Wednesday, 10 August 2011 14:08

Trio of Swift Current rugby players hope to win medal at U-18 nationals

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By Aasa Marshall — This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Three Swift Current players will return to the Under-18 Women’s National Rugby Championship this month, with an eye on earning a medal.

As members of Saskatchewan’s U-18 team, Victoria Burkey, Kelsey Beisel, and Lisa Campbell are confident that, with new coaching and a more cohesive team than previous years, they have a shot at improving on last year’s eighth-place finish. Beginning Aug. 15 in Calgary, the tournament will include teams from Ontario, British Columbia, Alberta, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec, and Manitoba in addition to Saskatchewan.

The girls have spent the summer travelling to practices and camps to prepare for the tournament, and have had their confidence bolstered by a recent win over Manitoba. All three have high praise for the new coach of the provincial team, Darren Beaulac, and say he has done well recognizing players’ strengths and encouraging them to work as a team.

Beisel, 17, a centre known for her tackling ability, said there is a noticeable difference in the team’s outlook and attitude.

“We’re bonding a lot more,” she said. “Everyone seems to click a lot more … everyone seems more serious about it this year, everyone wants to win.”

Burkey, 17, who will be playing prop and hook at nationals, echoed the sentiment, attributing the team’s cohesiveness to the change in coaching.

Beaulac, who coached the Notre Dame rugby team, has new strategies that work for the players, she said.

“Now that the coach is acting like one of the teammates, he can bring us all together as a family,” she said. “It’s really nice.”

According to Campbell, who plays prop, the team’s strength comes not only from having 12 returning players, but the new coach’s ability to formulate lines and strong chemistry.

“He sees who works best together and knows how to put them together,” she said.

Women’s rugby is a relatively new in Swift Current; Campbell said the program began at the Swift Current Comprehensive High School only four years ago. Beisel, Burkey, and Campbell all graduated from high school this year and have been involved since its inception. They said they were pleased to have rugby as an option for their high school career.

It’s a sport that’s been growing in popularity, said Saskatchewan Rugby’s Executive Director Jordan Astrope.

“(Canada) is one of the strongest women’s rugby countries in the world,” said Astrope.

“In Saskatchewan, we’re expanding.”

This year’s provincial team is well-rounded.

“A lot of the forwards are veterans, but our backs are just as talented,” said Astrope. “ They’re more new to this higher caliber of rugby, but they have the skill set.”

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