What an incredible week, what an incredible event, what an opportunity to be a local sponsor to a National Championship! The Regina Rugby Union hosted the 2015 Canadian Rugby Championships for the U19 Men and U20 Women this past week, and OmniOnline was proud to support them as one of many local sponsors. (See the Game Day Brochure here: Rugby Championship Program)
The event has been several years in the making, and thanks to generous support from SaskSport, the City of Regina, Tourism Regina, and many other entities, the tournament has left a lasting legacy on the Regina Rugby Clubhouse, which now has improved facilities.
The multi-sport, multi-field facility hosts not just Regina Rugby Union but also a thriving Beach Volleyball League and the Regina Touch Football League. The clubhouse, which is open to the public, is a great facility with food and drink available and a crowd gathered all week long as the rugby, volleyball and football teams train and play. Fridays and Saturdays it plays host to great nights out – and thanks to the CRC’s it now has new bathroom fixtures (among other improvements) which as anyone who has been to the clubhouse washrooms knows, was never the Clubhouse highlight.
The weeks leading up to the event were tense – with the water bans meaning we were unable to water the pitches, it was very touch and go whether the grass would be ready to host the five day national event. But thanks to the Regina Rugby Union members willingness to stay off the fields when requested, and the careful tending of the lawns once the ban was lifted, the fields have never been in better shape. The City of Regina did an outstanding job maintaining the grounds, and visitors to the fields from all over Canada took the time to mention how good the grounds looked.
My time at the fields started on Tuesday, when I arrived shortly after work to find the Clubhouse and Grounds looking like an Ant Hive. The fields had been freshly painted and roped off, signage was being placed, a PUP Trailer put in place and spewing forth all sorts of Rugby Canada field dressings. Tents were being placed for the protection of the Refs, Sound booth, and players, and the parking lot was being marked out to ensure the players could come and go smoothly from where they were being housed at the University of Regina – their buses dropping them at the entrance to the clubhouse and then lumbering away, to return following the games.
It was great to see members of the Regina Men’s and Women’s Rugby Clubs all working together to help the event be a success. The Highlanders, Rage, Condors, Grads, and Rogues were all represented, with High School players, parents, spouses and friends all chipping in to get the place ready for the teams.
The first game of the tournament took place on Tuesday night, with the Prairie Women’s team taking on the BC Women’s team. With new Rugby Canada Regional Guidelines, the Prairie Provinces (Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta) combined to take on BC, Ontario and the Maritimes. The first game couldn’t have gone better for the Prairie team, with a huge win over long time powerhouse BC in very hot, very humid, very calm conditions.
With the game completed, the work continued for the army of volunteers – who took down the tents they had just put up, packed away all of the Merchandise that had been brought out for sale, and cleaned up the grounds so it would look perfect again for the following day.
Wednesday started early for the Volunteer crew – with games kicking off at 3:00 and some kinks to work out with the hosting venue. The men’s Prairie Team, the Wolfpack, started things off with a game against the Ontario side – the Ontario Blues, and the Prairies Women’s team followed against the women’s Ontario team, the Storm. The day’s matches finished with the British Columbian side taking on the Voyageurs from Eastern Ontario and Quebec.
The games were all played in sweltering heat with no relief from the wind, and the quality of rugby was unbelievable. There were so many talented young athletes all playing their guts out, knowing that Team Canada selectors were on the grounds. Regina Rugby community pillar, Karl Fix, hosted a welcome night at his house for the coaches and staff of the various teams, generously opening his home to old friends and new from across Canada.
By Day 3, things were running like clock work around the Rugby Pitches (except the clock… that didn’t quite get working properly until late in the third day – but teams and the crowd were kept in the know with old-fashioned flip style score boards and an on-field announcer) Rugby Canada merchandise (available here) was flying off the shelves in our Merchandise Tent. The tireless Rugby Club manager, Carina Bosovich, and her staff were running constantly, keeping players fed and watered. Regina Rugby Union president and Organizing Committee Chair, Grant Cranfield, was keeping the festival moving along, radioing marching orders to the crew and handling the flow of requests from the various teams like a master maestro. RRU Executive Director Jordan Astrope was coordinating with the CRC and RRU – making sure everyone knew where to be and when. It was a thing of beauty.
It was half time in the third game of the day when the weather that was threatening since morning finally unleashed.
