John Gonzales discovered rugby quite by accident. Ray Marrone and Mike Stewart knew John well and were chal- lenged by John to pay a game of volley ball in the north valley; they lost quite comfortably to John and his more skillful mates, They all then went to John’s house to lick their wounds and party. Not to be out done and in search of re- venge, they challenged John to join them in the next rugby practice. In those days rugby was definitely played in ‘frontier’ fashion in New Mexico rather than the gentlemanly English style. John, always boisterous, finished up in a punch up and by the end of the practice session sported a black eye.
The next practice session continued in a similar manner with John having to go to the emergency room to have seven stitches in his right eye. In those early days, if you didn’t get into a fight at practice you wouldn’t get into the team. John obviously qualified.
The very next weekend John played his very first full game. The opponent was El Paso; we all know how that ends. The north versus south games has always been contentious. That night at the obligatory party John said he didn’t know that this game could be so much fun. John was hooked. It may not be confirmed, but strongly believed; he may have been our first Hispanic player and always added some color on his remarks to the Anglos on the team.
Being a bow legged cowboy, he wasn’t the fastest but possibly the strongest. It was often said that John was so bow legged other players on his team could sneak out of a ruck between his legs. However, that was hardly necessary as he always came out of the ruck grasping, with an iron grip, the ball. He had such an iron grip and no one could wrestle the ball from him. In John’s early games he was a major factor in the success of the killer bees.
He remembers fondly the road trips especially to Australia and Ireland. It was on a road trip to Phoenix John met his wife Elizabeth. With considerable sweet talk he convinced her to come to New Mexico.
John went to Ireland with Pete ‘Wrong Way’ Monahan and John had to steer him in the right way. Pete could not get off the ground unless John lifted him up in the lineout. He often coupled up with Kevin Nielson an Australian. A wild man from Corrales teaming up with an Ausie from down under was not the best combination. John ended his career as a member of the Peelers and Old Southwest Old Boy’s teams and was part of the infamous trip to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
When John lived in Corrales he was a well know sight and local character. He used to ride his horse to the Territorial House wearing his cowboy hat and boots and an Aardvark rugby shirt. He once rode his horse into the bar, pirouetted the horse while waving his hat. The manager pleaded with him, “Only once…No more”. John now lives in Los Lunas attempting to live a slightly more sedate life style.