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Kings County Under 18 rugby players get ready to scrum in Ireland

Kate Bennett (Horton), Courtney Ells (Northeast Kings), Maegan MacLean (Central Kings), Nicole Silver (Horton), Maddison Ross (Central Kings), Aliya Lickers (Horton) and Justine Blatt Janmaat (Horton) are gearing up by training and fundraising for their trip to Ireland. Missing from photo: Maggie Myers (Parkview).
Kate Bennett (Horton), Courtney Ells (Northeast Kings), Maegan MacLean (Central Kings), Nicole Silver (Horton), Maddison Ross (Central Kings), Aliya Lickers (Horton) and Justine Blatt-Janmaat (Horton) are gearing up by training and fundraising for their trip to Ireland. Missing from photo: Maggie Myers (Parkview). - Submitted

Players fundraising to help with trip's cost

KINGS COUNTY, NS – Nova Scotia Rugby is sending seven girls from Kings County to scrum with rugby players in Ireland, and the girls are fundraising to help make their trip a reality.

Kate Bennett, Courtney Ells, Maegan MacLean, Nicole Silver, Maddison Ross, Aliya Lickers and  Justine Blatt-Janmaat, along with Maggie Myers from the southwestern region, will take off in March for their international skill-building trip, which will run March 7 to 17.

The girls have been training with Nova Scotia Rugby women’s director Ashley Brooker, who’s excited to see how they stack up against athletes who’ve played since the age of six or seven.

Horton vs Riverview in their first game of the provincial tournament June 3 at Acadia dyke fields.
Horton vs Riverview in their first game of the provincial tournament June 3 at Acadia dyke fields.

“We all started the sport in high school, so it’s going to be a huge learning experience for us. We’ll take what we learn and apply it back here when we’re home,” said Blatt-Janmaat.

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Brooker said the Keltics’ decision to travel to Ireland came after the continued success of their Under 18 teams, which have become their unofficial flagship program.

The teams have won extensively in matches across eastern Canada, and placed second at nationals last July in Calgary.

“We needed to find another avenue for development, so why not take them somewhere to play against kids who’ve played since the age of six or seven to really test their skills,” she said.

Provincial coach Jack Hanratty, who hails from Ireland, helped facilitate the trip with his numerous rugby connections in his home country.

A 2014 game between Horton and West Kings.
A 2014 game between Horton and West Kings.
A 2014 game between Horton and West Kings.

The following fundraising opportunities have been set up to help subsidize players’ trip costs:

  • Sign Making Workshop: Monday, Feb. 5 at Central Kings High School. Cost is $40 per person and pre-registration is required. Please register at valleybulldogsrfc@gmail.com.
  • Bottle Refund Deposits set up at both Middleton Bottle Deposit and Fritz’s Enviro-Depot. Please indicate you are supporting the Keltics when making the drop off.
  • Donations are also accepted to help the athletes’ costs, and can be made by contacting valleybulldogsrfc@gmail.com.

“All help is greatly appreciated,” said Brooker.

Getting ready to scrum

The girls participated in Sevens jamborees that were used as identification and pre-selection events for Ireland hopefuls. After being invited to the selection camp at Saint Mary’s University in November, they each found out they’d been chosen over the following few weeks.

They’ve been working on skills-building ever since, and each play on their respective high school teams.

Horton vs Riverview in their first game of the provincial tournament June 3 at Acadia dyke fields.
Horton vs Riverview in their first game of the provincial tournament June 3 at Acadia dyke fields.

Brooker, who also serves as the Valley Bulldogs Rugby Football Club’s president, oversees training sessions to whip the girls into top shape before their journey overseas.

“These girls all started the sport at the same time and are at the same level. That’s what makes the sport special in Canada, and now they’ll face up against athletes with even more experience,” she said.

Ireland will mark the girls’ first time playing together as a team, having only trained together up to this point.

For many, it’s their first trip to Europe. They’re all excited to play against the pros and to learn from them.

They’re also excited to explore the country, famous for its history and its Guinness, as a team.

“Even though it’s about rugby, I’m still so excited to travel. It’s about the experience, too,” said Bennett.

“Rugby is a lot bigger there, so it’ll be good experience for us.”

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