“I was walking on the floor in the Rio 2016 Olympic’s Closing Ceremony snapchatting for Rugby Canada”. Wow , how did i get here?
Bryan Kelly, the manager of communications and media relations for Rugby Canada has seen the sport grow exponentially since he began his tenure. It started with volunteering to operate a camera for a match between the BC Bears and Russia back in 2009 when he was a communications student at Camosun College.
“There was an international game at Westhills Stadium and they were looking for someone to work the live stream. Instead of just manning the camera, I did the play-by-play for the live stream and there was thousands of viewers” Kelly said.
Kelly began an internship with Rugby Canada, covering Western events with Rugby Canada located in Richmond Hill, Ontario, prior to it’s relocation to Langford. Providing articles, interviews, play-by-play and other content, his foot was in the door.
After graduating from Camosun, Kelly entered the Bachelor’s program for Professional Communication at Royal Roads, a one year program with guaranteed entrance to Camosun graduates. Just under halfway through the school year opportunity knocked, the Edmonton Oilers were in need of a communications intern as a position opened up mid-season.
“I applied for the internship on the Monday, was interviewed on the Wedneday, and was accepted on the Friday”
Kelly packed up his life and drove his truck through the mountains to oil country.
“Within eighteen seconds of entering Rexall Place I was looking around and almost walked into Nikolai Khabibulin, he said sorry and continued on his way, I was in awe”
Kelly spent the remainder of the season in Edmonton, but no job came from the internship, the 2012 NHL season was also shortened by a lockout. Just prior to the hockey work stoppage, the wheels of change were starting to spin in the rugby world.
“When Rugby sevens was announced to be in the Olympics in 2011 it was an instant game changer. The Olympics gave the sport credibility” Kelly explained.
Not only that but being part of the world’s most prominent sporting event allowed it to much easier be seen on a global stage. Kelly knew that the exposure to mainstream viewers would grow the sport, but had no idea how much it would grow.
Then through the partnership of former Rugby Canada CEO Graham Brown and Langford Mayor Stu Young, the Canadian Rugby headquarters were brought to Langford in 2012. Due to the moderate climate of the area, rugby could be considered an all year sport, whereas in Ontario during the winter, not so much.
“In nine of ten provinces, Rugby is a summer sport” Kelly said.
The move has paid dividends, as the Canadian Men’s Sevens team won their first tournament just two weeks ago in Singapore, which Kelly says is one of the best moments he’s had with the team.
“Getting calls from Sportscentre, Sportsnet, Canadian Press, CBC, all losing their minds cause they wanted videos and photos, I stayed up all night, slept maybe forty-five minutes”
The Canadians took down the fifth, fourth, and third-ranked countries in the world on route to the victory. In the final Canada scored three tries in the first five minutes defeating the United States 26-19.
But for Kelly, the work doesn’t just stop at Rugby. How team-oriented coverage at the Olympics works is that a number of content creators are brought down, and instead of working for just their sport, cover multiple throughout the Olympics. He may be doing Rugby first, then once that wraps up he moves onto another sport, until the end of the games.
“Hands down, the number one moment has been the Rio Olympics, just an incredible event. The media interest was bigger than anything I have ever seen”
According to Kelly, the two biggest challenges Rugby Canada faces are the time change, and not having a home schedule. Canada’s first sevens tournament victory happened at 6 AM, with many of the games happening through the night. While Langford is the home for Canada Rugby, the men rarely play there, they take part in tournaments around the world with the most local being in Vancouver. However, with the sport now in the Olympics, and Canada raising their first trophy, it’s safe to say the sport is on the rise.
‘Ive come along way i guess from my day’s with the Saanich Braves” Yes, yes you have, good on ya mate, well deserved!