Young rugby players had an outlet last fall when the Brant County Secondary School Athletics Association decided to try out rugby sevens as a high school sport.
But when the board voted to discontinue offering the quick-hit version of rugby at schools this fall, Paris District High School gym teacher Steve Burroughs knew he had to find another way to let the kids play the sport.
“When BCSSAA said no to sevens this year, I came straight to the Brantford Harlequins Rugby Club and asked about putting something together,” Burroughs said. “They were already thinking of putting a program together and just needed somebody to pick up the ball and run with it, so to speak.”
Rugby sevens is played with seven players on the field instead of 15. Games consist of two seven-minute halves.
The game is quick, high-scoring and intense.
“It’s very spectator-friendly and entertaining to watch,” Burroughs said. “It’s been fun introducing players to the sport who haven’t played it before.”
The Harlequins and Burroughs assembled players and coaches for a pair of under-18 teams, a boys and a girls squad. There is also an under-15 girls squad that has been competing regularly.
The Niagara Rugby Union put together four tournaments for a sevens fall season. Two tournaments have been played already, in London and Fergus, and two more are scheduled.
Brantford will host a sevens tournament on Saturday.
The under-18 boys and under-18 girls Harlequins teams have won both tournaments they have played. The girls team has gone undefeated and has not allowed a try against.
Burroughs said high school players were thrilled to have a chance to play sevens.
“The girls team is made up of players from Brantford Collegiate Institute and PDHS, so it’s nice to have the best of both schools out,” he said. “They have a great work ethic and are very coachable.”
Player Brooke Newsome has had some experience as a captain with the under-18 Team Ontario rugby club and is headed to Kingston this weekend to attend the under-20 Team Ontario camp.
“With everything happening around sevens being an Olympic sport in 2016 in Brazil, it’s awesome to get the chance at this age to start developing my skills,” Newsome said. “Hopefully, one day, some of us can reach that top level.”
Teams from Fergus, the Georgian Bay area, Burlington, London and Waterloo have been taking part in this season’s sevens tournaments and Burroughs expects a good showing at Saturday’s Brantford event.