Jack Nyren (Castaway Wanderers RFC)
VANCOUVER - For the first time in the history of the Rugby Canada National Championships, BC will be entering a second team into the Under-18 men's division. During the National Festival at UBC's Wolfson Fields (Aug 7-11), the TrueBlue U17 men's provincial team will be competing in the Tier Two competition with pool round games against Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Saskatchewan.
The selection process for the U17s began with a camp back in June before head coach Curry Hitchborn assembled the TrueBlue Selects to compete in the U18 B2Gold Provincial Regional Championships. The squad competed against regional U18 teams from across BC and went on to place third, finishing behind runner-ups North Island Tsunami and eventual champs Vancouver Wave.
After another weekend camp and a trial run against touring side Durham, Hitchborn has now named his final roster for the tournament set to kick off on August 7th.
"The energy is high and the team is looking very organized. They're excited to come into this tournament and are pumped to be the first U17 BC team competing in a U18 division," Hitchborn said.
The program was created to provide more representative rugby opportunities for BC's emerging talent. A number of top level players would have sat this year out but the U17 program allowed Hitchborn and assistant coach Andy Blackburn to scout a number of players outside of the current provincial set up.
Creating another step in the player pathway has allowed a number of players to be exposed to the high level competition a year early, something that can only benefit them as they look to crack the U18 roster in their final year of age grade rugby next season.
"Some of their peers have already been selected for the U18 team but the majority of these guys are coming in with a bit of a chip on their shoulders," Hitchborn added. "They're looking to prove their worth and that they'll be ready next time the U18 coaches are assembling their team."
Captaining this year's squad is Cowichan and Shawnigan Lake School rep Wes Wong. Key players to watch out for include Capilano's Nick Allen and Penticton's Nakai Penny. A back row standout who is lethal from the flanks, Penny has had another break out season at the provincial level and could probably handle playing senior men's rugby, according to coach Hitchborn.
The second row will have plenty of power with heavy hitters Michael Henderson (Cowichan) and Reegan O'Gorman (Vancouver Rowing Club) both looking to carry their form over from a national championship run with the U16 program last year. Key players to also keep an eye on are BC Rugby Academy and BC Elite Youth Sevens standouts Jack Nyren (Castaway Wanderers) and Nick Collett (Bayside AA).
The coaching tandem of Blackburn and Hitchborn are already well-acquainted having coached against each other at the club level in recent years. Hitchborn's Capilano squad and Blackburn's Bayside Sharks have been equally impressive the last few seasons while the Caps are currently reigning provincial champs.
"Coaching this team has been an excellent opportunity for me to learn from Andy and it's great to be able to work together with this program," Hitchborn added. "We've spent a lot of time on opposite sidelines so it's great to be able to share ideas and build this team together."
The BC U17s (referred to as BC-2 at nationals) open their tournament against Nova Scotia on Wednesday August 7th at UBC's Wolfson Fields. For more information on the competition visit www.nationalfestivalrugby.com
BC U17s Nationals Schedule
Wed. Aug 7th, 9:00am BC vs Nova Scotia
Thurs. Aug 8th, 9:00am BC vs New Brunswick
Fri. Aug 9th, 9:00am BC vs Saskatchewan
Sat. Aug 10th: Playoff Rounds
Sun. Aug 11th: Placement Rounds
BC U17 TrueBlue Men's Provincial Team
Name (Club / School)
Nick Allen (Capilano RFC / Mulgrave)
Tyler Beselt (Cowichan Rugby Club / Shawnigan Lake School)
Phil Berna (Van College / Vancouver Rowing Club)
Joseph Carter (Bayside AA / Lord Tweedsmuir)
Nick Collett (Bayside AA / Southridge)
Matt Gallager (Bayside AA / Semiahmoo)
Christian Haldane (Bayside AA / Elgin Park)
Dom Haynes (Kelowna Crows / Kelowna Secondary)
Michael Henderson (Cowichan Rugby Club / Shawnigan Lake School)
Nolan Howell (Richmond RFC / McRoberts)
Noah Jensen (Abbotsford RFC / Robert Bateman)
Brendan Kennedy (Lord Tweedsmuir)
Ayden Kirkpatrick (Abbotsford RFC / Yale Secondary)
Jackson Locker (Campbell River AA / Carihi Secondary)
Charlie MacDonald (Capilano RFC / Rockridge)
Jack Nyren (Castaway Wanderers RFC / Oak Bay High)
Andrew O'Connor (Bayside AA / Elgin Park)
Reegan O'Gorman (Vancouver Rowing Club / Winston Churchill Academy)
Nakai Penny (Penticton Secondary)
Gavin Rowell (Bayside AA / Robert Bateman)
Tim Stephens (Bayside AA / Southridge)
Braydon Williams (GP Vanier)
Wes Wong (Cowichan Rugby Club / Shawnigan Lake School)
Nick Wright (Bayside AA / Earl Marriott)
Head coach - Curry Hitchborn
Assistant coach - Andy Blackburn
Manager - Don Wright
Athletic Therapist - Alvin Tseng
TrueBlue® Blueberry Juice is a major proprietary brand developed by Leading Brands, Inc. [NASDAQ: LBIX]. and is now a Premier BC Rugby sponsor. In June of 2012, BC Rugby and Leading Brands, Inc. CEO Ralph McRae announced a partnership with TrueBlue® Blueberry Juice to sponsor three specific, age-level programs through BC Rugby. Each TrueBlue® titled program was positioned at a pivotal period in a rugby player’s career; from the introduction to the sport all the way up to international tours. The motto for the innovative partnership was established as TrueBlue® Tackle the World™. McRae's initiative has seen TrueBlue® further enhance the Mini Rugby program, as well as provide opportunities for age grade representation through supporting the U15 and U17 men's provincial teams.