Women's adidas Premiership to kick off this weekend
Published Tuesday, January 31, 2012 5:00 am
by Andrew Smith, BC Rugby Communications

Vancouver, BC: The 2012 adidas Premiership, British Columbia's elite women's rugby club competition kicks off this weekend with four matches across the Lower Mainland.

Women's Adidas Premiership - Sat. February 4th:
United Rugby Club at Capilano RFC (Klahanie Park) 11:30am
UVic Vikes at Burnaby Lake Rugby Club (Burnaby Lake Sports Complex) 11:30am
SFU Rugby at Bayside RFC (South Surrey Athletic Park) 11:30am
Velox Valkyries at Meraloma Rugby Club (Connaught Park) 11:30am

2012 Season Preview:
In recent years the adidas Premiership has featured a plethora of national team athletes including Mandy Marchak (Capilano RFC), Brittany Waters (Meraloma Rugby Club), Barb Mervin (Velox Valkyries), Marlene Donaldson (Velox Valkyries), Stevi Schnoor (United Rugby Club), Anna Schnell (Burnaby Lake), and Julia Sugawara (Burnaby Lake). In 2012, the next generation of British Columbia's top athletes will take to the pitch to contest for the coveted Harris Memorial Cup.   

Reigning champions Burnaby Lake Rugby Club will look to add to their impressive trophy haul in 2011 when the program took home the Anna Schnell Cup (Lower Mainland championship), Harris Memorial Trophy (provincial championship) and BC Sevens Series provincial title.

Looking to knock Burnaby Lake off their perch are Island titans Velox Valkyries, a squad that took home their second straight Vancouver Island championship this past Fall. The Valkyries have restocked their roster and have had plenty of time to dwell on their agonizingly close 17-13 loss in last year's provincial final.

SFU Rugby Club returns to the top tier this season and will look to prove themselves against premiership sides Capilano RFC and United Rugby Club. Having retained the bulk of their roster, South Surrey's Bayside Sharks will look to build on their impressive Fall season where they narrowly lost out to Burnaby in the Lower Mainland championship by a 6-0 score line. Like several other clubs in the adidas Premiership, Meraloma Rugby Club have bolstered their veteran core with a number of UBC Thunderbirds recruits as the university side will not be fielding a team this season.

The adidas Premiership squads will be contesting for four playoff berths with the semifinals slated for May 5th and the provincial championship scheduled for May 12th. Here is a look at the eight clubs competing for the title this season.


(Burnaby/ Vancouver Rugby Union)
2011 regular season record: 8-0 (1st)
2011 playoffs: 2-0 (Premiership Champions)
Last Premiership title: 2011

Key additions: UBC players Haily Glendinning and Carolin McKewan, will look to crack the BLRC Premier squad.  Alicia and Desiree Noger from Kamloops by way of Abbotsford will also be testing the Premier waters.  Jocelyn Barrieau is shifting from Quebec to play Premeir in BC.

Key returnees: The team will be lead by Katie Larson, Julia Sugawara , Kim Donaldson as well as Corrine Jacobsen who is returning from a hand injury incurred while playing for the Canadian national team.

Key departures: Inside centres can relax as Kary Steele has hung up the boots this year. Marley Harris is busy policing and has relocated to Victoria.

Coaches perspective - Walter Brandl: "Burnaby will be sporting a new look back line with a number of talented players playing new positions. I expect some growing pains while we settle into a set line-up. The good news is we can ride on the experience of these players while they learn their new jobs. Up front, Burnaby looks to be slightly stronger in the pack with a number of "depth" players providing insurance against the inevitable injury bug. We have been working on new slow ball options to take advantage of the mobility and trying to turn chicken excrement into chicken salad, that is making good use of bad ball."



(Saanich/ Vancouver Island Rugby Union)
2011 regular season record: 4-4 (3rd)
2011 playoffs: 1-1 (Cup final loss to Burnaby)
Last Premiership title: 2008

Key additions: Jesse Olynyk  and Chelsey Minter (UVIC),  Natalie Tam, Lynzi Anderson and Courtney Blum (Ontario), Tatiana Tafatu (NZ, Black Ferns squad 2010)

Key returnees: Retained the majority of last year's squad

Key departures: It remains to be seen how much involvement Velox's carded players (Barbara Mervin and Jessica Dovanne) will be involved in club play in the spring portion of the season. "These players would be a huge loss to the program," said Velox head coach Aaron Frisby. "So we have our fingers crossed we will see more of them, come business time of the season."

Coaches perspective - Aaron Frisby: "Feeling really positive going into the spring season boasting the strongest squad of players Velox has ever seen. Overcoming the lack of competitive play on the island in the fall will be our biggest obstacle early on but we are confident we can hit the ground running and continue our strong defensive style into the spring. Obviously a heartbreaking loss ended last year's season and the girls are hell-bent on coming out on top in 2012."



(North Shore/ Vancouver Rugby Union)
2011 regular season record: 5-2-1 (2nd)
2011 playoffs: 0-1 (semifinal loss to Velox)
Last Premiership title: 2010

Key additions: Kendall Nesdole from Sherwood Park, Alberta will be playing in the back three. Heather McEachern joins Capilano by way of UBC Thunderbirds playing in the front row. Becca Thomas, also a Thunderbirds player in fall 2011, will be playing in the tight five.

Key returnees: Hilary Leith (BC Sr Women) in the loose forwards. Cassandra Omoerah into fly half.

Key departures: Andrea Burk has relocated to Victoria with the senior women's national team. Marrissa Halliway will be away attending school.

