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Ruck revival: High school rugby teams back on Nova Scotia pitches

Halifax Citadel’s Maria Verdejo is wrapped up by CP Allen’s Jessi Humphries during the triumphant return of high school rugby action on Tuesday. - Tim Krochak

Of course, Erin Westhaver would have preferred a win in her team’s first game back from adult-induced turmoil, but she was playing rugby again, and that’s what meant the most.

Westhaver’s side, the Charles P. Allen Cheetahs, lost to a very talented Citadel side, but after the game she was full of gratitude for being able to take the pitch with her teammates and play a sport that forces you to ask questions of yourself, and answer them.

“It reminded me that it’s not a right, it’s a privilege to have a school board that can support sports, has the resources and the money to allow us to play,” she said. “I’ve had rugby my entire high school career, having it taken away from me reminded me it’s a privilege, not a right, though we should have that right.”

Halifax Citadel’s Kathleen Dolan, puts the grab to CP Allen’s Naomi Harum. - Tim Krochak
Halifax Citadel’s Kathleen Dolan, puts the grab to CP Allen’s Naomi Harum. - Tim Krochak
Halifax Citadel’s Emma MacDougall is boosted by her teammates during a line out. - Tim Krochak
Halifax Citadel’s Emma MacDougall is boosted by her teammates during a line out. - Tim Krochak

A full slate of girls games in Metro on Tuesday were the first since the governing body of high school sports pulled the plug on Thursday, citing insurance and injury data, only to be overruled by the minister of education.

It was decided on Tuesday that Rugby Nova Scotia will run the sport at the high school level for the remainder of the season, and Jack Hanratty of RNS was at the CPA-Citadel fixture.

“We’re now more involved, I think that’s essentially it. The (NSSAF) regional co-ordinators have everything under control, everything has been planned well in advance, we’re just here to help facilitate,” Hanratty said. “Obviously, statistics were put out last week and that was the troubling thing, so we’re going to bring in some injury surveillance with our coaches. We certainly have our ear to the ground with the coaches of all the high school teams, so we want to put that to good use and take a proactive step to making the game safer.”

Westhaver, who plans to play at Acadia next year, took up rugby four years ago and in that time has had two minor knee injuries that both healed in a couple of weeks. She’s never felt the game is dangerous.

“Not at all. I think as long as you focus on the game, know what you’re doing and take physical conditioning seriously, then you’re at pretty low risk of injury,” she said, and she knows about rough sports, having come to rugby from horseback riding.

“It’s the same type of people, people who don’t mind hard work, getting dirty, having scrapes and bruises. Falling off a horse is the same thing as being tackled by a girl, it’s just people who have that mentality.”

Westhaver, in Grade 12, admits there was a time in her life when she was not a poster child for a sport, or for anything else. Rugby changed that.

“It’s become my passion, it’s changed my life,” she said. “I wasn’t planning on going to university, or continuing going to school or playing sports or anything, I had no motivation. But rugby opened my eyes to team sport, something bigger than myself. It gave me a lot of self-discipline, it’s a very disciplined sport, a brutal sport, and it gave me insight into other areas of my life, too.”

Halifax Citadel’s Ranaisha Jordan, is wrapped up by several CP Allen players. - Tim Krochak
Halifax Citadel’s Ranaisha Jordan, is wrapped up by several CP Allen players. - Tim Krochak

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