Historic victory for rugby team long in coming
By Darren Lum
Oct. 25, 2016
Even if victories are measured in the finer details of the process nothing quite compares to a win on the scoreboard. Warm embraces and huge sunny smiles were incongruous to the steady rain shower that pelted the jubilant Hawks rugby players who came together in the middle of the pitch this past Tuesday, Oct. 25 at the Gary G. Brohman Athletic Field in Haliburton.
They might have easily dominated their last place visiting opponents, Port Hope High School 42 -5, but take nothing away from the feisty Kawartha High School Rugby League’s Red Hawks varsity rugby team.
Before this season, in most games, the team was a step behind and a few scoring tries short of ever winning.
They struggled for five years to learn and execute what they were taught by coach Carson MacDonald and co-coach Josh Dennys, who started two years after. This included the team gaining a basic understanding of the concept of the game to being able to field a team with enough players for substitutes or the few years when it wasn’t part of a league, designated as a club team, or how the team didn’t score a try with one season, as the outlier.
Not only did they score one try, they scored 14 and were competitive in more than half of the six regular season league games.
This win was attributed to an “aggressive attacking game” and was well-deserved after six years for a program that has had its up and downs coach MacDonald said.
Tries were scored by Kailynn Sikma, two, Rachel Churko, Chloe Samson, two, and Arden Harrop, including a two-point conversion by Mikayla Stinson.
This result wasn’t lost on their coach, who has been there since the beginning.
MacDonald said this win will change the perception of the team to one that is competitive, which could draw more players and to provide a greater incentive for current players to return.
“They’ve got something to look forward. I think almost all the girls on the team this year will stay with the team,” he said.
It’s not confirmed, but he believes a few of the veterans may return for a fifth year, which will be welcomed by both coaches.
MacDonald and Dennys said this is necessary to maintain the upward trend.
Dennys, who remembers his co-coach seeing veterans Mikayla Stinson, Carmen Galea and Rachel Churko practising outside of team held practices, whether it was evenings or in the summer, speaks reverently about the veterans, whose passion and commitment led to the win and the brighter future.
Captain and fourth-year player Galea acknowledged her other veteran teammates such as Sadie Lissemore, Alyssa Bogan, Victoria Archibald, Stinson and Churko. This is a reminder of the cohesiveness of this team this season and over the years. Many former players were seen on the sidelines watching, providing support even if they couldn’t do it on the field with a pass, a run, a tackle.
Galea sees this win as the result and the start to something positive.
“It meant that all our hard work over these four years paid off, getting that win under our belts was almost a relief. I think it will generate more interest in the program which generally usually has a smaller turnout than other sports like field hockey. I think we are a hard working and committed team who really deserved some kind of recognition,” she wrote in an email.
Before this win the team was edged out a day earlier by Norwood 20-10.
MacDonald appreciated his team’s effort and performance, but said it couldn’t overcome the discrepancy in ball possession, which favoured the home side who were on the attack far more than his side. Scoring in the game for the Hawks came from Archibald and Nicole Cox.
The team is high with confidence and enter the Kawartha quarter-finals held in Lindsay as the sixth seed and will square off against the league’s third seed, the Spartans of Lindsay Collegiate Vocational Institute. (In a previous article the coach said everyone made the semi-finals, but later recanted, explaining he misread the description.)
MacDonald has seen his team execute in the past few games and believes it will be a trend that continues into the playoffs and believes anything could happen.
“Move on and move forward and know what it’s like to win,” he said.
The Spartans defeated the Hawks 31-5 in their meeting earlier in the regular season. However if Haliburton can win they will advance to semi-finals.
Dennys said this win was pretty emotional for the coaches and it all started with the first try of the season, which came after a long drought when just one was scored a few years ago by Betty Paton.
“Watching them score, we were probably more emotional than them watching it happen, working on something for four years, but it’s just another stepping stone to moving forward and led to getting our first win,” he said.