Ali Lee

On Saturday, Jan. 21, Rugby Canada held an official opening ceremony for the Canadian Rugby Centre of Excellence in Langford, B.C. Following the ceremony a reception was held and Rugby Canada announced their male and female 7s players of the year.

Fourth-year centre for the Vikes Sean Duke (Vancouver, BC) was named the male 7s player of the year, while Ghislaine Landry, of Ontario, was named the female recipient.

Duke was a member of the 2011 Pan American Games Champion team that went undefeated in pool play against Brazil, Chile and the United States. The Canadians moved on and defeated Mexico in the quater-final, the United States in the semifinal and lastly, Argentina to capture the gold medal. Duke was the leading try scorer over the two-day tournament in October in Guadalajara, Mexico.

Last Wednesday, Jan. 18, it was announced that Duke was selected as a member of the Canadian squad to compete in the Wellington Sevens set for Feb. 3-4 in New Zealand and the Las Vegas Sevens the following week. Joining Duke on that squad is UVic Vike Nathan Hirayama (Richmond, BC).

Duke was presented Player of the Year honours by Canada sevens head coach Geraint John and Mike Holmes, Chairman of the Rugby Foundation. At the reception, John said, “Sean has played a major role within the team and squad in 2011. He was selected and played in all the tournaments and consistently was a threat, scoring tries for all areas of the field. Sean was also a member of the Pan Am squad where he played a vital role both on and off the field which culminated in the team winning the first ever Pan Am rugby gold medal for Canada.”

“It’s an amazing honour for Sean. He has worked so hard over the years and is continually improving,” said Vikes head coach Doug Tate. “Sean has been so consistent and has stayed healthy, which makes a huge difference. This honour just illustrates that you need to play in a number of tournaments to learn the sevens game before you are ready for the international level. Sean has done just that has improved so much.”

On top of the honour of being named Canada’s Player of the Year in sevens, both Duke and Landry were awarded a cash bursary of $250.00, made possible by the Olympic 7s Fund.

Duke is a key member of the Canadian squad that is looking towards the Hong Kong Sevens tournament in March 2012, which the International Rugby Board has deemed the tournament that will determine the teams qualified for the next year’s cicuit. Sixteen spots will be filled from the teams at that tournament and Duke and his Canadian contingency will have their eye on one of them.