Based on the number of players this season, it’s easy to assume that Ballenas Secondary girls are crazy about rugby.
Whalers head coach Olivia Hill reported that she has had close to 60 players come out for the squad. She is able to form two 15-a-side teams.
“I have 58 girls out this year, 55 on the playing roster, and three helping with game-day equipment,” said Hill. “It feels great to have some many girls interested in playing rugby.”
What is the appeal? Hill sums it up in one word: “Fun.”
“We have a lot of fun, and the word has clearly spread,” said Hill. “Girls rugby attracts girls of all different shapes, sizes, and social circles. Players develop strong teamwork and communication skills, as well as an ability to get back up after repeated knockdowns. This sport can be very empowering sport for young women, and I think this is why our numbers are growing. The girls become stronger socially, mentally, and physically – all while having fun.”
The future of the sport in Ballenas is encouraging. Hill said she has about 15 players from Grades 8 and 9, which she expects to carry over into a strong squad next year.
This year, she has 15 senior players who have gained valuable experience playing in the league last year, when the Whalers team was still in its building stage.
“We have two teams this year. An experienced competitive team and a less-experienced development team,” said Hill.
The Whalers teams have an international flavour.
“We always attract a high number of international students who are seeking to try something new in Canada, and this year is no exception, with 13 international students – from Brazil, Turkey, Mexico, Germany, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Japan, and Korea.”
While it’s nice to have a significant number of players, it’s also an organizational issue for Hill as she has to deal with all related paperwork and extra equipment. Hill counts herself fortunate to have good coaching staff that include Lane Franklin, Don Montgomery, Blayre Paddock, and Amber Van Der Mark, who have all been working with the girls in practice.
“With 15 specialized positions on the field, I rely on the other coaches’ unique playing experiences, as we all specialize in coaching different positions.” said Hill.
It’s also a financial problem, as Hill had to order 30 extra jerseys this year, at a cost of $3,000. They also had to buy more tackle bags and rugby balls. She expects transportation costs to also go up this year.
“We try not to charge the girls too much, as we do not want costs to become a barrier to participation,” Hill explained.
Current league fees for the girls are $100 inclusive of all equipment, transportation, and league/insurance fees which is a B.C. Girls Rugby requirement that all teams purchase additional medical insurance through the league, which Hill said adds another thousand dollars to team costs which Hill said they have to cover.
Hill expects to have 25 to 30 girls in her competitive 15-a-side team and will have her juniors compete in either rugby sevens or 10-a-side.
This year the Whalers are playing in combined Vancouver Island Girls Rugby League. Hill expects their schedule to be hectic following the spring break.
The Whalers’ next scheduled game is against Brentwood at Ballenas field on Tuesday, April 2 at 4 p.m.