Denise Roy is preparing to represent Canada in rugby sevens at the Commonwealth Youth Games in the Bahamas. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)

Denise Roy is preparing to represent Canada in rugby sevens at the Commonwealth Youth Games in the Bahamas. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)

Commonwealth Games are the next step for Denise Roy

Duncan rugby player off to the Bahamas

The next step in Denise Roy’s rugby career is taking her to the Bahamas.

The 17-year-old Duncan product will head to the Caribbean next week, where she will represent Canada in rugby sevens at the 2017 Commonwealth Youth Games.

It should be a challenging tournament for the Canadians, who will be up against teams from some of the strongest rugby nations in the world, such as New Zealand, Australia and South Africa. The Canadian U18 side recently attended a tournament in Orlando, where they weren’t tested as much as Roy expects they will be in the Bahamas.

“I think there will definitely be a lot of competition,” she said. “Especially with the pressure of how the senior team has been doing, we’ll have a big target on our back going down there.”

Roy first got into rugby at Cowichan Secondary School, then transferred to Brentwood College, where she played on some of that school’s strongest girls sides in recent memory. She left Brentwood after Grade 11 to train full-time with the national program starting last September, then took a break from that in February to focus on school, graduating last month.

In March, Roy played for B.C. at the national U18 sevens championship, helping her province beat Ontario for gold in the finals at BC Place.

Roy has played with most of the girls on the Commonwealth Games team previously, either in Orlando or on a tour of France last fall, although there are a few new players. The full squad won’t come together until next week.

“We won’t see each other until we get to the Toronto airport and fly out,” Roy said. “It will be interesting for all of us to come together as a team and see how we do against everyone there.”

Not knowing who is in the rest of the field creates even more of a challenge for the Canadians.

“We’ve never seen any of the other teams,” Roy said. “Our goal will be to come out with a medal.”

Roy is hoping to get carded with the national team again when selections are made in August, but isn’t counting on it. She hasn’t committed to any post-secondary teams for next year, so if she isn’t training, she plans to play club rugby or do some international travel and find overseas teams to play for.

Roy has yet to play for the senior national team, although she has suited up for the Maple Leafs development side. Her long-term goal is to play in the Olympics, with players on the current U18 national side on the watchlist for the 2020 or 2024 games.

Roy, who has also played “a little bit” with the Cowichan Rugby Football Club, prefers the sevens game to XVs.

“Just because of my size,” she explained. “In XVs, I’m not the biggest girl on the field.”

Also heading to the Commonwealth Youth Games from the Cowichan Valley is Shawnigan Lake School’s Reece Tudor-Jones, who will take the pitch for the Canadian U18 men’s sevens team that will be coached by Cowichan Secondary grad Robin MacDowell.

Cowichan Valley Citizen