Victoria and Southern California share some common traits — most notably, both are on the West Coast of North America, and both are blessed with natural beauty.
But climate-wise, you can bet the Brookwood Secondary senior boys rugby team would have much rather been stateside in early February.
From Feb. 2 to 4, the Bobcats found themselves in B.C.’s capital city, where they took a crash course in the rough-and-tumble sport.
The Brookswood boys fundraised to go to California a couple of years ago but after the trip fell through, they carried over the unused funds to ferry to Victoria, where they spent three days practising in wintry weather and mingling with the Canadian men’s rugby team.
“We had originally planned to go to L.A. (and) San Diego but that changed to England and Wales,” explained Bobcats coach Dino Camparmo, who added, “the interest was there at the start, but a combination of events (including the) teacher strike (and) world events, (and the) students lost interest. We tried combining with other Langley schools but we couldn’t get enough guys.”
So the Bobcats made the best of a somewhat snowy situation.
Wing Cody Slavic said the wintry weather had its challenges.
“It was pretty cold,” Slavic said. “We play rugby all the time and that’s the weather we have to endure so it wasn’t anything crazy. It was definitely cold, snowy, and wet.”
During the trip the Bobcats practised with the St. Michaels University School senior boys team; watched the Canadian national men’s team practice at Windsor Park; met national team members; were given a tour of the new Centre for Athletics, Recreation and Special Abilities by UVic men’s rugby coach Doug Tate; practised in the snow at UVic; and enjoyed an up-close look at Canada’s exhibition game against visiting Argentina.
Flanker Leatham Bright called the experience “awesome.”
“It was something new, I’ve never done it before,” Bright said. “I was hoping to go to California because we were going to do the homestay with some other people but this was fantastic. We got to see some new things, experience some stuff.”
Inside centre Spencer Mitchell said watching the Canadian team practise and play and meeting the team members was a highlight.
“One day, hopefully,” he said, about possibly wearing Canada’s red and white colours. “After I graduate I’m planning on going to Australia to play rugby so, I’m planning on branching off in some way.”
Bright said the Canadian men worked on essentially the same drills as the Bobcats utilize “but at a lot higher intensity.”
“The fundamentals are still being used,” Mitchell added. “People have been playing for 12, 15 years are still using the exact same things that new players are using, right now.”
In a nutshell, Mitchell said, the weekend was an education in rugby.
“It’s always good,” Mitchell said, “especially playing with another school and practising with them. It was a really good thing — even for players who have been playing for multiple years, it’s always good to get another learning experience.”
The season begins after the spring break for a Bobcats team that consists of a mix of veterans and newcomers.
“We have a lot of new players this year, including some people who have never touched a rugby ball in their lives, so we hope to improve their skill level, too, as well as improve on our own,” Mitchell said. “We’d like to take it as far as we can go.”
Bright said “anything’s possible as long as the boys all pull together as a group.”