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Chicago Hounds hope to spark interest in professional rugby, make playoff run

Chicago Hounds hope to spark interest in professional rugby, make playoff run
Chicago Hounds hope to spark interest in professional rugby, make playoff run 03:05

BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. (CBS) – There's a relatively new team on the Chicago sports scene that's hoping to catch fans' attention.

The Chicago Hounds, in their second year in Major League Rugby, recently clinched a playoff berth in the league. With the help of their young stars, they hope it's just the beginning.

The Hounds are trying to build something big in Bridgeview.

"We want to build an amazing sport experience for the Chicago people," said Dave Clancy, the Hounds backs and attack coach. "There's a lot of people in Chicago, and we think this is a sport that they can get behind. So, we want to just give an alternative. The teams here aren't doing so well here at the moment, so hopefully, we can give them a winning team. That would be a good start."

Bringing in top young talent like Noah Brown, from South Bend, Indiana, could help that cause. Brown is someone Clancy has had his eye on for a while.

"Noah's been a special talent," Clancy said. "I've been aware of him for a few years. That club I coached, Chicago Lions, he came through that program after I left and I watched them win a national title. I was just so impressed with someone who had joined rugby quite late."

Brown, who the Hounds took No. 4 overall in this past year's Major League Rugby draft, only started playing the sport after a buddy asked him to come out in high school. The football and wrestling standout ended up quitting football and focusing on rugby.

"I was a late bloomer," said Brown, the Hounds' rookie wing. "So I quit my freshman year because I was wrestling year-round, and playing rugby, and I was like, 'Ah, do I really want to be a three-sport athlete?' But then I was like 120 pounds, and then by the time I graduated, I was like 190 pounds and just way more athletic. I wish I would've stuck with it, just a little bit, but I'm honestly grateful because I've been able to travel the world and do all these things with rugby."

Brown acknowledged that he's still learning the game of rugby, especially at the professional level, and that includes kicking, which has gotten a lot better from when he first arrived.

"A lot of American backs, they don't grow up in kicking sports," said Clancy. "Everything is a throwing and catching sport, so he's got that bit down, but he looked like a pirate kicking the ball when I first got my hands on him, but we're getting there slowly, but surely."

Brown laughed at that comparison.

"I've always been just like a big, strong, fast runner," he said. "So when they wanted me to start kicking here, like, I don't know, it was not great…but I'm getting better."

And while Brown is focused on the Hounds and the team hopefully making a playoff run, he's got big long-term goals representing his country.

"I would love to make the Olympic team [in] 2028 in L.A.," he said. "That would be amazing. There's only like five people who've ever done it, is play in the Olympics and play in the 15's World Cup. So it's 7's and 15's. You're the cream of the crop of both and that's where I want to be."

The 15's and 7's refers to the number of players on each side.

So how will he do that?

"I think just being consistent," Brown said. "Never accepting where you're at. Never accepting that your skills are good enough. I think it's just always being hungry for something more."

Brown has a good shot at being named the league's Rookie of the Year. The Hounds will play at SeatGeek Stadium on Saturday for their regular season finale.

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