Young players hit CW pitch

With approximately 75 Mini players, the club expects to hit the 100 mark soon

Ron Willems photos/courtesy Castaway Wanderers Youth rugby numbers are increasing for the Castaway Wanderers Rugby Football Club.

The Castaway Wanderers Rugby Football Club has played a big role in getting people of all ages involved in rugby in Oak Bay.

The history of the Wanderers dates back over 100 years, with the club an amalgamation of the Oak Bay Wanderers, founded in 1912, and the Castaway Rugby organization in 1989. However, it has only been in the last 15 years or so that the club has undergone major changes with the introduction of a Mini Rugby program, thanks to Ian MacLean.

“(MacLean) really is the architect of the program,” says Junior Boys and Mini rugby director Matt Gordon.

Gordon says the program was started from scratch with about 10 to 15 kids aged anywhere from eight to 13. Now, kids can get started within the program as early as age six. The Mini rugby program runs until the Under-12 age group, then the players move on to the Junior program.

The Wanderers’ main focus is on introducing kids to the game of rugby by providing a suitable level of rugby competition and outstanding coaching for all ages that will keep young people engaged in the sport.

Highly competitive and consistently vying for and winning provincial championships at all levels, the club enjoys healthy numbers, with more than 350 players registered.

“We have approximately 75 Minis, and we expect to hit the 100 mark soon. We also have about 85 junior boys,” says Gordon, who adds that while the numbers for the boys have been stable, the club is seeing a boost in the number of girls participating.

“We’re actually seeing the majority of our growth come from getting more girls playing, which is really great. David Crossley runs that program and started it about four years ago. I can’t say enough about the job he’s done with that program for the girls, as well as what it’s contributed to the club,” says Gordon, who also credits the success of the women’s national sevens team – including a bronze medal at the Rio Olympics – with prompting more girls to try the sport.

At the younger age groups, the girls are mixed on co-ed teams with the boys, but after age 10, the girls branch off into their own teams separate from the boys.

Among the sport’s biggest obstacles has been how to limit, and deal with, the rising concern among parents of concussions.

Gordon says every measure is taken within the club to educate players, coaches and referees on the signs and symptoms of concussions, and how to create safe and disciplined tackles to ensure minimal contact to the head.

The sport’s inclusivity is the main catalyst in growing the club, Gordon says.

“I don’t know a sport that’s as inclusive – anyone can play, all shapes and sizes. The game builds self-esteem instantly and I think that just comes with being part of a team, and playing a role on a team which is huge for kids,” he says.

“Most kids are drawn to it because it’s a team sport that involves physicality. It’s a really amazing combination of non-stop action and physical contact.”

Learn more about the Castaway Wanderers and their programs at cwrugby.com.