Forty years of tradition and rugby were celebrated during the weekend at the Williams Lake Rustlers Rugby Football Club’s 40th Annual Williams Lake Stampede Tournament.
Camraderie, friendship, socializing, sportsmanship and competition were the overarching themes for the weekend as close to 500 players — both men and women — travelled from throughout the province to form just shy of 30 teams to compete in men’s competitve, women’s competitive, men’s social and old boys’ divisions.
“It was a great weekend and a great showing [from our local teams],” said Rustlers men’s coach Braden McCallum.
The Rustlers men’s side managed to qualify for the final in the social division where they, unfortunately, fell to Les Coques in a competitive championship.
The Williams Lake Hustlers women’s team, meanwhile, was ousted from the tournament title contention after falling in the semifinal to Capilano, 22-10. Prior, they downed Burnaby, 31-12. In the final, Capilano defeated Abbotsford in an extremely competitive game to claim the buckle.
Winning the prestigious Stampede Rugby belt buckles were the Average Joes, where they knocked off the Romas of the Lower Mainland in the championship to win.
The Average Joes side was made up of a mix of players from across the province, including eight players from Williams Lake and Kamloops.
“We always run the tournament two days over the Canada Day long weekend because it allows people to travel from throughout the province,” McCallum said. “It was a great, fun-filled weekend of rugby and we’re looking forward to doing it another 40 years. Almost 500 people all camping, enjoying themselves and the reviews have been great.”
In all nine social, five competitive men’s teams and 13 women’s teams participated.
“The turnout was phenomenal this year,” McCallum said.
He also complimented the high calibre of play exhibited during the tournament — something he said is common every year as the tournament attracts some of the best players in the province and even the country.
“For the Williams Lake Stampede Tournament here we get some of the top quality teams from all over the province,” he said. “Most of the time you wouldn’t be able to see these guys play unless you were down on the Coast or on the Island. We’ve got a lot of ex Canadian players — a level you won’t get to see outside the Lower Mainland.”
As for 40 years of Stampede Rugby, McCallum said the team is proud to have been a part of the community, and promoting the sport of rugby, since its beginnings.
“Rugby’s an integral part of Williams Lake,” McCallum said. “It’s the only sport in the world where it doesn’t matter your ability, your body type and your gender. It’s the most inclusive sport in the world. We’ve got old boys’ teams, guys in their 50s and 60s putting on their shorts and coming out and throwing the ball around, so it’s great.”