BDHS Rugby Girls shine
The last time Bradford District High School had a girls’ rugby team was in 2012.
Back then, they played Rugby Fifteens; with 15 players on a side, plus substitutes, it meant maintaining a large roster of players to keep the team going.
Since Women’s Rugby Sevens was introduced at the 2016 Summer Olympics — and Canada’s Women’s team not only qualified, but won bronze - the game has changed.
Rugby Sevens, played with seven players on the field, is shorter, faster, and relies more on agility and speed to score. The bronze-medal win also created new interest in the sport, and this fall, when BDHS posted an announcement that players were wanted for a girls rugby team, 35 students signed up.
BDHS was also lucky enough to attract community coach Debbie Kilfoyle. An NCCP Competition Introduction/World Rugby Level 2 coach, she played the game herself for 10 years, and was instrumental in introducing women’s rugby at the varsity level at York University, establishing a university league.
She has now brought her passion for women’s rugby to the high school. “I think it’s great for girls,” said Kilfoyle. “There’s not a lot of sports that can challenge them mentally and physically. There’s not a lot of sports with full contact.”
The intense practices and the games require commitment and teamwork from the players, “and just the ability to challenge themselves. It’s empowering.”
Two of her daughters play with the BUCs.
As with any contact sport, “safety is Number 1,” Kilfoyle said. The girls receive training in proper tackles and scrums, and there is strict adherence to protocols regarding concussion.
“I have all the training in concussion management. All these things are very important,” Kilfoyle said, although with sevens, agility is generally more important than contact: “A lot of the tries we score is from pure speed.”
The Bradford BUCS Rugby Girls have practiced twice a week since the start of school in September, and have played in two tournaments. It’s a measure of their commitment that the players have done their own fundraising, to pay for buses and tourney entry fees.
On Oct. 24, they participated in a rugby tournament at Barrie North Collegiate, fielding both a junior side (Grades 9-10) and senior side (Grades 11-12). Both played well; the BUCs seniors placed third overall.
Kilfoyle has had tremendous support from the school, teachers and parents, she said, and from the players themselves, who came out on a chilly Thursday for their final practice of 2017. But they’ll be back in the spring — working on their tackles, and challenging their opponents and themselves.