BY Rick Stiebel
Two local rugby players are volunteering with younger players to spread the gospel according to the game they love.
Rori Wood and Beth Fitzner, 17-year-old students on Edward Milne Community School’s rugby team, are working with students at Journey Middle School who expressed interest in learning more about the game.
Wood said she was initially reluctant to start playing rugby three years ago because she was worried that an injury would curtail her ability to compete in hockey, her first passion.
“After the first year of rugby I was totally hooked on it to the point that I stopped playing hockey last year,” she said. “Rugby teaches respect on and off the field, and it’s a great way to make friends.”
When Edward Milne vice-principal John Lyall first approached the pair about working with students at Journey, they jumped at the chance.
“When you watch the national women’s team, you see there’s no fear or stigma involved in playing such a great sport,” Wood said. “It’s also very affordable because all you need is a mouth guard and a pair of cleats.”
Wood relishes the opportunity to share her passion for the game with younger students and expose more girls to the benefits of playing rugby.
“It will prepare kids who are serious about the sport, and help build a solid foundation before they get to high school,” Wood added.
Fitzner, in her third year of rugby as well, said she was drawn to rugby because it’s a contact sport that’s easy to play and creates a special bond.
“You spend a lot of time in close contact with your teammates and that creates a closeness on the team,” she noted. “It builds confidence and life skills.”
Fitzner said working with younger students also provides a great opportunity to expose more kids to the sport.
“We want to bring younger kids into rugby and show them it’s not just a men’s sport,” she added.
Journey’s rugby coach, teacher Brittany Sims, who has coached Wood and Fitzner, called them great role models.
“I really appreciate their efforts in growing the sport in the community,” said Sims, who has played for 15 years and coaches the West Shore U14 girls team.
Teacher Grania Bridal, the manager of Journey’s rugby team, called them “a couple of gems.”
“What they’re doing is a great example of the kind of kids we have in this community,” she said.
Wood was recently approached to try out for Canada’s U18 rugby team.
“It means everything to get a tryout,” she said. “All of my rugby dreams from when I started playing are coming true.”
It also validates the hard work required to get to that point, Wood said.
“It speaks to the efforts my coaches and teammates have put in to get me to this level,” Wood said. “I can’t thank my parents, coaches and teammates enough.”