By Taylor Viles – 1851 Staff
A professional rugby team, the New England Free Jacks, moved on campus to Saunders House over winter break to utilize the close proximity of their headquarters in Auburndale. The move occurred because the team was in need of housing for a majority of their players.
“We are considered an exhibition team for year three of Major League Rugby,” said Anthony Purpura, a “prop who can play both sides of the scrum” according to the Free Jacks website, and one of the team’s community performance coaches. The team played their first game of their young history on February 9, beating Rugby United New York 34-14.
The Lasell community may notice the players around campus. “We might look scary but we’re all really nice and respectful gentlemen,” said Purpura. “Feel free to [talk to] us. Hopefully… we can host a bunch of the student body down to our match. I think they’d really enjoy it.”
The partnership is meant to be mutually beneficial for both sides and it happened by chance. Dean of the School of Health Sciences Cristina Dean Haver- ty ran into the Free Jacks Head Athletic Trainer Katherine Henry last August while Henry was visiting campus.
“After that encounter, she reached out and explained that she was the new medical director for the Free Jacks and they had opened their headquarters here in Auburndale,” said Dean Haverty. “It prompted a conversation about looking at a potential partnership.”
Dean Haverty inquired into having Free Jacks admit a few interns to learn skills in the field as part of their trade with the school. “There are sports communication majors, sport management majors and a psychology major that are doing internships in various aspects of the organization there this semester,” said Dean Haverty.
Junior Adam Hallenbeck is one of the few chosen for this internship opportunity. “I like it because it’s a professional environment and that’s something that students at a small school, like Lasell, don’t really have access to all that much,” said Hallenbeck. “Having this chance and this partnership really gives us, and me specifically, an opportunity to kind of break that barrier.”
He explained that he, along with his co-intern junior Nick DeSimone, are helping the team to build their brand. “They’re really trying to build their team
culture early on,” said Hallenback.
At the end of the semester, representatives from the team and the school will meet to discuss the highs and lows from the beginning of their partnership and think about the possibility of continuing into next fall. “Our preliminary assessment is that this internship exchange… has been really positive,” said Dean Haverty. “But I just have to stay on top of it and see how the semester goes.”