Rugby alumni raise money for deceased teammate’s family

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Rugby alumni raise money for deceased teammate’s family

CW/ Kallie Chabla

CW/ Kallie Chabla

CW/ Kallie Chabla

CW/ Kallie Chabla

Contributing Writer, Andrew Littlejohn

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Darian “Deeno” Woods, a 26-year-old University of Alabama rugby alumna, passed away on March 16 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Now her former teammates are coming together to help her family and honor her memory.

AAAYYYYYEEEE BAMA RUGBY” was a common cheer to be heard during Woods’ two years on the team at the University.

“She went out there every day, and when she stepped on that field, she put her multi-colored socks on that looked a little crazy, when she got ready to go she didn’t stop,” said Krisie Stakely, a former captain of the rugby team who played with Woods for two years. “She is one of the best rugby players I’ve ever played with. I’ve played on a lot of different teams and with a lot of different girls.”

While Woods was on the team, then-head coach Alex Davenport said they advanced further in competition than the team ever had before.

“Deeno was a member of the team that won the 2015 SIRC [Southern Independent Rugby Conference] Division II Championship,” Davenport said. “The same team advanced to the USA Rugby Collegiate Playoffs, Round of 16.”

During games, Davenport said Woods would “power through” eight to 10 people.

“Others were expected to rise to her level,” said Davenport.

“Deeno was a force to be reckoned with,” said Tara Thomas, a former teammate of Woods’. Thomas was Woods’ rugby “little,” meaning she was trained by Woods to take over her position of prop on the team.

“Deeno had such high expectations for me, which was awesome,” Thomas said. “She built my confidence on and off the field, made me stand up tall, just as she would do. If you were gonna do it, you were gonna do it 100%.”

Davenport said Woods was a player that made others grow around her, including her team members and coaches.

“She made me grow as a coach,” Davenport said. “Deeno was unique and fierce.”

When Woods was off the field was the same as she was on it. This is where she increased those bonds made on the field and the ones that would last forever. It allows her teammates to remember her with such vigor and fondness.

“She knew who she was,” Stakely said. “Deeno was unapologetic for being herself.”

Woods’ death came as a surprise to the rugby woman who knew her. Reilly said Woods wanted to go medical school.

“You don’t wake up one morning expecting it will be the last time,” Stakely said. “You don’t expect to have a piece of your family to be gone, especially in rugby. Rugby’s unique. Rugby’s a culture. Rugby’s your family, and a piece of our family’s gone. It will never be the same, but I am really thankful that we had her.”

A GoFundMe was set up by the UA women’s rugby alumni to help Woods’ family pay for funeral expenses. The original goal was $1,600, but this was met quickly in less than 12 hours. The goal was then raised to $4,050, which was met in less than 12 days with a total of 94 contributions.

“It is incredible to see alumni come together, access time zones and countries,” said Caitlin Reilly, a UA women’s rugby team alumna and former teammate of Woods’.

The team is determined to get enough donations to fly Woods’ family to campus during alumni weekend for “Old Girls Weekend,” where the current UA women’s rugby team will face off against alumni in a match.

“We are hoping to relieve some of the financial stress put on her family,” Thomas said. “Any extra amount will go to help her family in any other ways.”

There are aims to eventually make a fund in Woods’ name to help ease some of the financial burdens of playing on the UA women’s rugby team.

“With the money raised, we would like to create a fund in Deeno’s name to sponsor players who can’t pay dues,” Reilly said.

Those interested in assisting the family can donate to their GoFundMe named “‘The Lion’s Roar’- The Life & Legacy of Deeno Woods.”

Rugby Common, a rugby apparel brand, will sell T-shirts through April 30 in Woods’ memory. If 40 shirts are sold, $5 from every shirt purchased will be donated to Woods’ family by the company.