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VANCOUVER - The BC High School Girl's Rugby Association kicked off their 2013 season this week with games held across the province. Defending Triple-A 15s champs Carson Graham edged Gleneagle on Wednesday evening, while defending Sevens and Double-A 15s champs Abbotsford Collegiate were at home to Robert Bateman.
Similar to last year there will be teams competing in the Cariboo, Fraser Valley, Okanagan, Vancouver and Vancouver Island zones along with the new addition of the NorthWest. The new zone will feature teams from the region surrounding Smithers and includes the blossoming rugby program at Houston Secondary. The school's interest in rugby is being spearheaded by Principal Scott Jackson and features players including BC U18 provincial sevens speedster Jamie Beck.
This past Fall, the region held a qualifier for the upcoming Girls High School Provincial Sevens (April 26-27) and Houston won the tournament and will be heading to UBC next month.
"It's so cool that teams like Houston are taking interest in rugby and they are making the effort to fly down," said BCHSGRA President Brad Baker. "After the success of last year's (16-team) tournament and the partnership with BC Rugby and coverage through local media like The Province, girls in BC can see that it's a legitimate part of our rugby season. 15s is still the ultimate focus but the addition of sevens and the inclusion into the olympics has helped provide more stature and peaked their interest."
The number of schools fielding girls rugby teams are up to 66 this year with three divisions underway including Triple-A, Double-A and a Tier Two Development League. Southern Vancouver Island will also be fielding high school seven-a-side teams as they look to develop the region for girls rugby. The abbreviated, high tempo version of the game allows schools with smaller programs to introduce their players to the sport without having to field upwards of 22 players on a consistent basis.
The 15s season is currently underway and teams will be looking to qualify for the May 23-25 provincial championships at UBC's Wolfson FIelds in Vancouver.
"In Triple-A it's great because it is so wide open this year," added Baker who coaches the powerhouse Carson Graham program. "There are teams like Cowichan, Gleneagle, Lord Tweedsmuir, GP Vanier and Hugh McRoberts who are really in the mix as there is so much parity this year. The same goes for the Double-A with Abbotsford Collegiate, Heritage Park, Brentwood College and Shawnigan Lake all looking very strong and in the running for a provincial title."
North Vancouver's Carson Graham and Surrey's Elgin Park will head south this week for a tune up at the Fullerton Rugby Tournament in Southern California. Carson will also be scrumming down in an exhibition against 2011 American national champions Fallbrook.
As the high school season gets underway, further announcements have also been made about the representative rugby opportunities the summer has to offer. A trio of high school players in Jess Neilson (Carson Graham), Allie White (Cowichan High School) and Tiffany Picketts (Abby Collegiate) are already on the radars of Canada U20 national team selectors. For those aiming to compete at the representative level, Vancouver will be hosting the Provincial Regional Championships and Age Grade National Championships this summer. BC Rugby will be fielding both Under-16 and Under-18 women's teams.
Inter-zone competition for the 2013 BCHSGRA season will run from early March through to the end of April, when the playoffs kick off.