VANCOUVER - British Columbia's Under-18 men's provincial team will open the 2013 National Championships this Wednesday against last year's finalists Alberta. Captaining the home side in their quest for a rare three-peat will be Harjun Gill, a graduating senior from the BC Rugby Academy.
Gill is a proven leader having guided St. George's to a high school provincial sevens title in April and led the BC Elite Youth Sevens U18 team to a pair of international titles in Hong Kong and Victoria. The Richmond RFC product and Canada U17 national team grad is one of the top young talents at the junior level according to his BC coach Jeff Williams.
"Harjun has very good vision on the field and remains calm under pressure around the park," Williams said. "The players look to him for leadership and really respect him. Naming him captain was really an easy decision to make."
We caught up with Harjun as the team gears up their final training sessions heading into Wednesday's opener.
BC RUGBY: How is the team looking and how did the camp go this past week?
HARJUN GILL: The team is looking good, a blend of some guys that have been in the program for a while (Giuseppe Du Toit, Spencer Miller, Thomas Choi, etc) as well with some new guys coming into the BC program. That gives us a great mix.
The camp was great - [team staff] Jeff, Rameses and Shane were class as always. It was for sure a tough week, no doubt lots of content at a high pace which can be taxing. But the boys dealt extremely well and it brought us together which is the most important thing.
BC: How would you describe this year's group?
HG: Our team this year is not as big as past teams, but that is not a problem for us. What we lack in size we make up for in rugby knowledge and we have speed to burn all over the park.
BC: Can you talk a bit about the team's expectations heading into nationals?
HG: Expectations are as high as they can be, which is winning nationals. We spoke about the outside pressures that come while playing for such a successful program as BC, but truly we expect more from ourselves than anyone else could. We set the bar high because we know we have the skill, speed and strength to get there.
BC: Who are the main threats this year?
HG: All the teams are for sure a threat, you can't go into a national tournament underestimating these teams. All the provinces have great athletes and if you give those guys time and space they will do damage.
In particular though Alberta have shown very strong and you can't put anything passed them. We saw them in the u-18 final last year and they have quite a few guys returning so they will for sure be looking to go all the way again. And of course Ontario which goes without saying is the big one for us, every time you get those boys it's gonna be a battle. From our sevens series being so tight with them this year, we know that they are ready to go and that the Ontario game will go right down to the wire.
BC: Does playing at home give you an advantage? What does it mean for you to be able to play in front of a home crowd?
HG: For sure gives it us an advantage and playing at home is going to be amazing, I personally have never played nationals at home so it's a first for me as well. I can't wait for it - there will be tons of buzz and a big crowd out so it's exactly what we want with the big gamesand big stage at home, you can't beat that. It will mean a lot to us as for the first time all the coaches and friends that we play with at local clubs and school will be able to come out and support us. As well with so many BC teams in the tournament it just makes it that much better with so many young guys and girls out and us being the oldest ones in the festival makes for a great week.
BC: Can you talk a bit about what it means to be selected as captain?
HG: I am thankful for the opportunity to be chosen as captain. Im ecstatic to be leading the boys into a home tournament. It's always a pleasure to be able to lead a great group of guys like these fellas but to do it at home it will be something special.
BC: Can you talk a bit about the year you've had in rugby?
HG: I personally have had an awesome year of rugby. I was in Vegas, Hong Kong and Victoria with the BC Elite Youth Sevens program coming home with two tournament wins and able to spend lots of great time with those sevens guys. Hong Kong especially - it was the tour of a life time, just an unreal experience. And then my high school was without a doubt the best time I have ever had playing rugby and so thankful I got to spend my last year with those guys and the whole Saint George's rugby community.
BC: Anything you would like to add?
HG: Thanks to the organizers and volunteers of the tournament as well thanks to all the coaches and friends that I have played with over the past years with BC Rugby. We will hopefully see everyone out to support the boys on home soil when we go for the championship.
For more information on the upcoming tournament visit www.nationalfestivalrugby.com
BC U18s (BC-1) Nationals Schedule
Wed. Aug 7th, 4:30pm - BC1 vs Alberta
Thurs. Aug 8th, 1:30pm - BC1 vs Ontario1
Fri. Aug 9th, 3:00pm - BC1 vs Newfoundland
Sat. Aug 10th: Playoff Rounds
Sun. Aug 11th: Placement Rounds
BC U18 Men's Provincial Team
Name (Club / School)
Ben Bethune (Capilano RFC / Rockridge)
Jonas Blomberg (Capilano RFC / West Van)
Luke Bradley (Port Alberni District Secondary)
Thomas Cheung (Meraloma Rugby Club / St. George's)
Thomas Choi (Bayside AA / Earl Marriott)
Drew Coles (Bayside AA / Southridge)
Foster Dewitt (GP Vanier)
Guisseppe Du Toit (Shawnigan Lake School)
Harjun Gill (Richmond RFC / St. George's School)
Spencer Gordon Miller (Abbotsford RFC / Yale Secondary)
Jason Hignell (Abbotsford RFC / Yale Secondary)
Nik Hildebrand (Cowichan Rugby Club / Shawnigan Lake School)
Tom Kanwischer (Capilano RFC / Handsworth)
Karsten Leitner (UBCOB Ravens / St. George's School)
Cali Martinez (Bayside AA / Earl Marriott)
Chris Miles (Shawnigan Lake School)
Jack Rainer (Capilano RFC / Rockridge)
Judah Ratzlaff (Abbotsford RFC / Yale Secondary)
Louis Retief (Abbotsford RFC / Sardis Secondary)
Theo Sauder (Vancouver Rowing Club / St. George's School)
Nathan Sawchuk (Yale Secondary)
Peter Stockton (Kats RFC / St. George's School)
Morgan Tate (Castaway Wanderers RFC / Oak Bay High)
Jenner Teufel (Cowichan Rugby Club / Shawnigan Lake School)
Tomasi Vataiki (Bayside AA / Earl Marriott)
Head coach - Jeff Williams
Assistant coach - Rameses Langston
Manager - Shane Thompson
Athletic Therapist - Jenn McKinnon