The Grizzlies are doing all they can to keep young cubs coming into the expanding sport of rugby.
“Rugby is growing really quickly,” said L.V. Rogers teacher and coach Michael Joyce. Adds Grizzly Eddie Vulcano, “At the youth level and that’s where we want it to grow.”
In 1989, there were between 15 and 20 guys playing in the Nelson Grizzlies Rugby Club and they needed to recruit Japanese students from the Canadian International College to help fill the team. Today, the sport has grown and 2014 marks the 25th anniversary of the Grizzlies who have represented the region at the BC Rugby Union in provincial finals on several occasions.
Society president Brian Garvin said the sport has benefitted, on a broader scale, from the playing of rugby sevens in the Olympics and locally, with the development of the Kootenay Rugby Union.
“We’d like to be a juggernaut of rugby in our province,” Garvin said as he eyes up the success of the youth program.
With three healthy school-aged boys teams and a robust girls team, kids with strong skills are able to take their game to the next level. Some stalwart L.V. Rogers Bombers have gone on to fields beyond Nelson. Quinn Cowie and Sean Hickson play for the Rowers in Vancouver and Jim Stephenson plays for the Waterloo Warriers.
Former LVR student Tribly Buck has also gone onto play with the Vikes, the University of Victoria’s women’s team. The rookie benefitted from Grizzlies scholarships handed out annually to a male or female player.
Rugby is the fastest growing sport with high school girls. It’s a sport that offers options for all body types and skill sets — and a physical component female players may enjoy.
“Just because it’s a contact sport doesn’t exclude girls,” said Joyce. Adds Vulcano. “You pull out those pads and they want to tackle.”
Developing strong skills among youth has a certain self-serving goal. The Grizzlies organization is keen on getting more players out on the field with the men’s league.
They play two to three times a week saying it helps them “feel good and stay fit.” But key to the rugby organization is the friendships and community development that occurs.
“It’s because of the camaraderie of the game,” said Garvin. “You beat the crap out of each other and then you have a beer together — because you have a proper network, the community develops.”
And in return, the senior men’s rugby is a vehicle for the economic stability of the youth program. In addition to scholarships, fundraising by the Grizzlies covers the costs of travel for the local teams. In addition to playing around BC, every two years they take a bigger trip. In 2015, there are spring break plans to head to Argentina to play.
The Grizzlies are holding their annual fundraising banquet and awards ceremony on November 16 at the Eagles Hall. Alligator Pie will cater and Val Kilmer and the New Coke will get people dancing. A silent auction is also planned being vital in helping kids get out on the field.
“I don’t want economics to curtail someone from taking part in athletics,” said Garvin.
Tickets for the banquet are available at The Dock, Finley’s, The New Grand, Green-Light Communications and by phoning Ed Vulcano at 250-551-3792. Doors open at 6 p.m.