SUMMERSIDE – James Voye is hoping P.E.I.’s participation in this week’s Rugby Canada national championships will help develop the sport in Canada’s smallest province.
Voye is the head coach of the P.E.I. boys’ team that will compete in the Under-18 Division in Calgary. This is the first time P.E.I. has sent an under-18 boys’ team to nationals since 2008.
“We are looking for the guys to have a good experience, to have fun and it’s about continuing to develop the program for P.E.I.,” said Voye, who is head coach of the Three Oaks senior AAA boys. “Hopefully, having a little success out there will help grow our numbers in the future, and make us a stronger program in the future as well.”
The P.E.I. under-18 boys are comprised of 19 players, including 13 from Prince County, from five P.E.I. high schools. The roster was selected last fall, and the team began practising indoors in December.
“We have been going really hard since high school season has been over (in early June),” said Voye, who added expectations are “somewhat high” at the nationals.
“We are in a pool with New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Manitoba and Saskatchewan, who I think are all teams we are capable of competing with,” continued Voye. “It’s just a matter of doing the little things right, not making little errors and working hard.”
When asked who will be looked upon to lead the way for P.E.I., Voye mentioned captain and fly half Ty Wright, second row Brett Buote, inside centre Isak Combrinck and flanker Alex Rose.
“We just need to make sure we play strong defence and take care of our own possessions whenever we have a chance to run some offence,” added Voye.
P.E.I. went winless at the Eastern Canadian championships in Charlottetown from July 11 to 13, but Voye said it proved to be an important learning experience.
“The effort was a lot better, and things we had been working showed in the game,” said Voye. “That was a positive step.”
Voye admitted the players will certainly have to adjust to different level of competition at the nationals.
“It’s certainly a different type of intensity when you go from the high school level even to the Eastern (Canadian) tournament and then to nationals, where there is that much more at stake,” explained Voye. “The kids at the national level are there because they want to be rugby players.
“It’s always a tough tournament and a long week.”
That week began on Sunday, when Team P.E.I. bussed to Halifax for the flight to Calgary. The team was scheduled to practise on Monday, with P.E.I.’s first round-robin game against New Brunswick on Tuesday.
P.E.I. is 1-2 (won-lost) against New Brunswick this spring, winning 15-10 and losing 22-0 and 17-0.
Round-robin play concludes Thursday, and the teams will be reseeded for playoff/relegation games starting on Saturday. Friday is an off-day for teams, and Voye added P.E.I. hopes to possibly visit the Rockies or Lake Louise.
“It will be good to play tourist and give the kids a break before the weekend games start,” said Voye.
The P.E.I. under-18 boys recently held a $10,000 draw as a fundraiser to attend this year’s Rugby Canada national championships in Calgary.
The grand prize winner was Graham Brown, the chief executive officer of Rugby Canada.
Brown graciously donated $5,000 back to Team P.E.I. to go towards the trip to nationals.
P.E.I. roster for under-18 rugby nationals:
Ty Wright, Summerside
Alex Rose, Summerside
Dan Fingler, Summerside
Logan Plant, Summerside
Christian Clow, Summerside
Brandon Adams, Summerside
Zak DesRoches, Miscouche
Isak Combrink, Hunter River
Brett Buote, Tignish
Cameron Paynter, Alberton
Logan Gallant, Stratford
Andrew Wong, Charlottetown
Rourke Perry, Summerside
Riley Desroche, Summerside
Logan O’ Brien, Summerside
Brett Matheson, Charlottetown
Connor Moerike, Charlottetown
James Murphy, Kensington
Shamus Koughan, Charlottetown
Head coach: James Voye, Summerside
When P.E.I. Plays
P.E.I.’s schedule for under-18 rugby nationals:
Tuesday, Aug. 12
1 p.m. – P.E.I. vs. New Brunswick.
Wednesday, Aug. 13
1:30 p.m. – P.E.I. vs. Manitoba.
Thursday, Aug. 14
Noon – P.E.I. vs. Nova Scotia.
7:30 p.m. – P.E.I. vs. Saskatchewan.
Note: All start times are P.E.I. time.