Mason gets taste of rugby

By Craig Degel

Arizona Daily Wildcat

If there are major differences between basketball and rugby, somebody forgot to tell Harvey Mason.

Mason, a former Arizona basketball player, was out with the UA rugby club team yesteday to film a segment for his cable show "Park About." The show's focus is on Tucson's parks and the type of activities you can do there.

While waiting for practice to start, and then for Mason, the varsity team suited up and joked around with each other. It doesn't take much to suit up for a rugby match all you need is a pair of shorts and a shirt that you don't mind having ripped to shreds.

The varsity team was busy perfecting their scrum techniques when Mason finally arrived.

To start his show, Mason taped an interview with head coach Dave Sitton, who was very excited to have Mason around.

"We've been waiting to get you out here for a long time," Sitton said to Mason with a grin after the ex-Wildcat got settled in.

Mason was just as excited to try his hand at a new sport.

"It's going to be fun," he said. "I can't wait to hit someone."

After stretching out, Harvey hit the field as a back, wearing No. 11. A bystander inquired about the numbers corresponding to positons, and Mason replied: "Eleven must mean sucker."

When Mason first touched the ball, it must have surprised him, as he stumbled to the ground while passing the ball off. His play got progressively better as the match went on Mason even bobbed and weaved his way to a try (the rugby equivalent of a touchdown).

After a particulary impressive tackle, Sitton stopped the match and applauded Mason's efforts.

"Outstanding," he proclaimed. "He took a hit and gave one back. Very, very, nice."

When the mini-match ended, an out-of-breath Mason had a decidedly different attitude than when he started.

"They were taking it easy

on me," he gasped. "I couldn't do this for five minutes and they do it for 80. I don't know how they do it. It's amazing how hard they really work and how little recognition they get."

Tuesday was the team's first day without blocking bags and they were excited.

"I've been looking forward to today," said third-year player Scott Freibaum.

Club president John Vingelli agreed. "It's good to get out and hit."

The rookies started practice by continuing to learn the basics of rugby. Some of the basics involve some odd stances. In the "scrum", much like a snap in football, the players lock together and channel the ball with their feet to the back of the scrum where the play begins.

Tuesday's practice was also a chance for the coaches to get a look at how the team is progressing.

"We've been stressing the point of ball control, and we were doing that well today," Sitton said.

At the end of practice, Sitton said: "Harvey was definitely the highlight of the day."

Mason's rugby debut will air on Ch. 12 at 7 p.m. during the first week of October.

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