Steamboat Springs The Steamboat Springs Rugby Football Club has one main goal in mind for the 2007 summer season of games - win the 33rd annual Cowpie Classic.
If the Routt County ruggers can claim their own tourney (July 7 and 8), Steamboat captain Michael Hurley thinks the team will be able to tackle its other priority - taking top honors in the mountain division of the Eastern Rockies Rugby Football Union.
To do this, they'll have to get past rival Vail and league powerhouse Aspen, who plays a year-round schedule and pulls in top national and international talent.
Fortunately, Steamboat has made some off-season moves of its own to give them a leg up in the must-win away matches.
First, Hurley helped bring in one of the country's premier coaches, who he said was looking to relocate and fell in love with Steamboat. What the team will get is New Zealand's Graham Muir, who has helped coach the Chicago Griffins to the Rugby Super League semi-finals.
Steamboat will have to wait for the Griffins' run to end before Muir runs the sidelines, but the squad will feature a few new ringers from across the globe that have already arrived.
Hurley said, "superstar standout" Chris Bauman, who plays the forward-pack No. 8 position, brought back a few talented players after a rugby-filled "off-season" that had Bauman playing in Scotland in the winter and Australia in the spring.
"I think that from what I've been seeing, that I'll think we'll look as good as Vail and Aspen," Mark Hermacinski said.
Hurley knows the team's success depends on how the extra international players will complement the play of the local regulars.
"We're fortunate to have a core group of locals that are the backbone of the team," Hurley said, noting improvements in contributions from Eric Wernig, Shane Dooley and Charlie Pappas.
Hurley sees the team continuing to build throughout the summer as players return to the area, in hopes of consistently fielding an A- and B-side team. Steamboat has a big summer ahead of itself, hosting not only the Cowpie Classic, but also the Ski Town Tournament in August.
Steamboat RFC kicks off its season at 2 p.m. Saturday at Whistler Park against Boulder.