Scores of student athletes returned to pitches throughout the province this past week as Rugby Nova Scotia agreed to take over running high school rugby for the rest of the season.
At King’s-Edgehill School, three back-to-back games were held May 7 at the campus’ new pitch.
In girls’ rugby action, KES defeated Central Kings 38-12 before losing 35-5 to Avon View.
In boys’ action, Avon View eked out a hard fought 15-5 verdict over KES.
A meeting was held earlier in the day between the Department of Education and the Nova Scotia School Athletic Federation’s board of governors to work out an agreement on how the rugby season could be saved.
It’s been a stressful month for players, coaches, and rugby fans after NSSAF abruptly cancelled the high school season May 2, citing safety concerns and insurance costs. On May 3, provincial education minister Zach Churchill ordered NSSAF to reverse its decision due to a lack of consultation.
“The NSSAF will support Rugby Nova Scotia with player information and contacts, so the experience for the players is the same as it was before,” a joint statement issued following the May 7 meeting read.
A series of protests, rallies and a letter writing campaign was launched by students and supporters of high school rugby in hopes of having the sport officially reinstated.
RCMP officer Michelle Mosher, who received the Order of Merit of the Police Forces earlier this year, started playing rugby while attending Central Kings High School. She went on to play for provincial teams and Acadia University, and currently coaches a girls’ team in Alberta. She was stunned by the initial NSSAF decision and said in a phone interview that she wouldn’t be who she is today without the sport.
“I am an RCMP officer here in Grand Prairie and all of the skills that I obtained through playing rugby have pushed me and given me the skills I need to be successful,” she said.
Mosher said one of the teens she coached out west is currently attending St. F.X. and let her know about the rugby situation in Nova Scotia. Mosher said eliminating school sports would have a ripple effect far greater than perhaps NSSAF officials realized.
“If it wasn’t for rugby, I wouldn’t have gone to university,” she said.
Mosher was one of more than 29,000 people who signed an online petition requesting NSSAF to reverse its decision.
Rory Campbell, the head coach of the girls’ rugby team at King’s-Edgehill, said he was happy that the students are able to continue playing.
“Most importantly I hope they appreciate just how powerful their voices are as engaged citizens,” he said.
“Without the community speaking up and voicing their opposition to this move, the NSSAF would not have changed its stance,” he continued.
“NSSAF's mandate is ‘education through sport’ and I think this whole situation taught these students so much about citizenship, even if that wasn't the intention of the NSSAF.”
Rugby Nova Scotia will also administer regionals and provincials.
Jim Bryan, Avon View High School’s director of athletics and head girls’ rugby coach, said the Windsor-based school will host a D2 end of year tournament May 25-26 and the D1 provincials May 31 to June 1.
“We are very excited for the return of rugby. It is very important for our school culture and community,” said Bryan in an email. “We will continue to work with our partners to ensure rugby is as safe as can be.”