Rugby Player Brendan O’Neill To Bring His Game To Nazareth
Brendan O’Neill of Newtown will take his rugby-playing skills to the collegiate level this year. In the spring, O’Neill signed a national letter of intent to play Division I-A rugby for the Rochester, N.Y.-based Nazareth College team; he is looking forward to playing this fall.
O’Neill, who graduated from Newtown High School, was accepted in to the physical therapy doctorate program at Nazareth College. O’Neill will embark on six years of education as he pursues his career goals.
The rugby flyhalf and fullback joins a team that officially started competing only a couple of years ago, in the fall of 2019.
“I’m super excited to jump in there with a whole new coaching staff and try and make an impact as quickly as possible — can’t wait to see this new program grow, and I’m happy I can call myself a part of the growth,” he said.
O’Neill gained his rugby experience on the Aspetuck Valley Rugby Club, of which his dad, John, is president. O’Neill played for Aspetuck’s youth team beginning in seventh grade and went on to join the club’s high school program, helping the team earn national recognition and compete in the High School Boys’ National Rugby Tournament, in Kansas City, Mo., in late June. Aspetuck finished third in the tournament and number three in the final national rankings, the highest ranking team in Connecticut rugby history.
Aspetuck, which has called Newtown home for the past few seasons, brings players from a variety of area towns together to travel and compete, and that is what O’Neill enjoyed most about his experience with the club.
“All of us coming from different towns doing something that big is special,” he said.
O’Neill also played youth and high school football in Newtown and spent four years as an assistant coach in the Newtown Youth Football program, helping the youngest players in town build their skills and development on the gridiron.
“Coaching youth football brought me a lot of joy, by being there for those kids to have someone to look up to almost as an older brother. Putting smiles on their faces was a high of my day,” he said.
“Brendan has outstanding directional kicking ability to change [the] game’s field position to [his] team’s advantage. He accepted a challenge at nationals to be a difference-maker without hesitation. His commitment to club and his skill set will be hard to replace,” said Ray Weiner, his head coach with Aspetuck’s high school team.
“I’m sure Brendan’s skills will help Nazareth increase their winning percentage. He has the frame to grow and really stand out at his next level of competition,” Weiner said.
“As his coach at the youth level, I would say Brendan was a very coachable kid — he was always willing to slot into different positions to help the team. He fit naturally at the fly half position and it has been fun to see him develop his game in that direction,” added Stuart Meyler, youth head coach with the Aspetuck program. “I have no doubt he will bring both experience and leadership to the team at Nazareth as he takes his game to the next level.”
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