BADDECK — A group of longtime residents are looking to fill some free time in the summer with a new men's rugby club comprised of players from Victoria County.Caledonia Rugby, seen here in action last year, may have a new Cape Breton rival on the provincial rugby circuit as efforts to create a Victoria County based club continue.If successful, the hope is that the project will expand to include sponsorship of a women's team and rugby-based programs for junior age players and school children.
"When you look at the demographics of sport here it seems there is not much for male sports in the summer time," said Brock Fownes, one of the organizers.
"There's no softball, a little bit of soccer for kids, a bit of men's basketball in the winter and the hockey for oldtimers and that kind of thing. After that there is nothing organized. Even the women's organizers have said that to me 'this should catch so it's worth a try."
Fownes said there's a history of rugby in Victoria County that traces back to a Baddeck-based team formed in 1975. He played on that squad which was put together for similar reasons as the latest team proposal. "Three of us wanted to get something going in the summer. One of us had a rugby ball and just recruited the young guys around town and it took off. We were happy with that." Rivals included a Sydney-based club they would sometimes join forces with to take on stronger teams. However, by the early 1980s it had faded away even though many of those players still live in the area.
"Some of those guys will come out and be mentors and supporters of what is going on now. In that scenario we have a good base of older organizers that will become very useful part of any club. They may not be playing but certainly can play a role in promoting and organizing a club." The community came out to watch and support that previous team and Fownes expects they'll come out to watch again. "It is definitely educational right now for the community. They seem to be asking about it and interested in the progress even at this point in January." The notion of starting a team began last winter while he and fellow organizer Brian MacLeod were talking about that former team. Fownes spends a considerable amount of time working out of country so they didn't revisit it until after the summer.
Their first open meeting in early January attracted about a dozen interested former players and some new ones. Rugby Nova Scotia granted the Victoria County entry official club status on Jan. 25 and Fownes said they will eventually compete in the provincial Third Division. However, in their first year they are eying some exhibition contests against Maritime teams and potentially participation in a tournament in Truro. Even though he is 66, Fownes plans to play in addition to his management role. "I'll be more or less coaching and training somebody else to do the full-time playing," said Fownes who has played rugby every year since he discovered it age 16."It would be a bit of a challenge if somebody was playing at 25, quit and came back at 45. Myself, I have never really stopped."
Training for the men's team is underway as part of a weekly basketball night in Baddeck. Fownes said a weekly rugby-based training session will be added.
The team has no home field yet, but he said people have offered to donate land that can be used to create a field. They may also inquire about a field at Baddeck Academy. As the program progresses they will step up efforts to sponsor other teams and investigate potential partnerships with schools.
"We are going to go alone first with a mini-rugby program and just see what the feedback will be from the community on that at a kids level before we approach schools, hoping that maybe the schools will see there is an interest."