Port Alberni Black Sheep coach Jas Purewal, centre, talks to son Gavin, right, and another Black Sheep player during a home game against Cowichan Piggies on April 7, 2018. (PHOTO COURTESY CHRIS WILSON, ISLANDWAVEPHOTOGRAPHY.COM)

Port Alberni Black Sheep coach earns B.C. Rugby award

Jas Purewal named Jack Patterson Memorial Trophy recipient

Port Alberni Black Sheep coach Jas Purewal has been named the 2020 Jack Patterson Memorial Trophy winner with the British Columbia Rugby Union.

The award, first created in 1964 in honour of the outstanding lifetime contribution to sports made by Jack Patterson, is intended to pay tribute to an administrative member of the B.C. Rugby fraternity for their contribution to rugby in B.C. Purewal received the award in January at the B.C. Rugby Hall of Fame awards gala in January.

“It’s a pretty cool honour for us and very humbling,” he said. “I was completely surprised when they got in touch with me back in December.”

Purewal is head coach of the Black Sheep now, but he started as a player in 1982 with the creation of the North Island Tsunami rugby program. He eventually joined Stu Gibson’s Black Sheep squad, and credited Gibson with instilling in him the ethos that a player has to be involved in rugby in all aspects, not just on the field.

“I call him the visionary of Port Alberni rugby,” Purewal said, giving credit to other people for the strong rugby programs in the city. “I’m the face of Port Alberni rugby…but there are so many of us. There’s a large group of people that have been involved since day one.”

From his tireless work with Port Alberni Black Sheep RFC to his support of rugby up and down Vancouver Island over several decades, Purewal continues to be a champion of grassroots rugby and, says Vancouver Island Rugby Union (VIRU) past-president Andrew Spray, is a fitting recipient.

“Jas’s commitments to rugby have not been restricted to Port Alberni,” Spray said. “The North Vancouver Island Rugby Union was formed the same year Jas joined the Port Alberni executive and he was the Black Sheep’s initial representative to the NVIRU. Three years later he was a key person in establishing its constitution.”

Spray said Purewal is “always being a voice for what is best for rugby. In my seven years as VIRU president, and in the years since as vice-president club rugby, I have often consulted Jas when tricky matters have arisen. I have always found his opinions and advice so helpful in deciding what is best to do for rugby.

“I have felt privileged having him as a friend and wise counsel.”

Purewal said rugby has enriched his life. “I’ve got friends all over the world through rugby,” he said.

He also thanked his wife, Susan, for her role in his rugby career. “Susan has had to put up with a lot…she’s been supportive from the start,” he said. Their son Gavin also plays rugby with the Black Sheep.

“A lot of the credit goes to the families” when you play competitively, Jas Purewal added.

“Rugby isn’t a men’s club, it’s a family’s club.”

Purewal received his award the same weekend as the BC Rugby Hall of Fame inductions in January. Four people were inducted into the Hall: Mike James (player), Ian ‘Macca’ MacLean (builder), Pat Palmer (builder) and Bobby Ross (player), along with presentations for the Joan Spray award to Jen Ross of the Fraser Valley and Purewal’s Jack Patterson Memorial Trophy.

The BC Rugby season has suspended all rugby activity until at least April 10. The 2020 BC Rugby Club finals that were scheduled for May 2 have also been cancelled, and the HSBC Canada Women’s 7s event postponed. The BCRU is exploring different options to conclude each league, and caution that they may or may not include championship matches.

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