BC‘s next generation of women’s rugby players have arrived on the national scene

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Senior national team selections the latest in a series of accomplishments for girls' Elite Youth Sevens alumni

Five BC players were named to Canada’s senior women’s XVs roster travelling to California this week to face the USA in a two-game series. The BC players named to the team are no stranger to suiting up together – four of the players selected were teammates with BC Rugby’s Elite Youth Sevens program, an initiative to develop high-performance rugby players in BC.

Over the past few seasons, age-grade girls’ rugby has experienced a huge increase in popularity in BC and around the world, creating new opportunities for development and competitive play. There are over 2,000 girls aged 15-19 currently playing high-school rugby in BC, an increase of 60% from just three seasons ago.

To support this growing player base and further their development, the Elite Youth 7s performance program has been implemented. Initially piloted as a boy’s program in 2016, the Elite Youth 7s was implemented as a high-performance program for age-grade boys’ and girls’ rugby later that year. The work of coach Dean Murten and BC Rugby CEO Annabel Kehoe has made the girls’ Elite Youth 7s program a huge part of the development of elite women’s rugby players in BC, helped by the financial support of ONNI Group.

“With thanks to the investment from the ONNI Group and the Amarone Charitable Trust, we’re now seeing the positive impact that a focused program can have on player development,” said Kehoe. “With the growing number of girls coming to rugby and the continued support for this program, we’re aiming to support more players and continue to raise the standard of girls’ rugby in the province.”

Since its implementation, the program has provided a pathway for age-grade girls to train and gain competitive experience against strong opposition. These opportunities have built a foundation of success for BC’s next generation of women’s rugby players, and the program’s first group of alumni have begun to make waves in rugby all across the country.

Being selected to Canada’s senior women’s XVs side is the latest in a long list of honours and accomplishments for the first wave of the program’s graduates, alongside selections to U20 and U18 Canadian XVs teams, Canadian senior 7s and FISU 7s teams, as well as a swathe of accolades and awards at the university level.

In 2016, Mackenzie Carson won U Sports (national) and Canada West (conference) Rookie of the Year honours before signing in England’s top-flight women’s XVs league, where she has been a standout player. Sophie de Goede followed in Carson’s footsteps in 2018 with national and regional rookie of the year honours and was one of two BC players to win conference Player of the Year awards in 2019, the other being Shoshanah Seumanutafa. Seumanutafa’s teammate Rori Wood earned Canada West Rookie of the Year honours in 2018.

Laura Pfleiderer was MVP of her conference in 2018 and was named Acadia University’s female athlete of the year. Lyric Atchison, a U Sport First Nations athlete from the Squamish Nation, received the Tom Longboat Female Athlete of the Year award for 2019, an award which recognizes Aboriginal athletes for their outstanding contributions to sport in Canada. Val Wideski, Berlyn Seselja and Emma Feldinger have all been named to conference all-star teams for their excellent U Sports play.

This summer, eight BC players were selected to Canada’s U20 XVs team that travelled to England for the Tri-Nations Cup – Callie Harder, Emma Feldinger, Lyric Atchison, Rori Wood, Shoshanah Seumanutafa, Sophie de Goede, Kally King, and Berlyn Seselja.

Last year’s U20 XVs side featured former Elite 7s teammates Wideski, de Goede, Levale, Carson, Brooke Bazian and Madison Gold. All in all, thirteen different players have been selected to the Canadian U20 woman’s XVs team over the past two seasons, all alumni of the Elite Youth 7s program.

Many of these players were also named to Canadian U18 XVs sides, as were program alumni Tanika Bonneville and Shaye Tudor, who has captained Canada’s U18s.

In sevens, Brooke Baizan represented Canada at the FISU Rugby 7s in Naples this summer, and Tausani Levale has been pulling double duty, representing Canada at the 7s level alongside her sister Nakisa in addition to XVs play.

“This group of dedicated female athletes, along with the opportunities they have received, have helped create a culture of success in BC and they have become role models for many of the younger athletes coming through the pathway,” said Girls’ Rugby Development Manager Darcy Patterson.  “This first cohort of Elite 7s athletes have pushed the boundaries while driving each other towards their goals on and off the pitch.”

Patterson believes the success of this new crop of BC-born women’s rugby players will be an inspiration to the next generations of girls’ rugby talent across the province.

Shoshanah Seumanutafa is the latest of the Elite Youth 7s’ first graduating class to earn a call-up to the senior national team and will be joining former Elite Youth 7s teammates Sophie de Goede, Mackenzie Carson and Tausani Levale. BC’s Mikiela Nelson of Capilano RFC is also set to earn her first cap with the senior national team.

Canada’s senior women’s national team take on the USA Eagles on Wednesday, November 20th at 3 PM Pacific time.

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BC’s Elite Youth Sevens Alumni

Sophie DeGoede – 2018 OUA Rookie of the Year and U Sports Rookie of the Year, OUA MVP 2019, Championship all-star 2019

Laura Pfleiderer – AUS MVP 2018 – Acadia Athlete of the year 2018, Championship all-star 2019

Shoshanah Seumanutafa – Canada West Player of the Year 2019, Canada U20 XVs, Canada Senior Women XVs

Emma Feldinger – Canada West All-Star 2019, Canada U20 XVs

Berlyn Sesselja – Canada West All-Star 2019, Canada U20 XVs

Val Wideski – AUS All-Star 2018, Canada U20, Canada Senior Women XVs

Tausani Levale – Canada U20 XVs, Canada Senior Women XVs and 7s

Mackenzie Carson – 2016 Canada West Rookie of the Year 2016 and U Sports Rookie of the Year, top performer in England Premiership, Canada U20 XVs, Canada Senior Women XVs

Brooke Bazian – FISU Canadian 7s Team, Canada U20 XVs

Kally King – Canada U20 XVs

Tannika Bonneville – Canada U18 XVs

Shaye Tudor – Canada U18 XVs Captain

Denise Roy – Centralized with Canada 7s (not active player)