Sports

Hard drive for another B.C. title taking shape

Cowichan Secondary School’s senior girls’ rugby team’s veteran Grade 12 contingent, from left, includes: Adrienne Saari (co-captain), Alison Franks, Darien Hobday (co-captain) and Britnie Hearsey. Having won a B.C. championship before, “we know the feeling,’’ said Hobday in pursuit of another one. - Don Bodger
Cowichan Secondary School’s senior girls’ rugby team’s veteran Grade 12 contingent, from left, includes: Adrienne Saari (co-captain), Alison Franks, Darien Hobday (co-captain) and Britnie Hearsey. Having won a B.C. championship before, “we know the feeling,’’ said Hobday in pursuit of another one.
— image credit: Don Bodger

Defending a provincial title is a whole new experience for the Cowichan Secondary School senior girls’ T-Bird rugby team.

Cowichan finally took the crown away from perennial champion Carson Graham last year and would love nothing more than to be the cream of the AAA crop again.

But the girls and coach Brad Skene acknowledge a lot of things have to happen between now and the provincial tournament for the team to make a serious challenge. The unknown is how the newcomers will blend together with the returnees who have championship status under their belts.

“There’s always going to be some similarities but it’s a lot different as well,’’ said returning co-captain Adrienne Saari about comparing teams from one year to another.

“We just have to work with what we have. We’re a bigger team, do more pounding. You’re going to have to work different players and see what works best with this group.’’

“I think we’re fast,’’ said Darien Hobday, the team’s other returning co-captain. “I think we lost different strengths. This year, it’s pretty different.’’

Saari was blunt about putting the previous title in context.

“It’s completely behind us,’’ she said. “Just because we won last year doesn’t have anything to do with this year.’’

That simply means lots of hard work has to be done to get there again and the girls are well aware of that.

“The returning players understand the standard that they need to perform at to be successful at the highest level,’’ noted Skene. “Even though we lost a lot of rugby experience, we have gained a large group of athletes who are fast and agile.

“There is a lot of potential for 2014 but we need to find the right combinations and roles. Last year, roles and lineups were quickly established. Our players need to develop quickly under the pressure of being the defending champions. Our A team hasn’t lost in nearly two years and this is a bit of weight on all our shoulders.’’

The girls are aware what that pressure will mean and how they’ll have to be at their best every game.

“Everyone’s out to get us,’’ said Grade 12 player Britnie Hearsey.

“It was definitely a confidence boost knowing we can accomplish that. It’s definitely a lot more pressure, but just showing myself I need to work hard to get what I want.’’

“Keep working hard and see what happens,’’ Grade 12 player Alison Franks said will be crucial.

An interesting development with the School District 79 reconfiguration is how girls can actually start on the team on an expanded roster in Grade 8 and Skene feels that’s been very positive for the program, combined with the B.C. title.

“We have over 40 players, with 22 new recruits, in the program and field both a full junior and senior team,’’ he noted. “One worry is that we concentrate too much on the development of the new players and don’t challenge our seniors. Coaching a wide range of ages has been a challenge and an adaption for us.’’

It’s challenging for the girls because there’s such a difference in mentality from Grade 8 to 12, but they’re all discovering their places and finding middle ground.

“It’s exciting to have so many people, so many different ages coming together,’’ said Franks.

A recent gathering at Hobday’s residence helped the bonding process along.

“Everyone respects each other,’’ said Hobday.

“I think our atmosphere’s changed because of the younger ones. We’re more conscious of how we act.’’

Once the girls get on the field, they’re all business. But they don’t lose sight of why they’re there.

“Sometimes you just need a reminder how much fun it is,’’ said Saari.

“Definitely, the dedication we put in is going to be a great output for what the season is going to be like,’’ said Hearsey.

“Until I make the first tackle or I get tackled, I’m nervous. Once that’s happened, good to go.’’

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