In rugby, it can be hard to tell the players without a program. Usually because there isn’t a program, let alone numbers or names on jerseys. And they’re often swapped when a player has to leave the match because of injury.
But the Terry Fox Ravens rugby team doesn’t really need a program. Most of the players are familiar names from the school’s football squad that won the Subway Bowl provincial championship two seasons ago and reached last year’s semifinal.
That’s by design, said Craig Geddes, who coaches Fox’s rugby team along with Mike Collins. “We are strong proponents of athletes playing more than one sport.”
And while there’s soccer and basketball players, as well as wrestlers, on the team, the core come from the football team.
That gives the Ravens an edge in rugby’s contact elements like breaking tackles when on offence and driving opponents back on defence, Geddes said. This year’s team has also been able to leverage some of the football side’s speedier players, like running back Jaden Severy, who scampered for four tries in Fox’s 66-7 win over Fleetwood in last Thursday’s AAA/Tier 2 semifinal.
The win sets up a championship showdown Thursday at Terry Fox secondary against crosstown rivals, the Riverside Rapids, which defeated Southridge 23-15 in their semifinal.
Geddes said his side will have to be full measure to be able to reprise the 43-10 win they had over the Rapids earlier this season.
“The team has been highly motivated all year,” he said. “They take pride in working hard with each other and for each other.”
Rapids’ coach Darren Mackenzie concedes the Ravens present a formidable challenge to his side’s quest for a second championship in three years.
“We see their results and they also seem to be growing in momentum,” he said.
But, Mackenzie added, pride can go a long way in rugby, and the Rapids are fuelled by the successes they’ve had since he and co-coach Abraham Kang picked the team up off the mat three years ago following a run of 17 straight losses.
Without a football program to provide a ready supply of strapping tacklers and speedy ball carriers, Mackenzie said Riverside has had to “literally beg and plead” to recruit players, many of whom have never scrummed down or hoisted for a line out.
He said bringing together such a disparate crew and moulding them into top rugby players has given the Rapids a mental resolve that should serve them well against the Ravens.
“It shows they can achieve anything they seriously put their minds to,” he said. “We hope to catch the mighty Fox off-guard, but it’s going to be a huge challenge.”