Image courtesy of Rugby Canada
On March 9th, members of the Rugby community gathered at Rugby Canada’s 2016 Awards Dinner in Downtown Vancouver. The annual event recognizes individuals, clubs, teams and Provincial Unions that have positively impacted rugby in Canada. Additionally, Rugby Canada’s Award and Recognition Program includes a Volunteer Appreciation and Club Anniversary program, the Annual Awards, the latest Hall of Fame and Honorary Life Memberships. This year, awards were given to some of BC’s top rugby stars, including the following:
Senior Men’s Player of the Year — Evan Olmstead
Born and raised in North Vancouver, BC, Evan Olmstead played for Capilano RFC before making his debut for Canada in 2015. Last year was quite the year for Olmstead as the 25-year-old played in six tests and even grabbed his first test try against Samoa in November. Olmstead also signed a short-term deal with the English Championship’s London Scottish at the start of 2016 before his performances drew the attention of Premiership club Newcastle Falcons where he has since become a mainstay in their starting XV.
Men’s Sevens Player of the Year — Nathan Hirayama
Nathan Hirayama has played for the University of Victoria as well as for the BC Bears, competing in the Canadian Rugby Championship. He made his sevens debut in 2006 and two years later debuted for the Canadian national men’s team. 2016 was simply a wonder year for the Richmond, BC product as Hirayama scored 295 points, the third most during the season. He also scored 28 tries and kicked 80 conversions, including the game-winner in Canada’s bowl win over France at the HSBC Canada Sevens.
Women’s Sevens Player of the Year — Kayla Moleschi
Pride of Williams Lake, Kayla Moleschi, has had an incredible 2016. Unsurprisingly, she was a core contributor in Rio with her explosive step and willingness to set up teammates, while scoring three tries herself, as Canada claimed bronze.
Young Female Player of the Year — Sophie de Goede
From her early years (age seven), Sophie started with minis at Castaway Wanderers and moved through the age grades. Heralding from a family full of Canadian rugby standouts, including Canada’s 1987 Men’s Team Captain Hans de Goede & first-ever women’s team Captain Stephanie White as parents, the latest de Goede had an exceptional 2016 where she represented Canada at the U18 Women’s Rugby Championships in France and the Rugby Americas North Rugby Championship in Trinidad and Tobago. More recently, the 17-year-old Victoria, BC native was centralized where she trains on a daily basis with Canada’s women’s sevens team.
2017 Rugby Canada Hall of Fame Class
Ro Hindson started playing rugby at Mill Bay’s Brentwood College and later played for University of Victoria and UBC. A dominant specimen, Hindson was a force in both the sevens and fifteens editions of the game on the international scene. Hindson won 31 test caps for Canada and was a member of the inaugural 1987 Rugby World Cup squad. On the sevens front, Hindson played in the famed Hong Kong Sevens from 1980-1987 as well as the 1987 Sydney Sevens. Club-wise, Hindson played for UBCOB Ravens and Penticton Harlequins RC after leaving the National team. Hindson has also been inducted into the BC Rugby Hall of Fame and the BC Sports Hall of Fame.
Born and raised in Duncan, BC, Gareth Rees played for various clubs including the Castaway Wanderers before being selected to represent Canada. One of the most recognizable rugby stars of all-time, Rees won 55 test caps over a sensational career and played in four Rugby World Cup’s. He became the first North American inducted into the World Rugby Hall of Fame in 2011. Rees’ 491 points are the second most in Canadian test history while his 120 points in Rugby World Cups also remain a Canadian record. He retired in 1999 having captained Canada in two Rugby World Cups and 25 times, a record he holds with Al Charron. He also represented the famed Barbarians four times.
Honorary Life Member — Stephanie White
Hailing from Victoria, BC, she was the first captain of the Women’s Fifteens Program where she played in two Women’s Rugby World Cups, played a key role in developing women’s rugby here in Canada, was a member of Rugby Canada’s Board of Directors, served as a coach and is currently Chair of the Monty Heald Fund which had successfully raised funds to eliminate the pay to play process for Canada’s senior women’s team as they prepare to play in the 2017 Women’s Rugby World Cup in Ireland this year.
Canadian Shield Award – Ray Barkwill
Resident of Victoria, BC, Ray Barkwill plays for the Castaway Wanderers when he isn't representing Canada on the National Men's team. Barkwill has played for Canada in the Americas Rugby Championship, Rugby World Cup and more, earning him 39 caps to date.
Special Recognition Award – John Lyall
John Lyall received a Special Recognition Award for his work with Thunder Rugby and growing the game within the Aboriginal community on Vancouver Island. Last year Lyall introduced the Thunder Rookie Rugby program offered at no cost to First Nations players in middle school and high school. Lyall is currently the President of the Vancouver Island Rugby Union and was awarded multiple volunteer awards from BC Rugby.