BANFF – With fewer players registered and injuries piling up, the Banff Bears senior rugby teams are switching styles to better support current numbers.
Putting 15 players out on the pitch has proved tough for the high school squads, so the decision has been made to play sevens to close out a shortened season.
“Our bench is pretty short,” said boys head coach Ian Higginbottom, adding registration numbers are down across the province, which aided in the decision for the switch this season.
An Alberta School's Athletic Association statement said resuming rugby this season has been challenging for many schools after COVID and flexibility was granted for those competing in 15s to switch to sevens.
The move is welcomed by teams with low registration, like the Banff boys, or ones ravished by injury, like the Banff girls.
“We’re pretty depleted right now as a squad,” said Lee Garrett, who coaches the Banff girls team.
“What I’m looking for is to build those skills. That’s why we want to switch. It just gives the opportunity to, especially the younger players, to kind of get involved.”
Rugby sevens is a faster and shorter version with seven players on each side playing in seven minute halves. There’s a lot more field space to work with and fewer slow points in the game.
The switch will result in a shorter season for each club as the sevens zones championships are on Wednesday (May 18) in Strathmore.
“I just want us to go into [zones] and pick up some skills and pick up some confidence and just have some fun,” said Garrett.
In each team’s final match before switching to sevens, the Bears saw action against the Rundle College Cobras in Calgary on Tuesday (May 10).
The boys grinded out a win over their counterparts, 22-19, to improve to a 2-1 record this season.
Scoring tries were Stewart Steele, Aidan Rutley, Simon Foster and Asher McKay.
“It was really great in terms of what our team needed,” said Higginbottom. “They had experience in a game where there was a lot of space and a lot of running and it was nice to see everyone get involved.”
On the girls' side, the Bears fell 27-12 to the Cobras in 13s.
Scoring tries for Banff were Emma Hendry and Iri Takano.
Hendry kicked a conversion.
“We played well structurally in defence, we lost ourselves a little bit offensively. We are a bit of a depleted squad right now too,” Garrett said.
“I’m quite proud of the way they played. We got down a couple of tries, but we scored the last try there and the girls just kept their heads up and we kept our structure, which I’m happier with.”