Last year the senior boys’ rugby team at EDSS had a full bench and players to spare, while the junior team was hanging on by a thread.
“Last year, the juniors we did on life support. We only had 16, 17 kids all year and we play 15 of them,” said coach Craig Stuart.
This year, it’s the opposite story; the junior team has 10 or 12 more players than the seniors, and that added depth on the bench is showing in their season.
The juniors had a record of 3-2 heading into Thursday’s match, with two close losses to rugby powerhouses Sir John A. MacDonald and Bluevale Collegiate.
Stuart said the junior team has enough players to give them more options on the field, allowing the coaches to tailor the lineup to the opponent they’re facing.
Stuart coaches both junior and senior boys, with help from fellow teacher Carl Smith and parent Tony Hoffman.
Points are spread fairly evenly around the league for the juniors, and a win in Thursday’s match would guarantee them a playoff berth. The seniors, with a record of 2-3, needed a win to have a shot at the playoffs.
“The kids we’ve got are nice, we just need more of them. This is a triple-A school playing in a quad-A league,” Stuart said. “It’s pretty hard to be competitive on a consistent basis; you just don’t have the same draw.”
Stuart said participation in rugby tends to rise and fall from year to year; between part time jobs and other commitments, it’s hard to get older students to come out for the team.
“Being a rural school, the halls are empty 10 minutes after the bell; everybody’s jumped on the bus and gone home,” he said. “There seems to be out here a lot more parental pressure on kids to get part-time jobs. My first five years were at Grand River and I never had to fight the way I do out here to get kids to play year after year.”
Where the soccer team competes as a varsity squad with players from Grades 9 through 12, Stuart won’t even consider doing that with rugby.
St. David’s is the only school in the league that plays as a varsity team, and it shows in their scores; their closest game was a 38-0 loss, and the worst, a 58-0 blasting.
“I don’t think it’d be safe because then you’d have young kids playing against men. It might work in soccer, but in rugby I think you’re inviting injuries,” Stuart said. “If it comes to that, then we just shut it down, because I’m not taking kids out there just to get them beat up.”