BANFF – Rugby is back in Banff for the summer.
Practice and pick-up matches are starting for the Banff Rugby Club’s new mixed gender league, a 15-and-up non-contact version of the sport focused on learning and developing skills and enjoying the game.
“The idea is to get locals who haven’t had the chance to play organized sports in the last two years out and getting a good run in and having a good time,” said Oli McKay, president of the Banff Rugby Club, on the Rush Rugby program.
"Even if you're not familiar with the game, there's a place for everyone here."
The league is Wednesdays at 6 p.m. at the Banff Community High School field. The plan is to play five-on-five matches with two five-minute halves throughout the summer with a regular season and playoff format.
Registration is open and is $60 to join. For more information on the Banff's Rush Rugby program, visit the Facebook page Banff Rugby Club.
With COVID-19 restrictions in place for most of the year, the Rush Rugby league's 2021 season was in question until Alberta lifted restrictions on July 1.
McKay said the hope is to run the mixed gender program each summer moving forward and eventually return to the Banff rec grounds, which is currently under construction.
On top of the 15-and-up league, a junior Rush Rugby program is also being run Tuesday's and Thursday's at 4 p.m. for younger players.
“It opens it on both sides for younger players who are new to the game and for the older folks who miss putting on the boots and going for a bit of a run,” said McKay.
“From that build on some rugby skills that obviously got a little rusty and then hopefully draw some intention from the kids who are the high school ages so that this upcoming spring when we go to play an actual high school season the kids have at a least a bit of a baseline to start with.”
Perhaps the mountain town's favourite summer team sport, the local rugby club has a nearly 45-year history in Banff. Pre-COVID, its men's team is typically a force to be reckoned with in the Calgary Rugby Union.
Throughout the years, club members have greatly influenced youngsters at the relatively small Banff Community High School, which has about 220 students enrolled in Grades 9 to 12.
For such a low population, the school has produced national level standouts in recent years in the girls' rugby program with the emergence Holly Phillips, a physical loosehead prop playing for the Bristol Bears of the Allainz Premier 15s; Ashah Payson, a powerful runner who’s played for Alberta and western Canada teams; and Krissy Scurfield, a speedy centre recently handpicked to Rugby Canada’s national development squad.