Lions came out roaring in the second half with a penalty try for a push over scrum and this was a sign of things to come. The Lions pushed on with a further 6 tries in the second half with scores coming from Frikkie, Gavin, Kevin, Stortz, Coci and Ty. The Lions played a good tempo of rugby and with increased patience through the early phases of the game plan, created opportunities to exploit New Orleans out wide, showing good continuity to finish off some impressive line breaks by the Likes of Luke, Angus, Jonah and Coci.

Chicago LIons in New Orleans

The second half also allowed for the Lions to utilize their bench with new recruit Andrew Rose, a Zimbabwe international coming on at flanker and a number of new recruits making their debut for the Lions such as Matt Hundley, Jonah Taylor, Mike Rassmussen, Jovan Vazquez and Phil Spagnolo. What was extremely exciting about this was the presence of three players aged 20 or younger who will surely have a huge future with the Lions after impressive performances.

The final score, 49-9 to the Lions. An impressive second half performance to score 7 tries and concede no points.

The Lions wish to thank New Orleans for a great weekend and superb hospitality throughout. It will surely be the first of many more encounters over the years to come.

The Lions now take on a strong Columbus side in Ohio on Saturday at 1pm with both sides knowing that the outcome of this game in hand can take them into the top two of the division standings.

Meet the New Coach

Dave ClancyWe are please to announce our new head coach for the Lions, Dave Clancy. Dave is the first full-time head coach in the club’s history. We believe that in order to stay competitive at the highest level and to build a true rugby organization, this deal had to be done.

A special thanks goes to Tiger Rugby who introduced us to Dave during our coaching search. He is a professional rugby coach from Ireland, coming to the Lions after spells with various teams around the world including Munster Rugby, Samoa and, most recently, the Cayman Islands.

A graduate of Sports and Exercise Science in Limerick, Dave’s early early experience was predominantly in the area of elite Strength and Conditioning for rugby before over time moving into more skills and coaching roles. He has been part of some very successful teams including Munster under-age teams winning championships, a Samoa Junior World Trophy-winning side and a national set-up in Cayman where, during his tenure, saw a rise to a record World Rugby ranking and became the smallest nation in history to qualify for the prestigious Hong Kong 7s.

Dave worked with multiple teams in Cayman including the academy, U19s, Womens 7s, Mens 7s and Mens 15’s national programs gaining invaluable experience in multiple areas of coaching.

Lions Help the Sport From the Ground up

Lions Help the Sport From the Ground up

Children and High Schoolers in Illinois are beginning to learn to play the game of rugby from an early age thanks to the efforts of many Chicago Lions. These Chicago Lions that we would like to recognize are:

  • Arlington Stallions Rugby Club – Paul Bergman and Fernando Egea
  • Brother Rice High School – David Fee
  • Chicago Wapiti Rugby Club – Roy Hays and Ray Karenas
  • Chicago Hope Academy – Luke Brindle
  • DeKalb Demons Rugby Club – Chuck Pfau
  • Deerpath Braves Rugby Club – Tom Gaye
  • Gary Comer College Prep – Matt Priest
  • Metamora All Reds Rugby Club – John Huschen
  • Naperville Crusaders Rugby Club – John Chevalier, Elliot Hershik
  • Naperville Warriors Rugby Club – Doug Andrews and Steve Taft
  • New Trier High School Rugby Club – Roger Castino and Phillip “Thabu” Eloff
  • St. Ignatius Rugby Club – Tank O’Brien and Marty Perry
  • West Suburban Bulls Rugby Club – Larry Zeno and Paul Vercoe

The Illinois Youth Rugby Association (iYRA) is the governing body which Tyke Nollman, Ray Dempsey, Rod Reeves, Des Jones, Lana Bergman and David Hall helped establish in 2007 with the aid of existing youth coaches. iYRA reports that the total number of children playing rugby in Illinois has expanded at the rate of 20% per annum for the last four years. iYRA is available to help anyone who is interested in starting a rugby program at a local school.

The Illinois Youth Rugby Association (iYRA) is sanctioned by the International Rugby Board (iRB) to develop youth rugby in the State of Illinois. You can apply for or renew your membership, which helps to maintain your standing with the iYRA.

