The 2014 women’s Machine rugby team gathered for a team photo at the conclusion of their season. Pictured here are, from left, back row: Brittany Thomson, Emmalee Doyle, Deanne O'Reilly, Cassidy May, Naomi MacKay, Cynthia Becker, Alisi Komaitai, Ilana Ali, and coach Rick Kitchin (aka Kitch); middle row: Riley Kitchin, Sam Lake, Linnea Swinimer, Brittany MacKinnon, Sarah Dyke, and Kaitlyn Shreenan; and front row: Emma Burry (back captain), and Sarah Boudreau (team captain). (Submitted photo)
After 32 years of being involved with rugby, the Machine's women's coach is ready to sit back and just enjoy the game.
Rick Kitchin, who has worked hard to promote and develop the sport in Hants County, said 2014 will be his last season coaching the Windsor Hants County Rugby Football Club's Machine women. But, he says, the team is poised to grow and do great things if the women stick together and work hard.
“I think they'll be back strong,” said Kitchin as he reflected on the year that was.
“I think the leadership will get in order. But I think it's absolutely important that they... commit to practice, commit to training. Get their drills down, get their timing together and learn how to play with one another before they actually step on the field to play,” he said. “Otherwise, they're just going to repeat the same mistakes.”
The comments come after a trying season for the women's team, where they lost more games than they won.
“In rugby, timing is so important. You have to know when to pass to this person, when to run, when to kick. Right down to the second, you have to know how to do these things,” he said. “When you can't practice it and you go into a game and try to pull these moves off, it doesn't work.”
Kitchin said it was the team's lack of commitment to attend practice that made being a competitive, unified force on the pitch a challenge this season. He said the women's team, who made great strides in 2013, simply didn't live up to expectations this year.
“Underachieved is the best way to describe this year,” he said, noting there were a number of contributing factors that resulted in their poor record.
“But to be fair, we finished last year off on a high. We won a lot of games last year. We were a team that earned a lot of good victories, played well together,” he said.
This year saw the departure of several strong players, an influx of inexperienced players or rookies, plus a struggle to get the necessary practice time. It was more of a rebuilding year for the team.
Kitchin noted that four of the players now coach various levels of high school rugby – Riley Kitchin, Aisha Kirumira, Emma Burry, and Cynthia Becker – and he feels that will pay off in the long run for the club.
“I think you're going to see a big influx of high school players into the senior level, and it seems to be getting better every year.”
Kitchin noted that rugby continues to grow as a sport, and is considered the fastest growing sport in the world. He's sure the women's team will “bounce back” after this year's setbacks, and commends the local rugby football club for promoting both then men's and women's teams.
“The club itself, the Windsor Machine, is a great club. They're well-organized, they have great sponsorship, they have all the pieces to be a long-term club,” he said, noting that this year was just an off year for the women.
And while Kitchin – who most people call Kitch – plans to retire, he won't be far from the action. He hasn't ruled out officiating, and intends to continue supporting the Machine and watching the games.
“Rugby is my passion, it's my life,” said Kitchin. “Quite honestly, I'm retiring, but when it's so deep in your life it's kind of hard to walk away from it completely.”