The Dalhousie University men’s rugby team is looking to make an impact this year on and off their home field.
“The goal right now is to be the dominant rugby institution in Atlantic Canada,” said Evan Logan, the team’s captain. “I think the guys who we have on the team this year are going to pave the way.”
While the Tigers are aiming to be dominant against the other Atlantic university teams, they’re also looking to create a much needed development pathway for young rugby players at the same time.
“Dal has really been trying to create a pathway for athletes like myself who are coming up through the Nova Scotia high school system,” said Logan. “Our biggest challenge is getting our name out to all those kids and schools and trying to build a proper rugby program.”
Both Logan and Pat Spiteri, the team’s co-president, have been working with youth rugby teams over the past couple of years in order to make this goal possible.
Declan Hearn, now a second-year student at Dal, started playing rugby in one of Logan’s high school programs when he was in grade 12. He has since played for the Nova Scotia Keltics, the Atlantic Rock and the Dalhousie Tigers.
“It kind of goes full circle,” said Spiteri. “Evan wanted to help and now this guy’s gonna come out as a second-year and help us win games.”
A Sport for All
One of the reasons Logan enjoys playing and coaching rugby is the sport’s inclusivity.
“There’s a position in rugby for all body types and types of people,” said Logan. “I think especially in high school, there’s a spot for everybody on the team and it’s a very inclusive sport.”
Spiteri agreed with Logan’s position. “It’s without a doubt the most inclusive sport I’ve ever played,” he said. “The key themes are acceptance and inclusion, all that good stuff.”
Logan also added that needing different people to play different roles adds to the team spirit.
“It’s not like there’s just one person who can do it all,” he said. “It really builds up these guys’ teamwork and confidence because you need all fifteen guys on the field to do well.”
Spiteri wants to make sure rugby at Dal continues to cater to all, but financial issues may be getting in the way.
According to Spiteri, the club receives $7000 in funding per year from the university but this amount no longer covers what it used to.
“I know in the past it used to be the travel budget and it would cover that,” said Spiteri, “but things are a bit more expensive now and so it’s a little hard to stretch that out.”
In his role as president, Spiteri has been working to get sponsors for the team in order to lower the cost to play. One of their biggest new sponsors this year is Salt + Ash Beach House, a popular Halifax restaurant.
“Keeping rugby accessible is a pretty big thing for us,” said Spiteri. “We want to make them as low as we possibly can but right now our biggest source of funding is player fees, which is not ideal but it’s just where we are right now.”
As the team is growing, they’re getting more attention and sponsors but they’re also incurring more expenses.
“We have a bunch of new sponsors but I think we’ve grown as a program so we’re spending a lot more money on trying to go places with better teams,” said Logan. “Funding has definitely been an issue.”
Despite any financial roadblocks, the team’s goal this year is to make it to the Canadian University Men’s Rugby Championship (CUMRC), which will be hosted by Trinity Western University in Langley, B.C.
The team lost to Memorial University of Newfoundland last year and did not make the championship but they’re hoping this year turns out differently.
“Memorial’s really good and they had a great tournament,” said Spiteri. “We want a chance to prove we can do just as well.”
The team is also working on their image this year through both their online presence and their appearance at Dal.
“We want to grow our name within Dal, so everyone knows the Dal rugby team and we can grow our support,” said Logan.
The team recently hosted Mount Allison University in an exhibition game during orientation week and amassed a crowd that Spiteri says he’s never seen anything like in his time at Dal.
He was also impressed by his team’s play, which earned them an outstanding final score of 65-10.
“I really liked that there was just no fear,” said Spiteri. “Rugby’s obviously a contact sport and [sometimes] you see guys who are definitely a little scared of it but we played 26 guys and all of them weren’t scared. They were super physical in a safe way.”
Spiteri also noted that the team was missing some key players in that game, including Logan, but they still dominated.
“That was not our full team but it might as well have been with the score at the end,” he said.