The Illinois Youth Rugby Association is responsible for the organization of rugby competitions between high school and youth rugby clubs within the state, staging the annual State Rugby  Championship Finals, and also the administration of the Illinois All State rugby team— Tornados (boys) and Tornadoes (girls)—to play competitive rugby games against other All State teams and international youth rugby teams. The iYRA organizes and encourages participation of both girls and boys of all ages up to their late teen years to learn and play the sport of rugby. Rugby has a strong tradition worldwide that will benefit the youth of Illinois in their social lives, college days and in the business world through fellowship with other rugby players.

Children now have the opportunity to play non contact rugby starting at the age of six years old with the Waipati. Chicago Wapiti Rugby Football Club (CWRFC) is a 501 (c) 3 Not for Profit Illinois Corporation. Wapiti – Commonly referred to as Elk. Wapiti ranged widely throughout Illinois as far back as the Ice Age until the middle of the 19th century. Native Americans saw Wapiti as symbols of strength, agility, freedom, power, nobility, pace and equilibrium of energy. Wapiti have a unique type of warrior energy.

Our Mission is to create an enjoyable environment centered on the developmental aspects of rugby focusing on the finest qualities of the game – integrity, physical fitness, responsibility, skill development and sportsmanship – while having fun.

The Style of Play will be Rookie Rugby which is a seven-a-side game with no tackles, rucks, mauls, scrums, or lineouts. It will be played as a two-hand touch (between the waist and knee) game, and the format will allow teaching the ball handling, movement, tactics and strategy elements of the game. We already have more than 40 kids participating and the maximum we feel that can be reasonably managed is 96 in our inaugural season. Our target Age Group is 3rd thru 6th Grade Boys and Girls (Teams will be co-ed) for the initial season. After the initial season, it is our goal to develop the program an additional grade level each year. Registration is now open and will remain so for a few more weeks. Please visit the website at www.chicagowapitirfc.com for more information and for registration and sponsorship opportunities.

Keith Brown: One of a Kind, and One of Our Own

Keith and Lisa BrownKeith J. Brown passed away peacefully on Wednesday, October 19, 2011 after a battle with Melanoma skin cancer. He was Executive Vice President at Klaff Realty, LP, a private Chicago-based real estate investment firm that specializes in the acquisition of distressed commercial property on a national scale. He was born in Chicago, Illinois on August 18, 1950 and is survived by his wife, Lisa Quinn, and two sons, Colin and Brendan. He also leaves behind a Black Army…

Keith was President of the Chicago Lions Rugby Club and a board member of the USA Rugby Foundation. Keith had served as President for five years, until this past August when he stepped down. He was instrumental in realigning the Lions when he first became involved as part of the building committee in 2005. At this time the Lions had assets in both the School Street Clubhouse and the North Park Tap. He spearheaded the group to consolidate and sell both using the proceeds to purchase an income producing six flat building on Chicago’s Northwest side. The rental units provide a steady income for the Lions as well as providing lodging for newly transplanted players to get their feet on the ground.

Keith was also the leader in securing the present playing pitch and clubhouse at our Lions for Hope Field in conjunction with The Hope Academy. His work with Hope Academy was monumental. I will be submitting a proposal to the Lions Executive Committee to rename the grounds Keith Brown Hope Memorial Field.

~ Ray Karenas

If one could describe Keith in a word, for me it would be “passionate.” As a true lover of life and all of its offerings, Keith made the most of the time given to him on this Earth. One look at his resumé would drop your jaw, his wit would make you smile, and his advice and guidance would inspire you. Yet, as the President of a rugby club, you knew he could throw back a beer or two and just be one of the boys, as well. The influence that Keith has had on rugby in the U.S.A. is immeasurable, and as a leader of lions, a mentor, a friend, a father and loving husband, Keith Brown will truly be missed. Here’s to Keith. – Matt Priest

Keith Brown

To Keith’s Family –

Dear Browns,

It is quite likely that by the time you read this, you will have already heard everything I am going to say about Keith from the thousands of people aside from myself that he brought so much joy and levels of friendship to throughout his astounding life. It is also quite likely that as family members you knew these characteristics far better, deeper, and more intimately than anyone else who is now recalling them with such clarity and heavy hearts in his recent passing. Despite the fact that very little of what you are going to read will be new to you or surprising in any way, shape, or form, the words still need to be expressed to let you know how cherished Keith was to those who were able to spend even small amounts of time with him, but especially to those who were privileged enough to call him a mentor and friend during the time we were able to share together.

