The early beginnings of the club is in the fall 2005 with a phone call to Keith Strellis from an enthusiastic young man wanting to play Rugby his senior year at Brookwood High school in Lilburn, Georgia. Keith recalls the conversation went something like “Hello Mr. Strellis, I heard you are the Brookwood High school rugby coach.” What could he say… and off they marched to build a club. The Brookwood Rugby Football Club was born. They had a sponsor teacher that kept it cool with the Brookwood high school. They played their home matches the first couple of seasons in Athens at the Oconee H.S. home pitch. The rest of the time the road warrior mentality was born as they learned to travel to anybody. Keith coached the kids up and took whatever help was offered from Keiths’ Club, Atlanta Olde White RFC. They had some guys with international experience lend their time to coach and it helped to build some good teams quickly. During the first three seasons they made the playoffs twice and the foundation was built as an undersized, aggressive and well coached club. By 2008 other clubs had formed up at Parkview H.S. and Grayson H.S. and girls high school teams were on the horizon. Georgia High School Rugby Union came into existence around this time also, with the intention to form a league with guidelines for all teams to compete within. Brookwood complied and joined the league in 2007. In 2009 a girls’ side joined the Brookwood fold made up mostly of Parkview young ladies. Other high school kids were encouraged to join. Soon some Berkmar high, Home schooled and Christian academy kids joined and the club became a mixture of the local high schools. In 2009 with the implantation of the girls high school side Gavin Ross T. Pickens showed up to give a look and see who was going to coach Rugby to his daughter(s). The girls’ captain asked Gavin to help coach and Keith asked him to join Atlanta Olde White. What could he say…and off they marched to become a coaching staff and club mates. The Girls team was knocked out in the semi finals the first year then won the state title in 2010 posting an undefeated season racking up state records of 49 points for and 8 points against average. They finished the campaign by shutting down Kennesaw Mountain High school in the championship match 17 – 5. The boys’ teams played in three more playoff rounds including two quarter finals and state semi finals against the eventual state champion. In 2009 Coaches Keith and Gavin were selected to assist the coach Tyler from Oconee in taking an all-star team to Charlotte for a southeast regional tournament. In 2010 Keith was offered the head coaching position with Gavin as the assistant. What could we say…The Georgia Rogues traveled and played well, especially on defense. The ladies learned the emphasis of these two coaches is the firm belief to be committed to the club and play for each other first. The desire to not let your team mates down is a great motivator. The friendships built on those teams is still seen around the city today as the girls see each other on opposite sides of the pitch and greet each other with big smiles and hugs.
2010 saw the beginnings of the end to the old high school only club. Dwindling numbers, financial worries for club members and a constricting and unhelpful Rugby Union all lead to the decision to close the doors or make a new plan. Keith and Gavin after lots of deliberation realized there were players in the Gwinnett area and no club to play for. Where do you go play if you choose not to continue onto college and aren’t quite ready for a mens Division 1 & 2 side? Olde White was under realignment and the time to step away to Division 3 (from Div 1 & 2) seemed to be the correct move for Keith, Gavin and the two clubs involved. So Brookwood/GRITS played under a combination title for 2011 and in 2012 became Gwinnett Rugby International Touring Side. We call ourselves G.R.I.T.S. for short. We will play wide open offensive rugby with the emphasis on ball movement using the superior athletes that Gwinnett county seems to produce. Look up state and national titles in various sports by a large number of Gwinnett high school teams, most people would be shocked. The inaugural mens division 3 took to the practice pitch in April of 2012. Some of our initial players were Moose Peterson, David “belly button” Boatright, Jay Mapp and Gracia Pickens. Since those warm days we have moved to Alexander park then to Rhodes-Jordan park for practices with land set aside for our very own home pitch at the back of Keiths’ property in Dacula. Our goals for the future are to get the pitch up and running in late 2013 early 2014. We have played in five 7’s tournament including Milledgeville, Valdosta, Athens and Atlanta. We put in two teams in two of those tournys. We have played three XV’s matches; Athens Eagles in the mud with a 20 – 5 setback. Then we took on the cream of the league North Atlanta Rugby Club in the pouring rain with a 48 – 5 setback. In Maysville, we got our rematch with Athens on a warm dry day, the story was much different with a 68 – 22 victory giving the GRITS a big win for their first ever. We most recently played in a XV’s tournament in Atlanta where we rolled over Georgia Tech-State mix 21 – 12 and then got a chance at High country RFC in the title game. GRITS was up 19 – 7 at the half but could not hold of the Matrix Division champions as they showed why they hold the title this year. Final result was 34-19. We have established friendships with the clubs in our area and have built our reputation as a friendly club who plays tough and fair. We own our posts, new team jerseys, old team jerseys, practice pads, practice jerseys, game equipment, game balls, score board, line making machines, team patches, banners, website, facebook page, drinking hats, guzzling mugs and our signature black and yellow hooped socks. The best part we owe nobody any money. We have been lucky enough to find a corporate partner in Johnnys pizza and the Moose (and Kay) is kind enough to open his house to be the club house for our private parties.
Answers to the obvious questions:
Gold Jerseys? Easy to see on the pitch. The popular colors had been taken by the local clubs and the color of butter is gold…Butter on Grits.
Hooped socks? Homage to Atlanta Olde White where most of the coaches played and can be identified easily on the pitch, helpful tool for the coaches.
International? Most of our coaches and a few players are internationally born so we thought that appropriate.
Touring Side? In the tradition of Brookwoods’ founding, we are road warriors…We will play anybody anytime anywhere. We seem to prefer tours and for financial reasons the touring is very helpful. We are actively seeking international tours including trips to Chile, Boston and Scotland over the next few years as a goal of our club members.