WOLFVILLE, NS - Acadia University athletes Annie Kennedy, Harley Tucker and Valerie Wideski are at the top of their game, but hope the experience they gain at the U20W Tri-Nations Cup will take them even further.
While this is the first time all three have competed on a Canada U20 Women team together, it isn’t the first time any of the three girls have had the chance to compete on Canadian national rugby teams.
Tucker and Wideski competed, and won, last year on the U20 and U18 teams in the Can-Am series in Ottawa, and in 2016, Tucker and Kennedy competed on the U18 team during a tournament in England.
The three agree that because of the high skill level of their teammates, playing with this current team has been an experience well above those they’ve had in the past.
“The skill level is just through the roof, compared to what we play even at a high level like U Sports in our league, it doesn’t compare, because everyone’s just so solid,” said Kennedy.
“Their pass, catch, their tackling, there’s not a whole lot of room for error I find here, so it’s like the caliber for everything is higher, but it’s really fun, it’s fun to play in.”
Tucker added that she feels, because everyone is operating at such a high skill level, they’re all more able to rely on each other and focus on doing their own jobs – and so far, it’s been working, with the team winning the first game 36-12 against the USA.
“You put a lot more trust in your teammates too, coming from these smaller teams, everybody here is like the best on their branch of teams,” said Tucker.
“So, being able to rely on them and trust them means that you don’t have to do absolutely everything, you don’t have to make every other tackle, you can do your job and trust that they’ll have your inside if it comes to it, you know?”
Dreaming of the World Cup
Looking toward the future, Kennedy says that while having the opportunity to play in the Tri-Nations Cup is a once in a life time opportunity, the possibility of playing World Cup is on the radar.
“I mean, definitely, I feel like World Cup is always in the back of your mind. When you’re at this level, going to World Cup is kind of the goal, it’s the highest level you can get for 15s,” said Kennedy.
“So, obviously, I think if you’re here that’s something on the radar. But just being here already, it really is a once in a life time sort of thing.”
Even looking beyond playing World Cup, Tucker says that once she’s finished playing rugby, it’ll always remain an important part of her life and she hopes to remain involved to help give kids the same opportunities that she had, which led her here.
“Even like extending it further, once you’re done playing too you can still be involved as a ref or a coach, and like a big thing for me a lot of my coaches have helped me through the levels and pushed me to be a better athlete and I want to give that back to other kids who might not have that chance,” said Tucker.
If you go:
There are still two opportunities to catch Tri-Cup action:
• Aug. 14 - USA vs England, Acadia University at 6:30 p.m.
• Aug. 18 - Canada vs England, Wanderers Grounds, Halifax at 4 p.m.
Meet the athletes
Hometown: Kingston, Ontario
Position: Fly-Half and Full-Back
Education: Going into third year at Acadia, kinesiology
Why Rugby: “The way that rugby’s kind of evolved over the last couple of years, it’s a faster game and you have to be a lot more fit. I know the days of just being a big girl and playing rugby are kind of over, which just like increases the speed of the game, which is just awesome, you can’t really get that in any other game.”
Hometown: Vancouver, BC
Education: Going into first year at Acadia, studying sociology
Why Rugby: “I played a bunch of sports growing up, then I started playing rugby. I was at a high school basketball game and these girls walked in holding rugby balls covered in mud, and when my dad and I made eye contact from across the court we were like ‘we’ll give it a try’. For me, it’s taught me a lot about my strengths, like physically and emotionally, which is I think a big part of growing up, and I think it’s definitely helped me mature a lot within the last four years.”
Hometown: Black Diamond, Alberta
Position: Lock and Flanker
Education: Going into third year at Acadia, studying Kinesiology
Why Rugby: “For me, I think, I like how inclusive rugby is, there’s a spot for everybody, no matter your size, height, weight; you know, it doesn’t matter how much you’ve played or how little you’ve played, there’s always somewhere you can be involved in the game, and that aspect really stuck with me.”