Braves’ Parker ready to shoulder on in girls rugby

Margaux Parker is thrilled to finally have the opportunity to compete for a girls’ high school rugby championship.

A serious shoulder injury prevented 17-year-old Parker from joining her St. Jean de Brebeuf teammates on the field for their Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic Athletic Association final against the Cathedral Gaels last May. That was the inaugural season for girls’ rugby in the HWCAA.

Brebeuf, which went undefeated in five starts this season, has again advanced to the league final. But this time, Grade 12 student Parker says she’ll be in the Braves’ lineup.

Margaux Parker and her teammates outscored the opposition 176-12 during the regular season. (Photo: Laura Bereza)

“I broke my collarbone in one of the semifinals last year, so I wasn’t able to play for the championship,” Parker recalled. “That kind of sucked. All this year I’ve been training to make it stronger.

“Rugby is fun. It means a lot to me.”

First-place Brebeuf was supposed to have a semi-final against the fourth-place Bishop Ryan Celtics at Mohawk Sports Park Thursday (May 16). It wasn’t played, however. The Braves practised, instead. The league’s playoff matchups got turned upside down due to a last-minute forfeiture by the second-place Gaels, who were scheduled to face the third-place St. Mary Crusaders.

With the defending champions from Cathedral pulling out, it means the Braves move directly into the finale Wednesday at 1 p.m. at Mohawk Sports Park. And a semi-final will be held Friday, May 17 between Bishop Ryan and St. Mary to determine Brebeuf’s opponent.

“Cathedral’s girls’ rugby team has been struggling with a short roster all season,” Gaels coach John Pataracchia said by way of e-mail. “Regardless, we have been able to field a competitive team for each of our senior games as well as for the junior 7s league tournament in which we earned silver. Unfortunately, the accumulation of injuries took its toll to the point where the coaching staff did not feel it was safe to enter a team for the semi-final match.”

Patti Wilson, a teacher/advisor for the Brebeuf girls’ rugby team, says Parker has been a “dynamo” on the field this season after regaining her confidence. Parker also has two years of experience at the club level with the Hamilton Hornets.

“She’s fast, has good hands and is good at organizing the players at the back,” Wilson said.

Brebeuf had over 60 players when practices began in February. They outscored the opposition 176-12 during the regular season and when they played Bishop Ryan, the Braves came out on top 36-0.

According to Parker, it took her a while to feel comfortable about contact again after her collarbone injury. “You have it in the back of your mind,” she said. “I worked to get over that fear. I’ve played so much better, since.”

Laura Bereza, a teacher/supervisor for Brebeuf, says a lot of the Brebeuf students who gave rugby a try had never played any other sport before. Rugby, she says, has an “outsider mentality” compared to the more high-profile sports such as basketball, football and hockey.

“There’s a sense of accomplishment,” Bereza said. “You can see the growth as the season progresses. The players see how skills they’ve practised fit together in a game scenario. And they see how important support is for one another.”

Said Wilson: “The girls love it. It’s great for conditioning and you’ve got to play as a team. It appeals to their competitive nature and there’s a real spirit of family.”

The HWCAA senior boys’ semi-finals Friday (May 17) have first-place Cathedral taking on Cardinal Newman at 1 p.m. That’s followed at 2:30 p.m. by St. Mary against Bishop Tonnos. Both games are at Mohawk Sports Park.