High school rugby players from Smithers hit the pitch for the first time in almost six months two weekends ago in Terrace and Prince Rupert.
Both sides travelled to Terrace on Friday night to take part in their first outdoor practices of the season, then the boys went on to Prince Rupert for an exhibition game.
“I was pretty satisfied with the effort,” head coach Cobus Jonker said. “They played well, though it was more of a warm up game.”
Because Prince Rupert was short players, both teams played seven-a-side, even though spring is rugby 15s season.
Though they’ve been practicing for a month, bad weather and field conditions forced the teams into the gymnasium to start the season.
But if their first outdoor practice and games were any indication, they’ve started the season off on the right foot.
And now that practices have moved outside and other sports are ending, Jonker expects higher turnouts.
“The kids are always busy with basketball and other sports at this time of year and its difficult to practice in a gym. We just need to get their feet on the grass.”
Jonker is also encouraged by some of the new blood on the teams this season.
“We have had some really good girls that have tried out for us this spring,” Jonker said. “They are bringing a whole new dynamic to the team and the game.”
Overall, Jonker is satisfied with the direction of the program, which is in its third season.
“We have made huge progress over the past few years. They are playing well as a team and getting to know each other.”
Next weekend, the boys and girls teams will head to Kamloops to take part in their first major tournament of the season, one that will feature teams from all over the province.
“There are going to be a lot of experienced teams there, so we are just going to practice hard heading in and hope we play well.”
Both the boys and girls are expected to get four to five matches over the weekend.
After that, tournament season will be in full swing, leading up to zones, which will be held in the first two weeks of May.
“Our goal is to make it to provincials,” he said.
The girls will qualify through the northwest zone against teams along Highway 16, while the boys will have to beat teams from the interior to make it.
Of note: Work will continue on the new rugby field throughout the summer. Organizers are waiting for the pitch to dry out before bringing in equipment. The area still needs some work on drainage and levelling, but is expected to be ready in time for the fall rugby-sevens season.