Rugby sevens is quickly making an impact at the high school level on the Coast — so much so, the possibility for a resurgence in the game Coast-wide is promising.
Teachers and coaches Brian Scarr and Drew Murphy are seeing a major growth in the game at Chatelech Secondary School.
Last year they restarted the program after a several year absence. Both saw a lot of keen and athletic young lads get involved in sevens as opposed to the full squad game of 15 players.
“Sevens provides a forum to introduce the game. It’s not as technical as far as the forward play goes,” said Scarr. “From a logistical standpoint, it works well for the Sunshine Coast. It’s very hard to field a full squad to play 15s. You need to have a committed group of between 23 and 25, but with 12 or 13 players you can have a very competitive team for sevens. We have started to market ourselves as a seven-a-side program, and that’s what we want to build on.”
Last year Chatelech played games in the Lower Mainland and on the North Shore and made a trip to Chilliwack. They also trained with the University of British Columbia men’s team. Those games and training set the foundation for the new fall season, which just wrapped up.
Chatelech started this year with a Grade 8 and Grade 9 team and played matches on the North Shore and with Pender Harbour both in Sechelt and up the Coast.
“We had a mini tournament with Argyle and Pender a few weeks ago, which was just fantastic,” Scarr said. “We had the whole school out, it seemed, packed along the sidelines cheering everyone on. We now have a huge interest for the spring season and I can see us with a Grade 9/10 team, a senior team and possibly a senior girls team too.”
Scarr said the appeal of sevens is also gaining traction on the North Shore and on Vancouver Island.
“Lots of schools are struggling to field full squads, so sevens is becoming very popular,” he said. “It will be a part of the next Summer Olympics. It’s a very fast-paced and exciting game. The games are also quick [two seven-minute halfs], so it allows you to play a number of games and you can create a mini-tournament feel every time you play other teams.”
Murphy said the goal is to establish Chatelech, Pender and Elphinstone for an inter-Coast league.
“With sevens we could have a six-team league, with two teams at each school. The Coast has quite a deep rugby history, and we want to resurrect that,” Murphy said.
Pender Harbour Secondary School speaks to that strong rugby history.
Coach Mike Cyr has been with the program for 14 years, and before that Dave Gibson was coaching for more than 30 years.
“We have kids currently here at the school whose parents played when they went to the school,” Cyr said. “We’ve been pretty competitive over the years and very successful. Some of the kids who have graduated have gone onto playing higher levels in the Lower Mainland and Victoria. But, much like Chatelech, it’s getting tougher to field larger squads with the school numbers getting smaller.”
This fall was the first time Pender played sevens, and Cyr loves the idea of a Coast-wide league.
“We would love to see something Coast-wide and maybe reach out to Powell River and see if they would be interested too,” said Cyr. “The Gibsons Pigs were very involved down in Gibsons and we’d love to reach out to them and see what we could get started down at Elphinstone. Rugby is a great sport. It teaches discipline, hard work and camaraderie amongst the team and the players.”
Scarr said the spring season will start in April and run until the end of May.
“The interest seems to be as high as it ever has been,” said Scarr. “We have a great relationship with Pender. They have a great program. If we can get Elphinstone going, then I really think we can have something really special here on the Coast.”