Who: Bucks County Sharks/Hibernian Rugby Football Club
What: Celebration/Remembering Mark Vella
Why: We all miss him, and want to spend time together sharing stories, tales, lies & exaggerations. We will also be raising money for his daughter.
When: Thursday, February 2nd 8:30PM
Where: Pasquales Sports Bar
How: Just show up and have a great night out.
Mark started playing rugby for the Hibernian youth team and quickly advanced into the world of Rugby League at a young age. He clearly got all the height and hairline advantages compared to his older brother Johnny, but it embodied everything we enjoy about our team when they were both on the field at the same time. His on and off the field adventures were legendary, and there are way too many stories to recite on these pages, but I will share one of my favorites. We got wind of a beach rugby tournament in Wildwood, NJ during the middle of the Summer on a day that the Sharks didn’t have a game. We knew nothing of beach rugby, but deciding it was worth checking out we packed up and took the trip to the beach. Here was the lineup:
Ed ‘Open Mic’ Ward
Ed’s buddy from Shippensburg (I forget his name)
Brian ‘Skinny Fat’ Foley
Mark ‘Scum Life’ Vella
Beach rugby, as we learned, was 5 vs. 5 on a condensed field in the sand, consisting of two 5 minute halves. I highly recommend checking it out if you have never played, as it was one of the most enjoyable rugby experiences I have ever had. We quickly learned that other teams traveled with more numbers and took advantage of the liberal substitution policy and we found ourselves facing fresh legs every couple minutes. (running in the sand is extremely tiresome) I managed to bring various jerseys that I had acquired over the years that were, for the most part, some sort of red/white pattern and we almost looked like a team. Mark was in his element during these games as larger opponents tended to underestimate his abilities. I don’t recall him missing a tackle all day, and heard feedback from multiple spectators and players that he was playing an extremely aggressive style. Somehow we managed to win some games and work our way into the semi-finals. We lost, as the events of the day eventually caught up with us. Apparently not having any substitutions, and crushing beers in between games impacted our longevity and we lost to a young squad that traveled with 12 players. Jumping in the ocean in between games, watching other games, and heckling the other players with beers in hand was our approach to the long day of footy in the sun … and it was a perfect plan.
The after party was relatively uneventful at the bar and I could tell Mark was getting restless. He was surrounded by older people, and we were clearly cramping his style so we arranged for him to join up with Foley and Mark ‘No Show At The Tourney Even Though He Lived In Wildwood’ Transue for a house party. I continued on and figured we would link up some other way either later that night, or sometime in the morning. As was always the case, he managed to make an impression with the locals and I will leave some of those details out of this post. (feel free to weigh in on it if you like in the comments below) I will also leave out the older bird that Ed was chasing at the bar because I don’t fully recall the details.
The Pelican and I were up early and we were out riding our bikes on the prowl for some fresh air and coffee. In the distance, we saw a figure in the distance walking over one of the bridges and it was no doubt the ‘cat that inevitably comes back.’ Walking the streets of Wildwood at those early hours in the same gear he was clearly wearing the previous day can only imply one thing, and I can imagine what the locals thought as they saw him strolling the streets. We linked up with him and naturally one of us had to buy him a coffee (and maybe a bagel … again, the events are relatively hazy) and heard him recount the events of the previous night. It sounded like a great time all around, and we spent the day surf fishing and relaxing. My wife and I drove home later that night with our ‘child’ in the back seat who drifted off to sleep. So many good times. We miss you Mark, and I will always remember the moments we shared.
“Such a long long time to be gone and a short time to be there” – He would be disappointed with my choice of song to quote, but it’s what comes to mind.