VICTORIA - Over the past weekend the Vancouver Island Rugby Union hosted Vancouver in the opening round of the 2013 Cups Competitions at Westhills Stadium. In the thick of the event, helping coordinate the venue logistics as well as manage the Tide Under-20 team was John Lyall, our January selection for BC Rugby First XV Volunteer.
Lyall has been invovled in rugby for nearly 30 years as a player, coach and administrator and still finds time to ply his trade in the Island Third Division on Sunday afternoons. A dedicated member of the South Island rugby community, Lyall currently serves as the Vice President of VIRU Club Rugby and has also been instrumental in establishing the setup of Velox-Langford's youth and mini rugby program.
"John has been a stalwart member of the Velox Rugby Club for many years and has been their VIRU rep for at least the last six years. At the 2012 AGM of the VIRU, John was elected to the position of Vice-President Club Rugby and has done an excellent job with this task," said VIRU President Andrew Spray. "John never needs to be told what needs to be done. He invariably anticipates needs and takes the appropriate action without being asked, always consulting before doing so."
Currently preparing to travel with the Tide U20s to Abbotsford this weekend for the second round of the Dunbar Keg competition, John took time out of his busy schedule to talk about his experiences from volunteering and giving back to the sport that has given him so much...
BC Rugby: Why is volunteering important to you and why have you dedicated so many hours to the VIRU and Velox programs?
John Lyall: Well, a lighthearted answer is that I am bossy and nosy, so volunteering allows me to delegate and keep aware of what is going on. Rugby is a great sport full of great people, and volunteering allows you the opportunity to help the sport and have a laugh doing so.
BC: Can you talk about the growth of rugby in Langford and how you have been involved?
JL: We are working hard at rugby here in Langford, and have started up the Velox Langford youth rugby program. Mike Holmes and Rod Parker have been a great help, as well as Aaron at Pro-Fit. The challenge is introducing rugby to our youth as there are so many other sporting options. I live in Langford now, I like the sense of community out here. With Rugby Canada in Langford, and BC and the Island putting on some games out here, it’s great, and rugby is creating quite a buzz.
BC: What is the secret to balancing so many hours of rugby with your professional life?
JL: Well, this can be a challenge. A supportive family is important, thanks Sharon. Another key thing is try to get more people involved and value their time. I work as an administrator in the SD 62 school system, and am always looking to get more rugby involved with our youth, so that connection helps.
BC: Can you tell us a bit about your playing career? How did you first get involved with Velox?
JL: I first got involved with Velox as a junior under Jonboy and He-man, back when tries were worth 4 points. I played at UVic during my university years, and was fortunate enough to captain Velox for a number of years following that, playing for Greg Clague and Winston Stanley. I am currently playing Velox thirds, although I tripped the starting hooker down the stairs in the fall and got a first team start.
BC: What positions have you played and which one is your strongest?
JL: I have played hooker through most of my career. When I was younger, I played some backrow. Tried centres once, didn’t like it, but developed a lot more respect for those boys. I have been pretty successful at avoiding prop.
BC: Have you ever played/coached/volunteered at another rugby club other than Velox?
JL: I went through the UVic program in the 1990’s, under Bruce and Dave, and then played under Doug Tate in his first year. A humbling thing is the Tide U20 program I am involved with now has players born in 1993, my first year at UVic. We had one great year under Ric Suggit when he was doing his coaching certificate, he gave me a nickname I am still trying to outrun. Great memories at UVic include reading break California tours and the Ireland tour in 1996.
BC: Who is your favourite Canadian rugby player (ever) ?
JL: Listening to Mark Wyatt as a youngster had a profound impact. But for players, I would have to say my props who do all the work for me. I have been fortunate to play with many, but acknowledge Chad and Kevin (Lunk) who I have played with for a number of years. With those boys, we generally don’t go backwards.
BC: Who is your current favourite rugby player and why?
JL: There are many exciting players out there now. I love to follow our Sevens program as they travel the world and take on the best. Watching our pros in Europe is great, I always make sure to watch Clermont and Jamie Cudmore play. Besides Canada, the All Blacks are my favourite team.
BC: Do you see yourself leaving the game of rugby any time soon?
BC: What is your greatest rugby memory either as a player or as a volunteer?
JL: Rugby is a fraternity and a small world, so without trying to name drop: playing in New Zealand and living with Mike Cron, tours at UVic, two belt buckles from Williams Lake, convincing Stanley to play Lawson at 7, while I played 2, beating the Caps in the BC playoffs in octuple overtime, Canadian Classics trips with Tommy, and Thirds Island championships, to name a few. Primarily, though it is just the brotherhood with your teammates in the shed, you can’t beat that.
BC: Anything else you would like to add?
JL: I would like to thank the BCRU for recognizing me with the first XV Volunteer program. There are so many people out there doing so much, I would like to acknowledge the VIRU board, including president Andrew Spray, the Velox executive, including long standing members Christel, Brian and Mark, Velox thirds coach and captain Chad and Paul, Velox Langford folks like Steve, Mark, Winston, Marlene and Don, and everyone else who has to put up with me and the phone calls and emails. Thanks.
The First XV Volunteer Appreciation program is an initiative designed to recognize the valuable pillars of our membership that help keep our sport afloat. Over the course of the season we will recognize 15 valuable members of the community. Each recognized volunteer will be presented with a "thank you" item, a customized BC Rugby Umbrella. Each individual will then receive another 10 thank you BC Rugby travel mugs to show their appreciation to the top 10 volunteers that work alongside them in their club.