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MTI to join AF rugby team for rematch in Australia

  • Published
  • By Patrick Desmond
  • 502nd Air Base Wing OL-A Public Affairs
The Air Force team has been adept at keeping the egg-like rubber rugby ball under its control over the years, having championed eight of the last nine Armed Forces tournaments.

An invitation to play the Royal Australian Air Force in the Australian Rugby Challenge April 20-30 offers the opportunity to test that dominance abroad.

A member of the winning team during the first contest between the two nations' air forces in 2009, one Lackland Military Training Instructor's job is specifically to keep the oblong bouncing the right way.

"My job is to clean up the mess and maintain possession of the ball," said Staff Sgt. Marvin Mays, 331st Training Squadron. "And, pretty much do the dirty work."

His third year playing for the Air Force, Mays fulfills the prop position - common to larger rugby players - and is on the frontline of the battle for control.

He's similar to an offensive lineman in football, except Air Force rugby players can kind of do it all.

"My job is to set up the score," the 6-foot-1, 275-pound MTI said, adding he often forces two or three opponents to take him down before pitching to an open teammate.

In 2009, Mays helped his team to a 34-18 win over RAAF. Yet, he's convinced a rematch in the Australian state of Queensland will be a little tougher.

"The Australians grew up playing the game. Most of the Air Force players have only been playing since college," said Mays. "I believe it's going to be a harder match on their pitch."

As an added incentive, the winner walks away with the Paul/Milne Shield, a trophy honoring pilot Francis Debenham Milne, RAAF, and Joseph E. Paul, USAF, two of four C-47 crew members killed in combat during WWII.

For that reason, Mays said his third team selection is even more special "because we're defending the Paul/Milne Shield and want to represent the Air Force well."

In addition, joining the squad allows him to represent his career field well.

"Some guys who would make great MTIs don't do it because they think it's all work," he said. "My chain of command allows me to play, showing there are venues outside of work."

Arriving in advance of the games, the Airmen only have a few two-a-day practices to prepare. But for the most part, the system is already in place.

"The Air Force Team continues to be successful because we have run the same system for a very long time," Mays explained. "We continue to promote coaches from within the program, which helps keep us consistent."

The four-game challenge also features matches against the Royal New Zealand and a local semi-pro team.

Mays said he envisions some tough, low scoring games and some bruises afterward.
"It's feels like a 3,000-pound load dropped on your shoulders," he said about recovering from repeated scrum collisions during a rugby game.

Nevertheless, it's the game he loves. And if he can keep the ball in the hands of his high-scoring offense, he'll have the Paul/ Milne trophy to ease the pain on a long flight home.