The Westshore Rugby Club hosted its junior banquet at the beginning of December, and the event gave them the opportunity to announce the latest initiative to promote the game on the West Shore.
Beginning in September, the club will be awarding $500 scholarships to eight of their graduating players who will be attending either Camosun College or the University of Victoria.
“We thought it was important for us to support our players by supporting their education. We’re very much a family, and that’s just what we do,” said Clay Panga, executive director of the Westshore Rugby Football Club.
Rugby has come a long way from the days, in 1968, when a breakaway group of players form the James Bay Athletic Association decided they were looking for a more dynamic form of the game than that favoured by the James Bay team at the time.
In 2015 the teams that resulted from that split, Velox, moved to the West Shore as part of a deal that saw the Juan de Fuca velodrome converted to artificial turf and made available to the Westshore Rugby Football Club. They also got access to natural grass fields in the community, and the table was set for a bright future.
It didn’t hurt, either, that Rugby Canada’s Centre for Excellence, home to the Canadian National men’s and women’s teams, were located in Langford at the Westhills Stadium and Goudy Field.
But the true future of the game lies in the young people who are increasingly becoming enamoured with the tough, fast moving, and, to some, totally incomprehensible, game.
“We’ve had great involvement from the school system and just in general from young people coming out and wanting to learn about the game and become part of this great movement,” Panga said.
“Our numbers have grown at a consistent 15 per cent a year and that growth is very strong.”
Panga explained that the club fields teams in junior U14 to U18 divisions and, in total, those teams amount to about 60 players.
“We’re going to continue to grow and further our involvement in the community because of the way we approach the game. It’s more than just a sport for us, it’s a community that fosters camaraderie and friendships that last a lifetime. And with the national teams here, it’s also for these young people to be inspired when they go down and see the best in the country hard at work, perfecting their game.”
Panga said what the club needs now, in addition to the ever increasing number of players, is volunteers who are willing to help out with the teams.
He said that the club and Rugby Canada is committed to a continuing presence on the West Shore and the support of young players who opt to make rugby their sport of choice.