Red Hawks rugby reaching for new heights
By Darren Lum
Published Oct. 11, 2016
The Red Hawks girls’ rugby team’s veterans were near to tears when Kailynn Sikma scored their first try this season.
It was an emotional moment for several seniors, who have been playing for the team for the past four years, said coach Carson MacDonald, as it represented the arrival of a program that has rarely been in contention when it came to wins.
“They were so happy that they worked so hard for four years ... and finally, finally ... know they are competitive and can compete with the other teams,” he said.
Although the team continues to look for its first win, after two Kawartha High School Rugby League games, the results are still strong, MacDonald said.
Both games, which included a 12-7 loss, were lost by a single try and the Hawks scored tries in each.
In the team’s last game, he said, people told him how much the team has improved, saying ,”The team looks 100 per cent better. They’re actually playing like it’s a rugby game.”
MacDonald continues work with the team in utilizing the kicking game more – a sophisticated aspect of the game to advance or slow down offensive attacks.
However, the team has shown they are physically capable of moving the ball on the ground too.
“We’ve had a lot of success as well in powering the ball through and we move it quickly. We’re using a combination of hard drives with our strong forwards and our long kicks ... and speed from our backs,” he said.
The evolution of the team included the first few years of just generating interest, which included a bit of a dip with a lack of returning players to now seven veterans with four years of experience and the rest will be expected to play next season.
“I think next year will be a good year as well with the amount of senior girls coming back,” he said, referring to more than half of the 22 player roster.
The bright future includes juniors such as Grade 11 Sikma, who, in her second year on the team, has scored the team’s only two tries.
“She’s an unreal player and definitely dominates the field when she’s on,” he said.
MacDonald said veterans like captains Mikayla Stinson, Carmen Galea and Rachel Churko, have been putting in the work on the weekends and practicing late, as part of efforts to get better. This has been inspirational to the other players.
The veterans have been instrumental in bringing up the younger players.
“It’s been a huge help having the seniors help coach the juniors and their talent has rubbed off on the juniors,” he said. “The seniors have been a huge help. This is the first time we’ve had this many seniors ... the attitude has been really good. The skill level has improved a lot. We’re hoping to get a few wins this year and maybe make the Kawartha playoffs.”
He said the team will need to win two games to earn a playoff berth.
“I don’t think that should be a problem,” he said.
MacDonald believes if the team plays as well in future games as it did in its last game, which was close enough that the team had a chance to win if not for a few calls against them, they will succeed in getting to the post-season.
There has been a definite shift in perception about the team from when he started coaching six years ago, MacDonald said.
“They’ve shown they can win and that the team is not a joke and can compete with the other schools in the district,” he said.
He believes Haliburton has the potential to be a recognized team in the sport of rugby like it is for field hockey. This is owed in part to the progress of the team and the seniors, but also to the recent bronze medal won by the Canadian women’s rugby sevens at the summer Olympics hosted by Brazil a few months ago.
The Canadians have had a history of success, winning medals in every event they entered since 2012, totalling seven. For 2014-2015 the team was ranked second in the World Series.
According to MacDonald, this year’s coaching staff includes returning coach Josh Dennys, Sarah Josephs-Langamann, who has playing experience with a club in Waterloo and at Laurier University, and Evan Brundage,who played in Peterborough at Thomas A. Stewart Secondary, Fleming College and Loyalist College.
Come see the team when they host the Spartans of Lindsay Collegiate this coming Wednesday. Kick off is at 3 p.m. Game time is subject to change.
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