Durham College’s rugby team will compete next year at a provincial level against other Ontario colleges.
The teams have been playing exhibition games since the rugby program started last fall and will now play against other college teams in the OCAA.The women’s rugby team will play Sevens, meaning seven players are on the field at a time. It’s a shorter faster game. The men’s rugby team will play a 15-player game, which is the traditional way of playing rugby.
The head coach of the women’s team is Chris McKee and the men’s head coach is John Watkins.
McKee has coached the Ontario Blue U-20 team as well as the U-18, U-16, and the senior women and seven other programs offered at the Oshawa Vikings Rugby Club.
Watkins has coached for the Vikings Rugby Club and is its president. He has also coached at Maxwell Heights Secondary School for the past four years and other high school programs, as well as various rep teams and teams of all ages.
The Durham rugby team was introduced last year, after a survey of students. It showed rugby was popular.
When the coaches were looking for players they didn’t have a lot of time. Tryouts were in August and the season started in September and ended in October. They accepted all 25 players at the men’s rugby team tryouts.
Watkins says most of the players who tried out knew how to play rugby and some came from other sports such as soccer or lacrosse. However, he says they worked well together and when playing their exhibition games, they won their last three.
Liam King was a second row forward on the men’s rugby team. “He was pleasantly surprised about how we played this season,” he said, “that he was representing something more.”
He said he was nervous at tryouts, “but being on the Vikings field and seeing Johnny felt like home.”
He said it was easier to train with them since only one or two of the players were first time players and the rest played for clubs or in high school before.
King also said the team is prepared for the OCAA next season and they are excited for what’s to come.
Watkins said playing in the OCAA next season “gives the players something to look forward to.”
He also said knowing the players trusted the coaching staff helped.
“It feels good that they have respect for the coaching staff,” he said.
Watkins said the players are ready for the next season.
“Athletes will come prepared. The players will make sure that they are ready for next season,” he said
He said the players will get themselves prepared for the next season, but he is unsure of who is coming back to play.
Watkins says they will prepare by playing club games outside of school.