It was a successful season for Lord Tweedsmuir’s Grade 8 boys rugby team, says head coach Walter van Halst.
For many of the players, it was their first time playing rugby.
“I think it’s wonderful for kids to have sports again,” said van Halst, who is also a teacher at Lord Tweedsmuir. “I’m thrilled to be back coaching and to have kids on the field doing something that they love.”
He said despite many kids being new to the sport, the students bonded with the game and with each other. That chemistry propelled the squad in the Surrey Grade 8 boys championship final.
“We were beaten by Earl Marriott in the final—and Earl Marriott deserved to win—but our boys came to play and it was a very good game.”
In that match, Earl Marriott took an early lead and was out in front of Tweedy by a bunch of tries at halftime. But Tweedy stormed back in the second half and crossed the line for several scores, ultimately coming up a try or two short.
“We left it a bit late, but we did come roaring back,” said van Halst. “Our kids have a lot of character. They were down by 24 points and closed the gap. They are a hardworking group and a dedicated and loyal group.”
He said the success of this year’s squad bodes well for Tweedy’s junior and senior teams in years to come.
“A lot of the boys are already very strong for Grade 8, also many of them are quite skilled—good tacklers or good at setting up plays—every player contributed something. The epitome of the word ‘team’.”
Van Halst said most of the kids had little rugby experience before their first practice.
“The rugby ball was new to them,” he explained. “It was similar to a football, but it was a little weird the first time they took the pitch and tossed the ball around.”
He said just getting kids to try rugby is the hard part and this year was no exception. But he added that once kids come out to a practice or two, they usually get hooked and fall in love with rugby completely once they’ve played their first game.
“Most kids who try rugby end up loving it.”
He added the kids grew a lot closer over the year and their skills and gameplay improved dramatically from practice to practice and game to game.
He attributed a lot of that skill development and in-game success to the parent-coaches that came out to help this year.
“I was lucky to have four parents—all of whom played rugby at a high level—help me coach this year,” he said. “Each of them brought something different to the table.
“One of them, Bruce Reid, is a former professional football player, and brother to former B.C. Lion Angus Reid. Another, Stan Manu, played high-level rugby in Tonga. Steven Mansfield played rugby in university for McGill. And Jeff Sheppard, who played rugby in B.C. and in Australia.”
And while van Halst said the parent-coaches were a massive help, he said the team would not have progressed as it did without the dedication the Grade eights showed.
“I’m extremely proud of the kids and their resilience,” noted van Halst. “They worked very hard, harder than you’d expect Grade 8s to work, and they’ve been a joy to coach all season.”