Hail, lightning, driving winds and rain claimed one of the temporary tents and the crowd and players all huddled to stay dry beneath more permanent structures, the clubhouse awning and jammed in the clubhouse itself while the volunteers braved the elements to secure the flags, signage and remaining tents from a trip to Oz. Within minutes – the storm had passed, leaving huge puddles of standing water on the field. The “grounds crew” were out with hand held tools to aid in drainage, and 20 minutes after the storm started, the game was able to continue.
It will make for a good story for the players involved!
Friday afternoon the games started early and wrapped up for 5:00 – and so volunteers got a bit of a reprieve, taking down the fields and prepping for the following day. Visitors to the city got an evening off to enjoy some of the tourist attractions the City of Regina offers.
I coach the U16 and U18 Boys Provincial Rugby team, and we had planned a two-day camp to coincide with the festival. My players arrived on Saturday from Regina, Saskatoon, Prince Albert, and Lashburn, and we held the first of our two-a-day camps while the U20 teams trained.
Following our training session we were able to sit as a team and watch the Wolfpack take on the British Columbia team. The very close match ended with a loss for the Wolfpack – and the skies immediately unleashed another storm, complete with lightning, gusting winds and driving rain. As soon as the lightning had abated, we were back at our training session.
The parents of one of our players hosted a post-training pizza party at their place, showing the Regina hospitality and the Rugby Social mentality, and the kids enjoyed some pizza and pop before calling it a night. Saturday night, for the CRC’s, there was a Volunteer, Coaches, Ref and Admin staff appreciation night at Beer Brothers, a local restaurant that has always been a staunch supporter of Rugby in Regina. (The “Beer Brothers” are all rugby players themselves.)
The final day of the festival began with the Round-Robin championship game, Ontario and British Columbia competing for the medal. The game went to the final whistle, with both teams playing exceptionally well in adverse wind conditions. The “Saskatchewan Hammer” helped decide the game – with a 40km plus wind, swirling straight from the north, swatting down a penalty kick attempt that would have seen Ontario tie the game at 11 each. The final whistle blew and a week-long culmination of many years of hard work saw BC hoist the U19 National Cup.
My own team, the U16/U18 Saskie boys, finished off our two-day camp between games, with an outstanding surprise addition to the day – Ken Goodland from Rugby Canada popped across the field to help run a session with the lads. I can’t stress enough how amazing it is to get this sort of support from Rugby Canada. When you have National Level coaches and staff willing to just wander across the pitch and say hello, and then jump in and run a few drills for the provincial team it really means a lot to the players and coaches of the provincial programs.
In the meantime, the Ontario women and the BC women faced off next. The day was concluded with a match-up that seemed eerily familiar to me: The Wolfpack took on the Rock. It’s been ten years since the prairies (under a slightly different format and called the “Prairie Fire”) took on “the Rock” on home turf.
This game ended similarly – with a very strong Maritimes team finishing slightly ahead. (Nostalgia note… we did go on to win the RCSL championship in 2007…)
Every team involved with this event deserves to be very proud of what they accomplished though – and that includes the Men’s and Women’s teams that put on an outstanding show of skill and class on the fields – and the team of Volunteers that showed an incredible willingness to help get the job done.
OmniOnline is a Web Design and App Development company. And it makes me proud that we were able to be involved as a local sponsor in such a great event. Our team here has a variety of interests and commitments outside of work. As a company, we like to support our staff and customers. My time as a Provincial Coach has been very rewarding – and I have never regretted time spent volunteering to help the Rugby Community, especially in youth development programs like this.
When I hear players, coaches, parents and fans talking about what an excellent job has been done in hosting an event like this, it gives me immense satisfaction.
So Congratulations to the hundreds of athletes from across the country who gathered in Regina and played their hearts out. To the coaches that put in hundreds of hours of preparation to put on such a great show. To the Referees, the Sports Therapists, Doug Cross and the A/V technicians who broadcast the games online, the Team Doctors, the Drivers, the Clean-up Crew, the Mini’s Rugby Program who helped out as Ball-Boys and Ball-Girls – to everyone involved! Thank you!
Congratulations to the Canadian Rugby Championship Committee, and all those involved in hosting this National Event at the Regina Rugby Park. What an outstanding week of Rugby.
Team Sask U18 Rugby Coach