As part of CFAM Student Reporter Oscar Graham's work experience with PembinaValleyOnline News and CFAM Radio 950, he will be writing and publishing stories to the CFAM Blog page in the coming weeks. This is his second first assignment and story. It's about the creation of the rugby program at Roseau Valley School in Dominion City, one of the only rural rugby programs in the province. Enjoy!
Would you ever guess that a small high school with less than 300 kids from K-12, in southern Manitoba would excel in a sport such as Rugby? Most people would think of sports like basketball, volleyball, soccer, etc. Those are the popular sports for high schools all throughout rural Manitoba, but one school that is different than most is Roseau Valley School (RVS) in Dominion City. Roseau Valley has created a rugby program and has seen great success throughout the years.
Rugby is a sport played on a field like football. It’s full contact with very little equipment worn for protection. The objective of the game is to carry the oval shaped ball across the field by passing backwards. Points are scored by getting the ball behind the opponents' goal line, or by kicking it between the two posts and over the crossbar of the opponents' goal.
The rugby program came to RVS ten years ago through two teachers, Kerry Peterson and Meaghan O’ Hare. They both had recently got teaching jobs at Roseau Valley, and were carpooling to work together one day when rugby came up in conversation. Peterson explained how he played rugby, and O’Hare noted how she coached a grade 8 team when she was a teacher in Australia. They both decided they would try to bring the sport to RVS. The biggest challenge the two teachers faced in bringing a new sport to RVS was the fact there were no other teams in the division or anywhere nearby. RVS teams play all sports, both male and female, in the MHSAA’s Zone IV, but that Zone did not have any rugby teams. That meant they would need to join a division in Winnipeg. The newly created team ultimately joined the Winnipeg Rugby League, 7’s Division which has seven players on the field per team at a time.
They had to work out travel complications, and accept the fact most schools from the city wouldn’t be willing to bus out to RVS. O’Hare explains how a grade 12 student at that time had a massive interest in rugby, because his older brother had played. She added the student was a leading force in getting the other kids to join the team, adding rugby may not have come to RVS if it wasn’t for that car ride conversation.
Many students have fallen in love with the sport of rugby, because it’s the only contact sport offered by RVS, and they say it’s the most exciting. The players love how fast-paced the game is, and how the game rarely stops. The aggression and body contact help some players find an outlet for stress relief.
The current captain of the Varsity Boy’s rugby team, John White, describes how RVS has been successful in their rugby program, “I think rugby is successful in our school, because we have great coaches who teach the game very well. Our school also plays a slightly different style than other schools, we like to keep the game very fast, so if we are tackled, we pass the ball as quickly as possibly, so the other team doesn’t have an opportunity to grab it. We are also successful because many of our players have played in provincial rugby programs, so we can pass on what we learned to others.” When asked what rugby has taught John, he states how rugby has taught him respect and discipline.
The success didn’t come to RVS right away as the players and coaches had to adapt to a new sport. The first season the team didn’t win a single game going 0-6. The players couldn’t predict the weather, and were so cold during some games their faces turned into bright red tomatoes. The Winnipeg Rugby League season typically runs from the end of April to the end of May, and sometimes still chilly part of Spring in Southern Manitoba. RVS’ players enjoyed the season even though they were 0-6, and came back hungrier next season for success. They convinced more players to join the team, and it resulted in bringing a provincial banner to RVS which ended a long drought of not having a brand-new banner to celebrate. The sport became increasingly popular in RVS. The players loved the game so much on their way to one of their games, the bus broke down and it was extremely hot, so they got off the bus and played rugby on the side of the highway.
RVS is known as a very small school. Students don’t have to try out to make their sports teams, and everyone is able to play. The rugby team competes against big schools from Winnipeg such as Churchill, Sturgeon Heights and St John’s Ravenscourt. All those schools are significantly bigger than RVS, and have a larger, more developed rugby program. This makes each success that much sweeter.
RVS had another very successful season in 2016 when they finished 1st after the regular season with an astonishing 15-2-2 record. They went into the playoffs as the favourites to win the banner, but were upset by the 4th place team in the final game which was very heartbreaking for some of the players. They did still get a banner, but it read “finalists” instead of “champions”.
The rugby program in RVS has seen many triumphs and heartbreaks. O’Hare, when asked where she sees the rugby program going, stated she sees more players joining the program, and hopefully continue to have as many teams as possible. In 2018 RVS had more players join than ever before, and they were able to have three teams. They gained a JV Boys team and a Varsity Girls team when they were just used to having a Varsity Boys team.
The rugby season in RVS has just got underway, and players and coaches are extremely excited for the season to start with hopes of bringing more success to the school. For the 2019 season, at this point, it looks like RVS will field Varisty Boys and Varsity Girls rugby teams.