Players from the Thunder Rugby Team in action at the Langford Sevens tournament this summer. (Credit: Lorne Collicutt, courtesy of Rugby Canada)

BC Rugby is delighted to announce the return and expansion of the Thunder Rookie Rugby program this Fall. The program was successfully piloted earlier this year in several locations on Vancouver Island and will now expand to include three locations within the greater Vancouver area thanks to newly acquired funding. The collaboration between Thunder Rugby, BC Rugby and the Indigenous Sport, Physical Activity & Recreation Council (ISPARC) aims to provide a fun, non-contact introduction to the sport of Rugby to Aboriginal youth within First Nations communities.

Inviting all First Nations communities to give Rugby a try is Phil Mack, Canadian Rugby Legend and member of the Toquaht Nation. “I have the most fun when I’m playing Rugby, at any level, so I’m excited to lead the Thunder Rookie Rugby program, giving the opportunity to future Aboriginal rugby stars to get playing.”. Mack, whose glittering career includes 94 Caps between both XVs and Sevens Rugby, has been working tirelessly to grow the game within the Aboriginal communities in BC.

“Getting people involved in rugby from a young age is not only important to building the game, but it helps contribute many other positive factors in someone’s life,” says Mack,  “Teamwork, exercise, a shared experience and above all enjoyment are all features of rugby no matter what level being played.”.

The free program is offered as weekly, coach-led sessions for boys and girls aged 8 to 14, with each participant receiving their very own Gilbert rugby ball at the conclusion of the program. As a special highlight of this year’s program, participants will have the opportunity to play in front of a packed BC Place crowd during halftime of the Canada vs. New Zealand’s Maori All-Blacks on Friday, November 3. This will be the first time that Canada’s Senior Men’s Team faces the Maori All Black Team in BC.

“This is a unique opportunity for anyone that signs up for these Thunder Rookie Rugby programs,” said BC Rugby CEO Annabel Kehoe.  “We hope that these young Aboriginal players are inspired to literally follow in the footsteps of players like Phil Mack and the many other Aboriginal players that are finding success in Rugby.”.

Programming commences early October and is available at the Chief Joe Mathias Centre in North Vancouver, the Vancouver Aboriginal Friendship Centre and the Musqueam Cultural Pavillion in Vancouver, the Snuneymuxw Recreation and Wellness Centre in Nanaimo, the Songhees Wellness Centre in Victoria, and the WSANEC Tribal School in Saanich.

Registration is available at each venue and is open to all boys and girls aged 8 to 14 years. Thunder Rookie Rugby is a free program made possible with Provincial Government funding.

The HSBC Rookie Rugby program is a nationally-led, locally delivered program which introduces the game of rugby in a safe way for kids of all ages. The game is a non-contact form of rugby using flag belts, allowing players to learn the basics while being active and having fun with their friends.