Coaches perspective - Conan Cooper: "There's a strong positive vibe running through the team since the start of practices a couple weeks ago.  With a little more depth to our roster, we're feeling confident and eager to put the boots on.  Continuing the tradition of developing players who catch the interest of provincial and national rep teams remains a key aim for the program.  To build that individual character and depth in players, we're moving people around positions - we have some surprising combinations coming together. We always had the speed and creativity in the fall, but weren't able to capitalize on feeding those players to score.  That'll come together now with Leith and Omoerah linking up from 8-10, and into a really dynamic front three.  As we develop, you'll see this play out to McIntosh, Nesdole, and Naotsuka flying up.  Those three can really light up the pitch.  Our defence last fall was a strength that's only stronger now with depth, and that success has given a paradigm shift in defence mentality:  I look forward to seeing it play out."



(Tri-Cities/ Fraser Valley Rugby Union)
2011 regular season record: 4-4 (4th)
2011 playoffs: 0-1 (semifinal loss to Burnaby)
Last Premiership title: None

Key additions: None

Key returnees: Full back Mia Rushton (BC U20) will be returning from her role as Captain of the Douglas College Women's soccer team where she is on scholarship during the Fall.  Paniz Pahlavanlu (BC U20, Canada U20) returning from her participation with UBC in the CIS fall league. Crystal (Pixie) Nikolai also returned this season and United will benefit from her versatility and experience on the field.

Key departures: In the Fall United saw their previous Club Captain  and back rower, Kimberley Stockman leave United to develop age- grade rugby at Richmond RFC.  Both back rowers Jacqui Stewart and Raeann Galuska are also on leave this year as they focus on careers.  As well, winger Cassy Powell (BC U20) will be travelling down under this half.

Coaches perspective - Steph Murphy: "The Spring season is often about managing numbers and depth over a four month period in order build momentum and gain strength and strategy for the playoffs.  United's decision to run both Premier and 1st Division teams will work to ensure that our depth is not just simply measured in a second team, but also in the quality of ready athletes moving into Premiership. The [Premiership] is as always very competitive, there is no opponent that we can take lightly. Our club will be working hard from the get-go to establish a strong record.  We hope to not only better our results from last season, but to build on our development goals, improve our strategic phase play and ability to be dynamic."



(Kitsilano/ Vancouver Rugby Union)
2011 regular season record: 3-3-2 (5th)
2011 playoffs: Did not qualify
Last Premiership title: Never, first division champions 2001

Key additions: A keen group of UBC recruits

Key returnees: A strong group of veterans including Captains Jackie Small and Samantha Travis

Key departures: Loss of promising fly half Jess Neilson due to high school rugby commitments at Carson Graham. Brittany Waters has moved to Victoria with the national program. Long time member Katie Maher will soon welcome her first child.

Coaches perspective - Nicole Pasquino: "With a healthy increase in numbers we are going into this season looking to re-build and develop as a team unit. We have a very young team that only looks to increase in skill and ability over the next few years as they continue to get to know each other and spend some quality time together on the pitch."



(South Surrey/ Vancouver Rugby Union)
2011 regular season record: 1-7 (6th)
2011 playoffs: Did not qualify
Last Premiership title: None

Key additions: None

Key returnees: Captain Christina Hastie, Jo Maclennan, Buffy Cornell, Tanya Leigh, Paige Kuz

Key departures: None

Coaches perspective - Kyle Ferguson: "We had a very strong first half in the Mainland competition. Lost a nail biter to Burnaby in the final 6-0 but showed that we deserve to play with the top teams in BC. We are a very hard working team who relies on everyone to step up and do their job. We are hoping to show strong in the Premier competition and finish with a better record and place higher than last year."



(Saanich/ Vancouver Island Rugby Union)
2011 regular season record: 0-5-1-1 (7th)
2011 playoffs: Did not qualify
Last Premiership title: None

Key additions: Alanna Cryer (Calgary), Monique Boag (Calgary), Jaiden Pahar (Calgary), Caitlin Harvey (Toronto)

Key returnees: Randi Hunter (BC U23), Mel Robinson, Sarah Logan, Stephanie Hansen

Key departures: Chelsea Minter, Jesse Olynyk, Abby Goodwin

Coaches perspective - Bruce Howe: "It will be another challenging year as we have lost three key forwards (a university fate) just as we had expected to be competitive. The team is very fit and keen which we hope will create trouble for teams that underestimate us. Our goal is simply to finish with a better record than last year."



(Burnaby/ Vancouver Rugby Union)
2011 regular season record: Played in Div 1 (6-3)
2011 playoffs: Played Div 1
Last Premiership title: 2000

Key additions: Amy Grant returns to the team following the birth of her second child in 2011.

Key returnees: Nine women from the SFU program played for either the U20 or U23 provincial teams in the Summer of 2011. Demi Stamatakis (loose-head prop), Lisa Grant (hooker), Lydia Zajiczek (lock/flank), Sarah Byers (8-man and lock), Christina Burnham (scrum-half and team captain), Megan Banford (outside centre) and Joan Cole (full-back) have all returned for the Spring 2012 season and constitute the backbone of SFU's team.

Key departures: Erin Grant (fly-half) and Melissa LeBlanc (flanker), have temporarily left SFU for the Spring 2012 season. Grant, one of SFU’s top scorers and a key player for the U23 BC team, left for Switzerland over the Christmas break; while LeBlanc, who also played wing for the U23 BC team, is currently completing the PDP program up at SFU to become a teacher.

Coaches perspective - Zuri Scrivens: "Although we are a relatively inexperienced and a young Premiership team, our players boast a generous amount of talent and are eager to prove that they have what it takes to compete in the Premiership division. We are pleased to see many new players coming to the team; those that are not only new to SFU, but new to rugby as well. We are looking forward to watching them develop and contribute to the continuous growth of the women’s rugby program at SFU."




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