A Williams Lake player on B.C.’s silver-medal-winning under-16 girls national rugby team last month hopes the sky is the limit in her career.
Sixteen-year-old Emma Feldinger helped Team BC dominate its competition by combined scores of 261-29 over four games at Fletchers Field in Markham, Ont., before running into a tough Ontario club they’d beaten prior in the tournament in the final in a 17-10 defeat.
“The overall experience was amazing,” said Feldinger, who played in the lock position at the tournament. “I met so many new and interesting people while playing high-intensity ruby.”
The timing of the tournament, held Aug. 16-20, came right on the heels of Williams Lake’s Kayla Moleschi’s outstanding performance for Canada’s Women’s Rugby Sevens Team, who captured a bronze medal at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.
Watching her play at the Olympics, Feldinger said, was inspirational.
“Seeing Kayla play in the Olympics, I think, was not only inspiring for me but for every young rugby player in B.C.,” she said. “My future goals for rugby are to one day play for Canada in a World Cup or maybe even in the Olympics.”
The similarities between the two’s progress at this stage of Feldinger’s career is striking.
Both began playing rugby early in high school and both were scouted by B.C.’s provincial rugby program and by national-level coaches.
“I started playing rugby in Grade 8 because both my brothers played high school rugby,” Feldinger said. “I wasn’t originally going to play and I shocked my parents when I said I had joined the rugby team.”
Since Grade 8 Feldinger has played at the B.C. High School Provincial Championships where her talent was recognized by Team BC coaches. This year she was asked to attend the Team BC tryouts at UBC during the middle of June and then competed at the Provincial Rugby Championships.
“From there they selected 40 players to continue with the tryout process,” she said. “In July I went to a two-day tryout session at UBC. After that they cut the athletes down to 29 and you go for another two day practice camp at the beginning of August.
“Only two days after that last weekend the coaches select the 25 players travelling for Team BC and four non travelling reserves. I played on the U16 BC Team last year so the coaches already knew me.”
Feldinger said her passion for rugby stems from its physically and mentally demanding nature.
“I also love no matter how much you dislike the other team while you are on the field you still show them respect at the end of the game by shaking hands and talking with them afterwards,” she said.
She credits her high school coaches — Morley Wilson and Braden McCallum — BC coaches Maria Gallo and Marlene Donaldson and Canada coaches Dan Valley, Duncan McNaughton and Ricky Coombe for helping her get to the level she’s at.
“I also need to give credit to the Williams Lake Rustlers for all their help and, of course, my family for driving me all over B.C. and practicing with me whenever I ask,” she said.
Asked whether she notices a difference between the competitiveness at the high school and provincial levels, Feldinger said she always gives her all, regardless.
“It’s not a huge difference in competition in high school level to provincial level rugby because you practice how you play,” she said.
“When other girls on our high school team played for B.C. they came back better and bettered our school team. It brought up our level of rugby as a team. You just have to work hard at it.”