Perhaps more than any sport in the world, rugby brings an exceptionally eclectic group of men and women together to share their passion for the game and the pride in which they have for it. The rich and the poor, the young and the old, the seasoned and the novice – you will find every single one of these people and then some within every active rugby club throughout the world. And while the goals and passion for the game may be a shared commodity within a club, those two assets alone do not ensure there will be the type of teamwork, camaraderie, and mutual respect amongst the group necessary in order to create the kind of resounding success we all strive for in playing this beautiful game. In order for true success to be achieved and in order for a club to become more than merely the sum of its numerous and distinctive parts in constant motion you need a leader to unite each faction of the machine and teach them to play and be as one, both on and off the pitch…someone to teach the club how to become a real part of each other…someone to show what it means to care, to look out for, to enjoy, and to respect what each piece of the machine – no matter the shape, size, background, or perceived capabilities – contributes to the overall success and livelihood that can be attributed to the club for all its days to come.

Nobody with even the smallest knowledge of the Chicago Lions ever questioned who that person was within our club. Everyone knew who our leader was, who our visionary was, who our captain was in times of calm, in times of celebration, and times of choppy waters alike. The instant you met Keith Brown you knew you were in the presence of someone who’s vision and passion for the club and life itself was exceeded only by the reward he felt in bringing such care and friendship to each individual he encountered along the way. The moment you met him, you knew you were in the presence of a great man who had acquired knowledge of the lessons we all strive to pry from life’s handbook throughout our own journeys, and someone who was happy to share whatever he could to make you and the group you were a part of infinitely better than you could ever have been without him.

Keith had the unique and unmatched ability to make every single person in a room feel genuinely welcome to a group; to feel a part of something; to feel as though he was in fact someone who cared about what you brought to the table and someone who wanted to help you make the most of those talents, ideas, and qualities that make up the fabric of who you were. Keith was a unifier in every sense of the word; someone who was able to bring people from every walk of life together and seamlessly begin the transition from stranger to friend in the most heartfelt and sincere manner I have come to know.

Think for a moment about how many different people counted Keith as one of their closest and most cherished friends they had in their lives…think about how many people in Chicago and throughout the world honestly felt as though Keith was the person in their life that they admired most and held in the highest regard. Think again about how remarkable it is that one individual person was make so many people feel as though he was their rock, their mate, their partner, their buddy, their confidant, their voice of reason, their friend in every meaning the word has to offer. What I am describing is no small feat and should not be disregarded or understated. Achieving something like this in one’s life can only be accomplished by a person who values others over himself, someone whose empathy and compassion removes all room in his heart for greed and selfish desires; and the most difficult of all – someone who is able to put the good intentions he has stirring within his thoughts and his soul into real, tangible action in his every day life…

We are all extremely saddened by Keith’s passing. There’s simply no way to avoid that feeling, and no way to assuage the melancholy we have in thinking about the time spent with such a magnificent man who meant the world to the Chicago Lions and all those he came in contact with throughout his life. That said, in addition to that sadness we undoubtedly will feel for a very long time to come, so too are we inspired to live our own lives in his honor and take on those lessons he taught us about cherishing each individual that is already a part of our lives and those we will meet in the days and years to come as we continue on…about making the most of your abilities and talents professionally, socially, and domestically…and about taking the time to enjoy the life that you have with those you love whenever the opportunity presents itself – just as Keith did.

We’re all going to like this world a little less without Keith in it, and we are all better from simply knowing him. Cheers, to the best Lion I’ve ever known…and one of the best men I’ve had the pleasure to meet and learn from in this lifetime.

With love and respect,
Dennis O’Donnell