PUSH Lashburn High School Lobos athlete Avery Scramstead tries to split the E.S. Laird Middle School Sabres defence. JAMIE HARKINS LLS PHOTO
Shivering bodies, wet cleats and grass stained jerseys and knees accompanied wide smiles and wishes of encouragement during the E.S. Laird Middle School Sabres annual rugby season wrap-up tournament.
The Holy Rosary High School Raiders, Sabres, Lashburn High School Lobos and Meadow Lake Jonas Samson Junior High School Stingers braved single digit temperatures and a driving rain for the chance to compete in the 10-on-10 quick 10-minute games tournament on Monday afternoon. Nobody, apart from the players themselves, was really taking score to find out who won or lost because that wasn’t the point of these kids heading onto the field.
“It’s definitely cold, but it’s worth it,” said Raiders scrum half Thora Hundeby, who was found huddled up in a tent set up near the pitch between contests.
“It’s a bit slippery sometimes too, but it’s good overall if you’ve got cleats.”
Morgan Mann, a coach with the Sabres boys and girls rugby teams, said the tournament format allowed the rugby games to roll one after another.
He said that eliminated halves and pre-game warm-ups from the contests making for almost a hockey shift-change style with the kids able to head inside, over to the fire pit set up near the field or into their vehicles between matches to stay warm.
“We did pretty good, but we didn’t win all the games,” said Lobos scrum half Kaeden Highton. “The competition was very hard.”
Brooke Torgeon, a prop with the Raiders, noted their toughest matches of the afternoon came against the Lobos and one of the two Sabres girls teams.
She added all of the players know each other’s strengths and weaknesses thanks to their regular weekly match-ups since the start of May, which made these season-ending games extra competitive and fun.
“We’re doing all right, but I felt like we’ve had better days,” said Sabres scrum half Hannah Thompson. “A lot of our girls are just tired and stressed out with the weather.”
Thompson said the Sabres started practising indoors in April before moving outside once the snow melted. She said they played about two games a week since then against clubs from Bonnyville, Lashburn, Cold Lake, Meadow Lake and Lloydminster.
“We’ve done pretty good,” she said. “We’ve lost a lot of strong players (to graduation), but our girls did pretty good considering there were lots of first-year players.”
Mann said the Sabres coaching staff has accomplished its goal this year of getting more kids involved in rugby and sports in general. He said rugby teaches a lot of life skills in terms of discipline, respect and sportsmanship to these kids, so they just want to introduce as many young athletes to it as possible.
“We had a pretty strong boys team this year and our girls team, Holy Rosary, Lashburn and Meadow Lake all had good competitive strong teams,” said Mann.
“There was a lot of parity. It looks like Lashburn and Meadow Lake were particularly strong today, so it was a good day.”