Earlier this year, Port Alberni’s Cody McClary was trying to decide if he wanted to play rugby in the summer.
He and his wife Deserray were in the midst of selling and moving into a new house, he was working full time as a heavy-duty mechanic in Parksville, and an invitation he received to play with the BC Bears was tempting, but the time commitment was daunting.
It’s a good thing he said yes.
McClary, a tight head prop, went on to play in the senior men’s national championships, and from there was selected to play for the Canada A’s team. He is currently in Europe playing a three-game international tour.
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“Shortly after returning home from travelling with the Bears I received an e-mail stating that I had been selected to play with the Canada A’s team,” McClary said when reached in England.
“When I received the e-mail I was immediately excited. I had to read it twice to make sure I was reading correctly.”
This week McClary travelled with the Canada A team to England to play three games against UK teams (they played Doncaster on Aug. 20). Canada A plays Ulster on Friday, Aug. 26 and Glasgow Warriors on Aug. 30.
“I’ve had opportunities to play for premier level teams to get more exposure, but I always wanted to stay playing for the Port Alberni Black Sheep and be able to work and see my family every day,” says McClary.
This is the first time he has travelled to Europe, and the first time he’s played for the national team.
“It’s quite the feeling, putting on that jersey with your country’s flag on it, knowing you’re representing Canada playing the game you love.
“It’s been an unreal experience so far and I’ve learned a lot in the short time we have been away.”
“Cody’s a pretty talented athlete,” says Jas Purewal, the Black Sheep head coach. “He is tight head prop; a lot of force is on you in the middle of the scrum. You have to be tough to play that position.”
Purewal said it’s exciting to see one of the Black Sheep play on the international front. “At this level it’s pretty cool for a 25-year-old.”
McClary is not the first Black Sheep to play for a national team.
Kevin “Lunk” Wirachowski—also a tight head prop—played his first international match against England on Oct. 17, 1992. Wirachowski got his start in Port Alberni but has played for 25 years with the Velox Valhallians.
According to his Velox bio, Wirachowski still holds the Canadian record for the oldest player to competitively play in an international game at the age of 40.
In more recent years, Ty Shannon and Luke Bradley have represented Port Alberni on the national and international pitches, Bradley in the last year with the men’s national sevens.
Although the Black Sheep aren’t running a women’s program at the moment, they have had several past players make it to the provincial level, but none have played at the national level.
Sarah Logan was selected for a national all-star team about six years ago “but they never played any games,” Purewal said. “They didn’t have that level then.”
A number of Port Alberni rugby players have excelled beyond their home pitch this summer, Purewal added:
• ADSS grad Olivia Thoen represented BC U-19 at the Canadian national championships.
• Six ADSS girls played for the Tsunami U-18 in Provincials Regional Championships.
• ADSS boys played for the Tsunami U-18 in Provincials Regional Championships.
• ADSS boys playing for the Tsunami U-16 in Provincials Regional Championships
• One ADSS boy representing BC U-16 at the upcoming national championships.
With such strength coming out of the high school programs, the Black Sheep are hoping to re-start a club youth team this year to participate in the Fall Youth League, Purewal said.
SCRUM NOTES…McClary is one of three North Island players on the Canada A side touring the UK: Ollie Nott (Qualicum) and Doug Fraser (Ladysmith) are also on the squad…The Black Sheep are already practicing on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6:30–8:15 p.m.