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Camels Rugby participation growing

The Camels Rugby team is scrumming down for another season of rucks and tries in the Bulkley Valley.
Camels Kala Hooker protects the ball as she gets driven into a ruck during Humpfest 2011 in Smithers.

The Camels Rugby team is scrumming down for another season of rucks and tries in the valley, after last year’s disappointing cancellation early in the year.

Despite having low player turn out in recent years, things are looking up as interest in rugby continues to grow in the northwest.

“It’s been going fantastic,” Camels coach, Kala Hooker said. “We’re getting numbers out. At the last practice we had 14 people out to play.”

Years ago, rugby clubs were all over the Highway 16 corridor.

“Teams from as far as Williams Lake and Prince Rupert traveled to Smithers, Terrace and Prince George for club tournaments.

Recently, however, teams haven’t had the full rosters they had.

Now, that is all changing. Thanks in large part to the phenomenal school rugby programs in northern B.C., Smithers is seeing a resurgence in participation.

“As far as the high school sport level goes, Prince Rupert and Terrace have started up their own girls rugby teams, which is new this year,” Hooker said.

“So we’re seeing some development in that area. Prince Rupert and Terrace have their own club teams and they’ve been asking us to come out for their River Boat Days and Seafest.”

Last year’s big home event for the Camels was their annual Humpfest tournament. Clubs from Terrace and Prince Rupert took part in what  turned out to be one of the staple events of the rugby season.

However, due to the sudden change in venue, from the archery range field to Heritage park, Humpfest is cancelled this season until a replacement venue can be found.

“We had to work out some logistical issues this season with field space,” said Hooker. “This year we’re not hosting Humpfest, but hope we can see the event come back in the future.”

But as plans for the new arena are finalized this summer, the Camels are looking for another home and in Smithers pickings are slim for the rugby crowd.

Although  Humpfest is on the sidelines, the annual Rugby Alumni game will be in full swing. With more and more past and present rugby players taking part, Hooker is expecting exciting action when the Camels alumni take on the Smithers Secondary Gryphons.

“We’re definitely trying to strengthen ties between the high school program and the Camels Rugby Club.

“June 11 is our alumni game we host every year,” Hooker said. “So the Camels will go up against the high school teams.”

Although the Camels roster is growing, they are always looking for more players.

As the season goes on they will be looking for a sevens team to play in Terrace and possibly Prince Rupert.

If you’re interested in playing competitive rugby or just want to have some fun, come out Monday nights at 6:30 p.m. to ruck-over and scrum down.

“Rugby in general does seem daunting to people but really we’re having fun out there,” Hooker explains. “Rugby’s much more than just a sport. It’s about an aspect of community and people coming together and just having a fun time.”

To register for Camels Rugby contact Andrew Hiliaby at the Town of Smithers recreation department at 250-847-1600 or for more information contact Kala Hooker at 250-846-9033.