Curry's Corner teen named to national rugby team, headed to France

Published on March 19, 2017

Nathan Lake is a powerhouse on the pitch. He played on the Windsor Hants County Machine mens’ team during the summer of 2016.

©Carole Morris-Underhill

WINDSOR, N.S. — At just 17 years old, Nathan Lake already has a commanding presence.

As a defenceman in hockey, he's not someone the forwards like to tango with. On the rugby pitch, his size and skill make him a force to be reckoned with.

Recently, Lake's athleticism landed him on Rugby Canada's Under 18 team that's headed to France in April.

It's an honour that Lake said he worked towards but never saw coming.

“I didn't know what to think. When I first got the email, it was like 'Wow, I get to go to France and play for Canada,’” said Lake, who is a Grade 12 Avon View High School student.

Lake took up playing rugby in Grade 10 — but it wasn't his idea.

Nathan Lake began his rugby career at Avon View High School and has played three seasons with the Avalanche.

©Carole Morris-Underhill

Nathan Lake has set his sights on one day playing for Canada's senior mens’ rugby team.
Carole Morris-Underhill

“I was kinda forced. My sister was playing and she kind of just signed me up,” said Lake, adding, “I grew to like it.”

And he grew quite good at it.

The prop forward has played for the Avon View Avalanche throughout his school career. He also played for the Windsor Hants County Machine mens' team last summer, and was named the Under 18 captain of the Nova Scotia Keltics.

“He's obviously very big and very strong,” said Avon View's rugby coach Axel Lawrence.

“He has a great awareness of the game. He's got a real good knack for making the right decision at the right time and being able to stay calm and composed in those high pressure situations,” said Lawrence.

Jack Hanratty, the provincial coach for Rugby Nova Scotia, will be heading with Lake to France. Hanratty, who will be Team Canada's Under 18 attack coach, has been watching Lake develop his skills over the past three years.

“I think he was always a powerhouse in terms of playing in Nova Scotia. He was always the biggest and strongest guy, even in Grade 10,” said Hanratty.

Both Hanratty and Lawrence said Lake's size, combined with his passing skills, means he's able to open up the outer field more — a trait that competitive teams are looking for in a prop.

“In the older days, players in his position of prop would have just had one role and that was just go around and do some of the hard work. But nowadays, if you're wanting to be on a national team, you've got to be able to have the skills,” said Hanratty.

Jack Hanratty, the provincial coach for Rugby Nova Scotia, and Nathan Lake, are both headed to France this April —Hanratty as an attack coach and Lake as a prop forward for Team Canada.


Heading to France

The teenager, who lives in Curry's Corner, is one of just two young men from the Maritimes to make the national team. Joining him is Halifax Tars player Seif Sanad.

“We are a very small province. We've only got about three per cent of the playing population so it doesn't look like we should be on national teams so every time a player gets on it, it's a real success for the province,” said Hanratty.

Being recognized nationally is no small feat, he said.

“It takes a lot more than deciding that you want to do it. It takes a bit of hard work and it takes going to national camps and actually showcasing what you can do at a national level, which is always usually very intimidating for our young, Nova Scotia athletes,” said Hanratty.

But Lake managed to work through those jitters and show what he's made of. To even qualify for the national team, Lake had to participate in a camp in October and then be selected for another camp in early February in Ontario.

“It's phenomenal for me to have two of the boys alongside me as we go to France,” said Hanratty.

The 26-man rugby squad will be headed to the Rugby Europe U18 Open Championships 2017 in Quimper, France. The team's first game will be a clash against Georgia on April 7, with the opponents of the remaining two games still to be decided. Those games will be played on April 11 and April 15. The tournament also features teams from France, Japan, the United States, Portugal, Belgium and Spain.

“This is professionalism at its peak,” said Hanratty. “It's a tournament that has some of the best countries in the world taking part.”


Looking forward

Lawrence said that since Lake began playing rugby, he's been a natural.

“Where rugby is growing in Nova Scotia and the country, there's a lot of potential for those talented athletes to move up the ranks pretty quickly,” said Lawrence.

“I'm not surprised that he's got himself on a national team but he's had to work very hard to get there. He's put in a lot of work, especially lately for the last little push to make this Under 18 team.”

For Lake, he said he's honoured to be representing not only Nova Scotia, but Canada, next month.

“Putting the jersey on for the first time should be a pretty unreal experience,” said Lake when asked what he's looking forward to the most about his upcoming trip.

Nathan Lake and Ian Duey, of the Hants County Rugby Football Club, were pillars of strength during the Machine’s exceptional season in 2016.

©Carole Morris-Underhill

“Right now, I'm training four to five days a week. It's pretty busy. And then you throw hockey in there with that and school,” he said.

After graduation, Lake plans on attending NSCC to become an electrician, while also taking a few courses at Acadia University so he can continue playing rugby.

“I hope to eventually play for Canada's senior mens’ team. That's the end goal,” said Lake.

By making the Under 18 team, he's on the right path to see that dream become a reality.


Fundraiser planned

A silent auction and send off party has been planned for March 24 at the Spitfire Arms Pub in Windsor, starting at 6:30 p.m.

Funds raised will go towards paying for his $3,000 trip.