© Guardian photo by Brian McInnis
Kayla Devine runs some tackle drills during a recent women’s rugby practice in Charlottetown.
One cannot think of the P.E.I. Hunter’s Ale House Mudmen as being a stagnant bunch.
Last year, the senior men’s rugby team, dominant at the Second Division level in recent years, moved up to the First Division Elite League of the Nova Scotia Rugby League and reached the final before losing to the Halifax Tars.
This year, the Mudmen are aiming at entering a women’s team for 2015 by holding regular practices and recruiting players on and off-Island. A summer exhibition schedule against other women's clubs in the Nova Scotia circuit is being drawn up.
And that’s good news to Charlottetown’s Kayla Devine, who returned to P.E.I. after several years off-Island, and off the field, and is fired up to hit the pitch again.
“We’ve had huge feedback. Nice to see that, players committing to P.E.I. while living away,” said Devine before a recent practice featuring about 10 women.
“Island players aren’t known for skill, but we get down and dirty, have the most heart and not willing to give up. All of us still feel that way.”
Nova Scotia women’s squads include Halifax Tars, Halifax RFC, Dartmouth Pigdogs, Valley Bulldogs, Pictou, Riverlake, Truro Saints, Windsor Machine and Enfield over two divisions.
The Mudmen practise Tuesdays and Thursdays, at 6:30 p.m., at Stonepark school in Charlottetown.
The First and Second Division (which moved up from Third Division this year) men’s teams and the women’s recruits run drills together and separately. All sides welcome new ruggers to come out and run with the squads.
On the women’s side, the club hopes for 20 regular players and the pool of about 30. There isn’t a regular coach yet, but that’s expected to change.
“(The) clubs all have a girls’ side. We’re just catching up. We’re hoping to go into the league next year and give the senior girls (after UPEI) a place to play. And it’s a social thing. The girls bring more girls and guys to the club,” said Phil Gallant, long-time Mudmen organizer and player. “We’re just getting it off the ground. Every week we get more and more girls.”
Stratford’s Megan Wilson, a UPEI Panthers women’s rugby alum, is one of those women who signed up, and she’s ready again for whatever mud and blood comes her way.
“I thought I’d dust off the cleats this year to play again,” said Wilson. “(It’s a) good opportunity.”
Wilson is also the co-ordinator of the Eastern Canadian junior championships July 11 to 13 in Charlottetown.
It brings in men’s under-18 and under-16 teams, and women’s under-18, under-20 and senior squads from Ontario and the Atlantic provinces.
It’s a tie-in with the new Mudmen women’s team and the 2014 celebrations on the Island.
It’s also a chance for some of the Island’s female players living off-Island to return and try out for the P.E.I. entries, and some may commit to playing for the Mudmen women’s team even if travel is involved.
It's good timing as the under-20 P.E.I. team has begun picking players for the Easterns and perhaps beyond.
“It’s going to be (interesting) getting used to playing together,” said Wilson.
The P.E.I. Rugby Union along with UPEI summer camps and the UPEI varsity women's rugby team is offering summer rugby camps at UPEI for under-12 and under-10 flag rugby, and registration for other programs is ongoing. A flag program is underway in Summerside.
The Mudmen’s Second Division team opens the regular season Saturday, June 28, versus Pictou, at 2 p.m., followed by a clash between the Mudmen’s First Division team and the Saint John Trojans at 4 p.m. Both games are at Co-op Field in Charlottetown.
Gallant can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more on these programs and the P.E.I. Summer Sevens League, contact Ryan Lloyd at email@example.com.