A number of Comox Valley rugby players have been selected to represent B.C. at the U16 Western Championships, July 25-28 in Kelowna.
Olivia Jean, Frances Nye, Jessica Postle, Sienna Stigant and Maddy Thran made the U15 girls XVs team. Sarah Arndt and Jasmine Mohtadi are listed as ‘non-travelling reserves.’
Aimee Burley — a coach and player with the Comox Valley Kickers women’s team — will be assistant coach of the U15s. She wasn’t planning on coaching for B.C., but U15 girls head coach Lauren Sargent — who is from Courtenay, and played rugby at Vanier Secondary and with the Kickers — asked Burley to help, and she accepted the offer.
“I coached her (Sargent) years ago when she was playing U18 for Kickers, so this has been a great experience to work with her,” Burley said, noting the U15 girls will compete against Alberta’s U16s in Kelowna. “There is a lot of up and coming talent on this team, so will make for some good games…For a lot of the U15 girls, this is their first time playing rugby at a rep level. To be selected to represent the province is a big deal.”
Burley said Stigant, Postle and Thran — though new to the sport — have been stand out players on their high school and regional teams, displaying hard running and contact skills.
Jade Froehlich of the Kickers made B.C.’s U16 girls side that competes in Kelowna. Her Kickers teammate Hannah Bourbyn, who was injured during the tryout camp at UBC, is listed as a non-travelling reserve.
Burley has coached all these girls at the club level, and at the recent Provincial Regional Championships at UBC.
“I really enjoy coaching, especially this age group,” she said. “The girls are so keen and have a good sense of the game already. It helps that now we have awesome coaches at the local high schools that build these girls up and give them good experiences.”
Ona Thorington, the Kickers’ director of junior rugby operations, credits Burley for helping to grow girls’ and women’s rugby in the Comox Valley.
“She coaches our junior girls program and has been a role model to so many young women in rugby,” Thorington said, noting Burley has coached the North Island Tsunami U16 girls the past four seasons.
Mimi Appelbe of Courtenay will be assistant coach of the U16 girls side in Kelowna, and Hazel Bice of Comox will be team manager.
Emmett Allen made the U15 boys team, and Matthew Strilets (a Courtenay resident attending Shawnigan Lake School) made the U16 boys gold XVs.
Another Comox Valley rugby player, Nicolette Vinnedge of the Kickers, was selected to the B.C. U17 girls team that competes at the Western Championships, August in Saskatchewan.
“So much talent from the Comox Valley has emerged these last couple years,” Burley said. “I am excited to see where these local girls will go with rugby.”