Jake Ilnicki says that he’s very excited to have signed with the Manawatu Turbos in New Zealand.
“New Zealand is one of the best places to play rugby and learn as a player, so when the opportunity came up to play professionally here, I was very thrilled,” Ilnicki explained.
“It is something not many foreign players get to do in New Zealand.”
He added being one of the first players to play professionally in North America as something he was pretty proud of.
“My time with the San Diego Breakers was certainly a positive one.
“I got the chance to play with some of the U.S. players who we always come up against when I am with the Canadian team,” he noted.
“There were, of course, a couple of bumps in the road because it was the inaugural year of PRO Rugby, but it is very exciting to see the opportunity for growth in rugby in North America.”
He said he can definitely attribute part of his success to the opportunity he was given to play in Williams Lake.
“Mike Levitt and Morley Wilson were my coaches while I was attending Williams Lake Secondary School and I’ll always be grateful for the time and effort they put into the rugby program at the school,” he continued.
“It’s guys like them, Rodger Stewart and Todd Pritchard who were the backbone of my career.
“They put the work in for me and countless other kids, giving us the chance to try the sport out.
“I think I can say that when Matt Weingart, a former Canadian rugby player, came to do a rugby camp one summer when I was younger, it definitely lit a little fire inside me. I told myself, hey, if he can do it, so can I!”
The rugby community is awesome in Williams Lake, said Ilnicki, who hopes the game will continues to grow here.
“It’s important for older guys like me, and other senior guys at the Rustlers Rugby Club to continue their great support for youth in Williams Lake to give young kids an opportunity to play,” he said.
“There are countless people in Williams Lake who have been supporting me throughout my career, many family and friends, which makes it so great when I come home.”