Rugby gains popularity in Port Alberni

A student from Haahuupayak Elementary School evades opponents during an afterschool rugby game on Wednesday, May 11. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)A student from Haahuupayak Elementary School evades opponents during an afterschool rugby game on Wednesday, May 11. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
A Wood Elementary School student passes to a teammate during afterschool rugby action on May 11, 2022. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)A Wood Elementary School student passes to a teammate during afterschool rugby action on May 11, 2022. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Students from EJ Dunn Elementary School and John Paul II Catholic School battle it out during an afterschool rugby game on May 11, 2022. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)Students from EJ Dunn Elementary School and John Paul II Catholic School battle it out during an afterschool rugby game on May 11, 2022. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)

Rain didn’t stop the rugby action last week, as almost 200 kids from around the Alberni Valley took to the pitch for an afternoon of rugby games.

The wrap-up event on Wednesday, May 11 was the culmination of an After School Sport and Arts Initiative funded by the province of B.C. and organized by School District 70 and the Port Alberni Black Sheep Rugby Club.

Jelena Dyer, program coordinator, said the kids started practicing after school in March. The program included three “play days” at the Black Sheep Rugby Club where students were put into teams based on schools and played against each other.

“It’s just amazing what these kids have learned in those three months,” said Dyer.

The program was originally scheduled to start in March 2020, but the declaration of the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting restrictions forced organizers to put the program on hold. This year, 2022, was the first time the rugby program was able to take place.

The rain didn’t deter anyone from the final play day on May 11, which saw the Black Sheep rugby pitch transformed into 10 smaller fields for games. Students from Grades 4-7 represented elementary schools from all over the Alberni Valley, including St. John Paul II Catholic School and Haahuupayak Elementary School.

Students were taught flag rugby, or non-contact rugby.

“They can learn the fundamentals of the game, and then next year the older students can try tackle rugby,” explained Dyer.

Practices have been taking place on school campuses in the afternoon, with players from the Black Sheep Rugby Club volunteering to coach and referee.

For the Black Sheep, said Dyer, it’s a legacy opportunity.

“It helps to find players for the [Alberni District Secondary School] team, which helps the adult team,” she said. “This is where it starts.”



elena.rardon@albernivalleynews.com

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