By Cole Parkinson
For Taber Times
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Spring will eventually reach southern Alberta but regardless of when it does, W.R. Myers Rebels will hit the pitch for the new season. Tryouts were held in late March and now the team is preparing for their first action later this month.
“We had a great group of girls come out this year. We hold practices in the gym preseason,” explained head coach Shayla Anderson. “We go over the basics of rugby for the new girls coming out so they have an idea of what to expect before we hit the field. We usually have around 10-15 girls show up — this year we had between 20-25. We opened up the age from Grade 8 last year, to Grade 7 this year. We actually had a few Grade 6s that asked if they could just come practice with us. The girls are all very enthusiastic and excited to play. Rugby is unique in that we have Grades 7-12 practising all together sometimes. It’s so neat to see the older girls, take the younger girls under their wing and help them out.”
Any new season brings challenges and expectations, but this year’s coaching staff is eager to see what they have. While many players departed as seniors last season, the incoming players and returners look to fill those gaps on the pitch. That being said, it’s a relatively inexperienced team for the Rebels as the majority of their roster is below Grade 12.
“Was worried we were going to have a weak back line. I am actually super excited — we switched some positions around and I really think we will be able to give teams a run for their money. We are a young team this year, I believe we only have three Grade 12s,” added Anderson.
Season play is on the way and the Rebels are hoping for a fast start. As it’s a short season, coaches and players know they need to hit the ground running when games begin.
“The season is very short. Rugby is very demanding on your body and you really need to condition your body to play a full game of rugby. There’s a lot to learn, the first few games girls are usually just running around not knowing what the heck they’re supposed to be doing. By the end of the season, I finally start to feel like the girls are understanding the logistics of the game and can make confident gameplay decisions on their own,” continued Anderson.
Looking at this year’s tryout numbers, Anderson explains the sport has continued to see more growth each year since its induction into W.R. Myers.
“I love rugby. I’ve been on the coaching staff since the very first year. It’s amazing to have watched the program grow. It’s fun to run into some of my rugby girls in the middle of basketball season. All they can talk about is how excited they are for rugby to start. There are girls playing that don’t play any other sport, and they are excelling in rugby,” said Anderson. “Rugby is such a team sport that you have to lean on your teammates for support. I have never had any drama with my rugby girls. They all get along and have a blast together. They really are just one big happy rugby family.”
And while that support is high, there are some who aren’t ready to dive headfirst into the sport. But Anderson explains that many need just one game to be hooked.
“I will have some girls who are hesitant to play. I tell them to play one game, and then decide after that. After the first game, they always have a huge smile on their face and say they will definitely be at practice the next day.”
The hard part now is waiting for the games to finally start. Wintery weather is another factor as snow continues to fall in southern Alberta, but the team is hopeful warmer temperatures will reach the area before too long. Either way, the excitement level is reaching a high as the team looks forward to the season officially beginning.
“We have had to have way too many gym practices and way too many freezing cold practices. This week, the field was finally free of snow and the girls were in heaven. We got to scrimmage and actually tackle each other. I make them do quite a bit of fitness at the end where they are always complaining and exhausted, but they keep coming back. That should show how much they all love the sport,” continued Anderson.
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