An unprecedented six Williams Lake rugby players have cracked roster spots on the BC Rugby provincial teams.
Carleigh Walters and twins Laura and Emma Pfliederer were all selected to the U-16 girls team, Sheridan Davis and Tasha Johnson to the U-18 girls team and Jaye Richards to the U-16 boys side.
All six will represent B.C. at the Rugby Canada National Championship Festival Aug. 4-10 at Calgary Rugby Park. The U-16 and U-18 men’s and women’s nationals will be jointly held featuring teams from seven provinces including B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia.
The players had to attend provincial selection camps in the Lower Mainland. For the U-16 girls, it was their first time attending a provincial camp and they were a little nervous.
“Pretty much all the players are from Vancouver Island or the Lower Mainland and we kept having to explain to our coach where Williams Lake was,” laughed Laura.
For Walters and the Pfliederer sisters, they had to make two trips south as the initial selection camp July 18-19 ran the same weekend as the BC Summer Games in Nanaimo so many players could not attend the initial tryouts.
“We had to drive down to a camp in Abbotsford and then a second tryout a week later in Delta which was a lot of driving,” said Emma.
“Having my sister and Carleigh there at the tryouts really helped and took away some of the nerves.”
Richards, 16, played for Team BC last year when B.C. hosted nationals at UBC and knows what to expect this time around. He played with Team BC ‘B’ last year which finished third at nationals with Team BC ‘A’ winning gold. Richards who plays flank and 8-man, cracked the ‘A’ roster this year and expects a gold medal to be hanging around his neck this August.
“I try to bring leadership and physical strength to the team and I hope to continue improving my game and one day play for the national team,” said Richards.
Johnson also represented Team BC last year and the 17-year-old scrum-half, like Richards, made the jump from Team BC’s ‘B’ team to the top tier squad this time. Unfortunately, due to a stress fracture, Johnson is unable to take part in the nationals.
“Last year I played on the ‘B’ team and we finished fourth so it’s disappointing this time around I have to take time off due to injury,” said Johnson.
“When I play I try to really encourage togetherness and make sure the team feels like a family.”
Johnson hopes to be fully recovered for sevens rugby this fall as she enters her Grade 12 year at Williams Lake Secondary.
The players from the lakecity will not be carpooling to Calgary next week as BC Rugby makes it a point to have all the teams do everything together.
The players all pay a $1,650 fee upfront to BC Rugby which covers their flights, kit, meals and accommodation.
“It’s nice because we travel as a team and don’t all drive on our own. We pay the fee and everything is taken care of,” said Richards.
Coincidentally, the Pfliederer sisters, Walters and Johnson all live in the 150 Mile House area. There might be something in the water there that produces top level rugby players.
“It’s funny because when the bus stops at 150 Mile on the way back from a rugby trip almost everybody gets off,” said Laura.
All the rugby girls are multi-sport athletes who not only excel at rugby. Johnson plays rep soccer and is also a roper and barrel racer which she took up growing up on her parents property, Stump Lake Ranch, at 153 Mile House.
The Pfliederer sisters both excel at basketball, soccer and volleyball and Davis and Walters are also avid soccer players.
All six players got their rugby careers started in Grade 8 at Williams Lake secondary.
They credit their coaches including Todd Pritchard, Tara Sherlock, Oren Caddy and Morley Wilson, as well as the Williams Lake Rustlers, Hytest Timber and many others for helping them achieve their success.
They all hope to take the sport as far as they can go and eventually go on to play national team or university rugby.