The Texas Rugby Union Hall of Fame welcomes four outstanding contributors to the game as the Class of 2021: John Connolly, Scot Courtney, Bob Fleet, and Mary Graham. The newest members will be inducted at the TRU annual conference tentatively scheduled for Nov. 6 in Austin, celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the TRU.
John Connolly has been a fixture on the local, state and national level since he moved to Houston in 1983. He was an enthusiastic player and president of the Houston Old Boys, and remains active with its successor, the Houston Athletic Rugby Club (HARC). He was instrumental in starting the program at Strake Jesuit High School where he served as an assistant coach. He also served as an assistant coach at Rice University for nine years, and was the TRU Collegiate Secretary for seven years during which time he staged two National Collegiate Championships in Texas. At the national level, he chaired the USA Eligibility Committee for four years, and was a leader in the staging of several USA Eagles matches in Houston. John, a former referee, was a driving force behind the establishment of the Lost Afternoon Rugby Luncheon, and is a Board Member of the Houston Youth Rugby Association.
Scot Courtney is a long term member of the TRU Board, and is a legendary member of the Southwest Texas/Texas State rugby program. He currently serves as its Director of Rugby after beginning his career as a player in 1984, eventually becoming its captain and coach, earning All Star honors and playing on or coaching championship teams. He is also a referee and played in Houston while attending law school. On the TRU Board, he is known for his long and current service in the thankless role of Disciplinary Chair. He has held a similar role in the Western USA RFU, and is member of the USA Collegiate Management Committee. Additionally, he has been active at the youth/high school level in San Marcos and held key positions with Rugby Texas.
The late Dr. Robert “Bob” Fleet is known as the Godfather of East Texas Rugby. Following a stint playing for Texas A&M, Bob became a Professor of Forestry at Stephen F. Austin University in the early 70s and led the team as a player and/or coach over four-plus decades. Besides planting the flag for Texas Rugby in Nacogdoches, Bob was a founder of the Eastern Counties Division of the TRU and fostered programs throughout all of Deep East Texas, ensuring that the TRU would not be a metro-centric organization. Clubs from Shreveport to the Gulf Coast and in between benefitted from his leadership in the region, allowing players to earn All Star honors at the divisional, state and Western USA levels, while providing access to referees and coaching resources. Bob even served as Coach and Head Selector of the All Star team. Beyond coaching, he loved to play the game and took the field for a number of teams besides SFA, including Shreveport and Sam Houston. He also helped grow the game as a referee, and through the hundreds of players he touched who have gone on to serve rugby throughout Texas.
Mary Graham is another pioneer who was a leading figure in the establishment of several women’s All Star programs in Texas in the early 2000s during her time as Head Coach of the Rice women’s team and a player for HARC. She also played for the Austin Valkyries. Most notably, she created the U-23 program when All Star opportunities for women were limited, and then went on to serve in similar capacities at the Western USA level, including Assistant Coach of the Western U-19s. Administratively, she served as the TRU Women’s Division Director before her career eventually took her to Colorado where she continued to have an important impact on the game.
The Hall of Fame was created in 2016, and with the latest additions now has 45 members (including five deceased) representing the first 50 years of the organization. The induction ceremony for the seven members of the Class of 2020 was canceled due to COVID, and these members will be formally inducted at the November banquet along with the Class of 2021.