RAK Rugby is the official new name of Ras Al Khaimah’s rugby team – drawing to an end a long-running saga over what to call the UAE’s most northerly-based club.
Rugby has been played in the region since 1969, and the first name that adorned the club jersey was ‘Goats’. That has caused issues over the years, and when the club debuted in the inaugural Community League three years ago, they were forced to change their name to ‘Rocks’ by the UAE Rugby Federation.
Officially they did, although they still continued to go by the original name, but chairman Simon Williams says the new ‘Rugby’ moniker is more encompassing and is here to stay.
“We’ve been very busy since the end of season and over the summer with a number of changes underway,” said Williams.
“First is the name changing from the RAK Goats to RAK Rugby. We had some potential issues with the name and at first glance it didn’t really tell anyone who we were and what we did, unless you were already involved in UAE rugby.
“At the same time, we were developing the club with a mini and youth section, an Under-19 Emirati team and we hope a women’s sevens team.
“The name therefore didn’t really reflect the diversity of our membership, or help with recruiting sponsors or growing the club locally, so for all these reasons we have decided to change it to RAK Rugby.
“It’s simple, clear and effective and still allows us to have nicknames for the various teams that fall under the RAK Rugby banner.”
The relationship between rugby and Ras Al Khaimah has been as rich as the oil that feeds the UAE, with the game played in the northern region in some guise since the first expatriate oil and port workers arrived 50 years ago.
RAK Goats were officially established in 1981, named after the indigenous goats that were found in the local Hajar Mountains.
The latest reincarnation of rugby in RAK saw the club re-established in 2013 after a seven-year absence by a group of enthusiasts disillusioned with travelling to the nearest club in Sharjah to play. The team turned up to the Sharjah 10s, borrowed some playing kit and ended up winning the Plate final.
In 2015/16 the club lost every single one of their inaugural Community League encounters, but better was to come last term as they finished a respectable fourth, while their nomadic existence was rectified somewhat when they found a home at their iconic sand pitch, built on the beach at the Bin Majid Resort.
They even won the Fair Play Team award at the UAE RF end of season awards, as well as attracting local and international interest and new sponsors.
“There are now big plans in place for RAK Rugby going forward,” added Williams.
“We’ve teamed up with Tower Links Golf Club to use their facility for floodlit grass training and we have showers now rather than a dip in the sea.
“We’ve also become associated with Barjeel health club for some pre-season strength and conditioning training and have three coaches to work on our game, two of which are specialised coaches.
“There are other plans afoot but these are still in the formation phase at present, but pre-season has started and we are actively recruiting new players and can’t wait to play the Arabian Knights on September 29.
“We will be having a trials session at the golf club on September 8 involving several local organisations and a barbecue and disco afterwards at Tower Links. Anyone is welcome to come along.”