Girls rugby program launched in Meadow Lake

Jonas Samson Junior High School Grade 9 student Brooke Neufeld prepares to pass the ball to a teammate during the first-ever junior girls rugby practice held at Carpenter High School March 20. Coach Rufas Crawford hopes more girls will come out to the next practice to learn more about the sport.

Jonas Samson Junior High School Grade 9 student Brooke Neufeld prepares to pass the ball to a teammate during the first-ever junior girls rugby practice held at Carpenter High School March 20. Coach Rufas Crawford hopes more girls will come out to the next practice to learn more about the sport.

by Phil Ambroziak

A small group of Meadow Lake girls wants to prove they’re not afraid to tackle a new sport.

Last week, eight students from Jonas Samson Junior High School took part in a practice session for what is hoped will become a successful junior girls rugby team – a first for Meadow Lake.

“I moved here last year from Swift Current where I coached a girls high school rugby team for five years,” explained coach Rufas Crawford. “I really missed it and wanted to get a team going here. I decided to start with a junior girls team because, by the time girls reach high school, they’ve often been channeled to play only one sport – either basketball or volleyball. This will serve as an introductory to rugby and hopefully in the next three years or so we’ll also have a high school team on the go.”

While another long-term plan involves the establishment of a boys team, Crawford stressed the importance of launching the girls squad first.

“Getting a boys team up and running is quite easy,” he said. “If I was to start a boys team first, however, my feeling is it would be a lot tougher to get the girls involved. Much like football, it would be viewed as a boys sport – especially because of the contact involved – and you’d probably only see one or two girls come out to take part.”

Crawford went on to note he would ideally like to see a minimum of 30 girls sign up for the team. But, in the meantime, he’s pleased with the interest shown by those who attended the March 20 practice.

“I had to keep reminding myself these were junior girls,” he said. “They asked a lot of great questions and really showed a strong interest in learning as much about the sport as they could.”

While details are still being worked out, Crawford also said he eventually plans on having the team compete in a high school league involving teams from the Lloydminster and Lashburn areas.

“Officially, there is no junior high school league, but a lot of high school teams have feeder teams where younger students play,” he said.

Rugby is a form of European football that differs from soccer in that players are free to carry the ball, block with the hands and arms, and tackle.

“If you’ve ever played it, chances are you love it,” Crawford continued. “I personally love the longevity of it. After high school football, players’ options are limited as far as continuing on with the sport. Even though rugby is not as well known in this province, you can play it forever. When I was in Swift Current, I had eight or nine girls who advanced from high school to play for provincial and national teams. Like soccer, the price is also right because you don’t need much in the way of equipment.”

Among those who took part in last week’s practice were JSJH Grade 9 students Holly Abrahamson and Brooke Neufeld. Both girls said they were excited to be involved with rugby.

“I decided to take part because I liked the thought of taking part in a new sport,” Abrahamson said. “It’s a lot of fun.”

Neufeld agreed, adding she likes the fact rugby is a contact sport.

“There aren’t a lot of contact sports out there for girls,” she said.

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