Penticton rugby product learning ropes with Vikes

Penticton rugby product Janna Clarke - Submitted
Penticton rugby product Janna Clarke
— image credit: Submitted

Heading into her first rugby season with the UVic Vikes, Janna Clarke thought she knew the sport.

“I realized that I did not know anything,” said Clarke, who helped the Pen High Lakers rugby team finish sixth during provincials in 2013. “Just the enormous amount of knowledge that has been handed onto me has been incredible.”

Incredible was used plenty by Clarke while talking about her first season in the Canadian Interuniversity Sport. She loved learning from a coaching staff that came with national level pedigree.

Upon joining the Vikes, Clarke was shifted from back to forward. Part of her duties were being one of the heavy lifters and getting into rucks. She described it as a big change. She wasn’t used to playing such a physical position.

“I’m used to just running. It’s a completely different game going from the back to the forwards. I had so much to learn. Luckily, I had some really good teammates that were able to help me out with that,” she said.

Clarke added the reason for the change is that she has the build for it at five-foot-11. The Vikes also have a lot of backs with more experience.

“They are very fast and very talented,” she said.” They thought I would be a better fit at the forward.”

A 6-2 record was considered disappointing and Clarke said it “was a bit of a let down.”

“We had a lot of talent and hoped to do better than we did,” she said. “We had a bunch of injuries that we weren’t able to do as good as we wanted.”

The Vikes earned an 18-15 win against Lethbridge on a penalty kick, which Clarke said was a huge win. The Vikes missed the playoffs after going into a must-win game with only two subs and were simply outrun, losing 63-17 to the UBC Thunderbirds.

“That was not a very good game. It was very tough,” said Clarke. “It was hard on the older players entering their last season. This was supposed to be a very hopeful year for us. After rebuilding the program, we had high hopes.  Just to lose like that was really defeating.”

A new season for the Vikes will start in 2014 as they will play in sevens tournaments. While Canadian Interuniversity Sport action is over, the Vikes will continue to play in tournaments.

“I have learned so much. Just being around these girls, you just learn so much from their experience,” she said.

Clarke earned a spot with the Vikes after contacting coach Mark Hall.

The two met while Clarke and the Lakers were competing in provincials in Vancouver. She eventually went to a tryout camp in August that put her through extensive fitness training.

“It was a pretty fulfilling experience. I have always wanted to do it,” said Clarke. “I have just proved to myself that I could do it. It was pretty gratifying.”


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