Junior Lions soak up California sun
Rugby: Foothills players prolific at Sacramento Kick-Off tournament
By: By Remy Greer
| Posted: Wednesday, Feb 13, 2013 06:00 am
Dozens of Foothills Lions got a jump on the Junior rugby season through a sports sojourn of a lifetime.
The Lions were well represented at the prestigious Sacramento Kick-off Rugby Tournament, billed as one of the largest international Junior showcases in the sport, even if they flew under a different banner in California.
The Calgary Junior Mavericks — composed of Lions and players from other Calgary-based clubs — fielded teams in the U18 and U14 divisions and each earned top-five finishes in a field of more than 130 teams on Jan. 27.
“We competed for the silver cup and made it to the final. Everyone was so tired and so sore we didn’t quite make it,” said Okotokian Harry Parkin, who played prop for the U18 team.
“We got runner-up and everyone was very happy. Out of 130 teams it’s such an achievement and it’s never happened with a Canadian team before. It’s really uplifting.”
It was an accomplishment with a distinct Foothills flavour. The Lions contributed 16 players to the U18 Mavericks squad.
Jamie Irving, a Grade 12 student at Foothills Composite High School and bulldozing defensive lineman for the Falcons football team, said the California trip provided a rude awakening in terms of the size of opposition.
“It was interesting to see how much bigger they were compared to the students you see here,” said Irving, who is in the thick of things as an eight man or second row forward for the Mavericks and Lions. “You’re definitely second guessing yourself going in for those tackles.”
Okotokian Ben Brown shared the same perspective from his position on the wing for the Mavericks. The Grade 11 student at Holy Trinity Academy said the Sacramento showcase lent itself to grinding rugby.
“It was really cool to see how different American and Canadian teams are. They were a lot physically stronger than us, but didn’t seem to use as much teamwork as we did,” said Brown of the experience. “It’s going to give me a better perspective of how you need to play against really forward oriented teams.”
The experience should only strengthen the U18 Lions’ season in the Calgary Rugby Union as it gave the returning players and those jumping up an age group a first taste of competitive action as a unit.
“We’ve definitely got to know each other a little more and the new kids coming up,” Irving said. “It was a lot of experience. We got a lot of games in and it was just nice knowing who you’re playing with and getting used to their playing styles. We will have a good team this year.”
It could be a promising season for the Lions U15 and U13 teams as well if the play of the Junior Mavericks U14 team in California is any indication. The U14 Mavericks finished in fifth place in their pool.
“It’s one of the biggest rugby tournaments in North America,” said Thomas Isherwood, a Grade 7 student at Ecole Okotoks Junior High School. “It was good to be with all other teams and experience the other people’s type of play and playing people across the world.”
Both Mavericks outfits benefited from excellent coaching as well. The rugby tour included a training session at Stanford University with Cardinal coach Tony Pacheco, a former U.S. national player.
No trip to California is complete without a stopover in the Golden State’s many amusement parks. The rugby tour included stops at Disneyland, Adventureland and Universal Studios to go along with exhibition matches in Los Angeles and Orange County against the likes of Fullerton and Hawaiian Gardens.
“Disneyland and Universal Studios were my highlights. I’ve never been before,” said Parkin, 18, who recently moved to Okotoks from Sheffield, England. “Hopefully, I get the opportunity to go again.”
For more information on the Lions program go to www.foothillslionsrugbyclub.com.