Now in its 44th year of existence, Otago Rugby Club is working hard to rebuild rugby in the community, according to coach Jack Beardmore.
“After the hiatus from COVID-19, with the town growing, we are getting a few people moving in,” said Beardmore. “We have two new fellows, Gregor Fraser and Shane Morrisey, with lots of rugby experience, who are still young and are going to make a big difference.
“Then, of course, I have the core group of very strong rugby players that we can build around. Players like Sawyer Gowan, Sid Allman and Kevin Cote, who is going to captain the side. We’re talking about a rep rugby player there. He is a good leader and he leads by example. He’s a hard, hard player.”
Beardmore has spoken with his experienced players and asked them to set a good example at practice for the young players who are just learning the game.
“If the young players see that intensity, hopefully they will pick up on it as well,” said Beardmore.
He said in the old days, Otago used to have an abundance of forwards and a lack of backs. With the composition of those coming out to practice now, the opposite is true, with an abundance of backs and few forwards.
“I need second-rowers, big time,” said Beardmore. “I have no second row. We need some big bodies back there to drive the pack.”
In terms of competition, Beardmore said there are only two other teams in Vancouver Island Rugby Union’s North Island region right now. He said the other clubs are in the same position as Otago, having lost a lot of players. Nanaimo will be the toughest opposition, and there is also a club in Comox. Otago has some female players and Beardmore wants to see where the Comox women’s team is at so he can loan the five Otago players to the island side.
“Our women can coordinate with the Comox team and play as many games as they want,” said Beardmore.
Practises open to all
He added that he would very much like, one day, to field a women’s team, and he said women are welcome to attend Otago practices, which happen on Thursdays at 5:30 pm at Cranberry Field.
Beardmore said if the team could get back to getting 25 people for rugby training, it makes it more fun for everybody and it would be an opportunity to build the club back to the championship form it was in years ago. He said no matter what size a person is, the club will find a place for them and will teach them the greatest game in the world.
“I don’t know how many people are aware, but we went right to the BC final in 1986,” said Beardmore. “We had 32 players. Rugby was strong at that time.
“I’d love to see it come back. I’d like, for those players who have been coming out for years, to have the opportunity to play again.”
In the near future, games would be exhibition contests because British Columbia Rugby Union is not sponsoring organized league play this season because of COVID-19.
“The hope is that in the new year, the rugby union will start up again,” said Beardmore. “My understanding is the rugby union is insisting that anybody who plays must be double vaccinated.”
Beardmore, a founding member of Otago, said when the club wanted to enter play in the Vancouver Island Rugby Union, many said the team wouldn’t last a year.
“That was the general consensus in Victoria, and here we are, 44 years later,” said Beardmore.
He said that rugby, as well as being a great sport, has a great social component. He has travelled one-third of the world playing rugby.
“I can just about go to any of those places today and I know I’m welcome with open arms,” he added.
For more information, prospective rugby players can contact Beardmore at 604.414.6142, or Bill Broughton at 604.483.8402.