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Traverse Bay Blues and Tri-Cities RFU - Cd Brennan is seated in middle.

RugbyToday asked Cd Brennan, author of the dynamic rugby novel, “In Touch,” to narrate her history past and present with rugby. A link to buy the book is: http://www.amazon.com/Touch-Play-Book-1-ebook/dp/B0130KVNCU/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1441916915&sr=8-2&keywords=in+touch

1.      Where did you learn about rugby?

I was living in Scotland at the time, working on my MPHIL (equivalent to an MFA here in the States) in Publishing Studies at the University of Stirling. With the stirling exchange, I was always skint, so I moved from the student housing to a small town outside the university called Bridge of Allan where I lived on the second floor of a hotel/pub and paid cheap rent for a room (25 pounds a week - unheard of!) and worked at the pub on the ground floor. There was me and three others, whom I still consider to be some of my best mates in the world. There were two Scots (Lynne and Andy) and a Kiwi girl, Trish, who first started talking about the rugby. But it wasn't until I met Ron Cameron, who bought the Queen's Hotel and renovated, and who became a great friend, was I truly introduced to the sport. He took me to my first rugby match. Scotland versus Italy in the Six Nations Tournament. I thought it was, but now thinking back, it might have been just a friendly because who would give a naive American girl a valuable ticket to one of those matches? :-) But it didn't matter. Murrayfield was packed and it was a fantastic day. That's when it all started - my buzz for the rugby.

2.      Which rugby teams have you seen play in the US and abroad?

Oh wow. Loads. As many as I could afford when I lived in Europe. From Scotland I moved to Ireland. One of the most memorable matches was Ireland versus the All Blacks at Lansdowne Road (now called Aviva Stadium) in 2001. It was windy and cold, and we lost by a landslide. I also saw Ireland v Australia (also cold, sleeting, and miserable) at Lansdowne in 2005 and lots of Leinster provincial rugby against Munster, Connacht, Ulster, all of them. I had a huge crush on Geordan Murphy, Ronan O'Gara, and Donnocha O'Callaghan. Sure, a girl can dream. The rugby tickets were actually quite hard to come by, expensive and bought out as soon as they went on sale. So if I wasn't at the field, I was in the pubs surrounding Lansdowne belting out the cheers and drinking the pints with the rest of them. Although I lived in Australia for five years after Ireland, I didn't see any live rugby - too busy having babies - but there was plenty on the telly since my husband played rugby league (and now helps coach the Blues here in Traverse City). Here, back in the States, we make an effort to see the big matches since there is so little of it. We went to see the Eagles v the All Blacks in Chicago a couple years ago, and then again Eagles v Wallabies just this past Labor Day. (They could have picked a better weekend!) I heard there might be a double header next year in Chicago again that we will be sure to go to. It's the only weekend we leave the kids with my folks and take off ourselves. It's not that we don't want our kids to love the rugby, but it's OUR weekend. Once a year. Yep. That's what we get. LOL 

And of course, we are there for every Blues match at home. Traverse City is about an hour and half from where we live so we pack up the car and have a day of it. All the kids often play their own rugby on the side of the pitch. And I love to see the little girls getting in there! ;-)

3.      What research questions did you ask the Michigan team?

Most of my questions were about the club structure here in the States, which is very different than overseas. I asked Coach (Matt Szatkiewicz) and Tony Del' Aqua (former coach and president) quite a bit about the recent history and growth of rugby, where we are now and where we want to be. What's holding rugby back in America? The Blues are only Division 3 but I remember Coach saying that was a good spot for them to be because there were more teams to play. If they went up a division, they'd have to travel farther for their away games. And when it's all volunteer, who can afford to do that? Not necessarily the 15+ players you need for a squad. Some of the bigger cities that have a much larger pool of people to pull from might find it easier, but Traverse City is small, rural, about 22K people. They are already traveling 5 hours + to get to Toledo or Canada. It was then that I realized we are going to have to grow this sport from the ground up. The more local teams to play each other, the more interest, the more commitment. We need to start the kids younger, like how soccer has grown in the States since I lived here as a kid—then it was unheard of. One of my hopes in releasing this series was to do my own bit in spreading the word—enticing others to the sport—a sport that I am very passionate about. Because you already have the dedication and commitment from the ones already involved--impressive in their steadfast belief in the sport of rugby. Fathers who bring their kids to the games and we all chip in to help watch so they can play. The wives and girlfriends who become rugby widows once the season starts, but are always there to support their men. All the friends and family who come to the home games to yell their hearts out. The passion is there. What USA rugby needs is organization, support, and promotion from the top tier down to the smallest team. Until that happens, I urge everyone to give a fiver to their local team. It all adds up and it's tax deductible! If you don't have one, the Traverse City Blues would be happy for your help. See the donate button at www.tcrugby.com.

4.      How did you research the physical therapy for the book?

Now, that I was very lucky with, and the Blues physical therapist, Tania Santos from Active Physical Therapy, advised me on everything. She was also an alpha reader for the story and patiently went through all the PT scenes, making notes for me, even showing me physically what she would do. At one point, she had me on the floor going through the AI-joint maneuver. 

When I say the Blues have their own physical therapist, that's quite unusual. Rugby teams in the States don't have PTs. At least not at the lower division levels. But she volunteers all her time for home and away games. Why she does it is her story to tell, but I know that she has a lineup of guys from both teams waiting at her table to get their ankles, legs, shoulders, ears, and fingers wrapped. She cares for all the players down on the field...and she never stops running. Tania is originally from South Africa (and a huge Springboks supporter). We've met other blow-ins at the rugby in Traverse City, too. As if the common love of game has brought us all together- Kiwi, Irish, Scottish, Aussie, French - from all corners meeting in a tiny corner of Michigan, supporting the US rugby where we can. A few of us have actually tried to convince Coach to get some young fellas from overseas to come play some rugby to support the team, teach the lads a few things. All they would have to do is play rugby, work part-time, and drink beer. Now who wouldn't want to do that? At least that would help the Blues have a full squad for away games. Because yes, right now, sometimes they don't, and Coach has to step in and play with the forwards. And Coach is almost 50, bless him. 

5.      Is “In Touch,” the first book in a trilogy? If so, when will the next book be published? 

Yes, it's the first book in the "PLAY ON" series. Originally, I only planned for three books, but if they are popular, I could keep going. Sure, I've introduced a gamut of possibility with all the lads on the team, each with the potential to face their own struggles, find their own love. The second book with the working title, “IN TIME,” I hope to get out in April 2016, but that might be slightly delayed. I am a mum of two young boys and I work full-time as a fiction editor, so my time for writing is either in the wee hours of the morning or after bedtime so you can imagine how much I get done! But I am going to do NaNoWriMo this year again, a writing challenge for the month of November. 50 thousand words. I can do this. Heave!