The home field of Westshore Rugby Football Club was abuzz with activity Sunday, as the Juan de Fuca pitches hosted the latest Vancouver Island mini-rugby jamboree.
Players as young as seven did their best to make good passes, hang on to the big, oblong ball and outrun their opponents while protecting the flags they wore on their hips – full tackling is taught later on. Not surprisingly, Westshore RFC teams figured prominently at the event, which featured under-12, under-10 and under-8 divisions and attracted teams from Campbell River, the Comox Valley, Nanaimo and Cowichan as well as the local James Bay and Castaway-Wanderers clubs.
While the youngest players were active only for a couple of hours, the short matches were followed after lunch by a treat: Westshore’s under-18 junior boys took on their CW counterparts. That game was a barnburner, with the Oak Bay-based visitors winning 41-32.
Colwood resident Mike Shelley, who is scrum coach for Rugby Canada’s men’s national team, was among the day’s organizers. He said mini rugby jamborees like this one are great for generating further interest in the sport among kids.
“If they’re serious about rugby, they can pursue that down the road, but at this age it’s about making friends and having fun,” he said. “These are kids who’ll likely play with each other for as long as they end up playing.”
Shelley recruited a few national team players to man the barbecue grills and provide lunch on the edge of the fields, while staffers from the Nurse Next Door franchise owned and operated by Shelley and his wife looked after other organizing duties. On that front, part of the day saw grandparents encouraged to come out and watch the festivities.
While it will likely be many years before some of these youngsters are considered for national junior team play, events like this are a good way for other clubs on the Island to connect with Rugby Canada, Shelley said. The goal, he said, is to hold the jamborees at various clubs around the Island every couple of weeks.