The Eagles are taking to the rugby fields again at Peter Skene Ogden Secondary school.
More than 40 students came out for the first practice and have since whittled down to about 30, which is “mind-blowing,” rugby head coach and PSO athletic director Kameron Taylor said. In past years, he barely had enough players to form both junior and senior teams.
“The hoorah that the kids have shown the first and second practices is (amazing). The energy is very high and they’re just excited to play something and not just go to school, mask up, go home and stay indoors,” Taylor said. “It’s losing your voice kind of excited. I’ve been yelling and encouraging them and the kids have been too. They feed off of that.”
To help manage the teams, he recruited Laura Stewart, a mother of one of the players, and former student Tristan Warner to serve as coaches. He welcomes additional coaches as “the more eyes the merrier.” Taylor has also pulled in veteran rugby players like Cameron Scott and Elias Moore, both in Grade 11, to teach the new players basic rugby rules. Scott and Moore had played for the Eagles in Grade 9 before COVID cancelled all the sports.
“It feels great (to be back) honestly. We haven’t been on since December 2019 so having it not last year but having it this year feels good,” Scott said. “It’s a good physical game to get into. Most of us play hockey so get out on the actual field and play rugby, without all the hockey gear, feels good and loose.”
Moore said he was surprised by the high turnout of students, saying it was especially “crazy” that they had almost 20 girls and 20 boys. The two of them recall only having seven juniors and three or four seniors show up to practice in 2019, so it’s a marked improvement.
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Rookie Mohamed Omer, a Grade 11 student, said Scott and Moore encouraged him to try out for the team this year. Omer said he’s always wanted to play football and rugby was the closest he could get in this area.
“I like the running and the hitting. I’ve always wanted to hit people (on the field) and have some fun,” Omer said.
Micah Kozier, a new Grade 10 student from Agassiz, said he’s been playing rugby with his friends since he was 11 and jumped at the chance to join a team. Much like Omer, he said he has loved having the chance to practice tackling people.
“It’s a good way to remove emotional stress. Instead of taking it out on someone else, you can take it out on the field,” Kozier said.
Taylor said it’s been great to see the enthusiasm of the new players, especially those in Grade 8. He’s looking forward to moving on from the fundamentals and teaching them some of the “trickery plays.”
“(I’m looking forward) to establishing that baseline so they can become mentors and help out all the new players next year,” Taylor said.
Taylor said he was speaking with Bradan McCallum, his counterpart in Williams Lake, about becoming the Cariboo’s Zone rep so their students can become competitive and host games. Both Taylor and McCallum would like to send their players to provincials.
Rugby season runs from September to October this year and resumes in April once the snow melts.