There’s a fresh form of activity on the island with new Tuesday night recreational rugby sessions.
Mark Telfer is behind the gatherings, which began this June. Arriving on Bowen last year for work, Telfer – originally from rugby-stronghold New Zealand – noticed a gap in the athletic landscape for his favourite sport, and set about to see if he could fill it.
“My passion for rugby developed at a young age in New Zealand. We liken it to hockey in Canada… The nation is very much into rugby and supporting the national rugby teams. It’s very much a thing in New Zealand that you live and breath from a young age,” he explains.
First arriving in Banff and later moving to Vancouver, Telfer played with various rugby clubs in the city over the past decade, including Vancouver Touch Rugby. But the same options weren’t available upon moving to the smaller Bowen Island. “It was last summer that I started missing it more and more because I hadn’t been playing for awhile,” says Telfer, who came up empty in his search for local rugby options.
Not to be dissuaded, Telfer brought up the idea of playing rugby at work, and found a positive response. Co-workers said their kids would be interested in playing as well. “That was enough to be like, okay that sounds like we can start something. Then we put the word out and picked a day, and the rest is history so to speak,” he says.
That day is Tuesday, with participants gathering at the Bowen Island Community School field and tossing the ball around before the game starts. The meetups are meant to be social and all levels of experience with the game are welcome, including complete beginners. Telfer and others point out rules throughout the scrimmages for those new to the game (and sometimes more seasoned players too), and the games are two-hand touch, so nobody leaves the field too bruised up at the end.
Telfer credits this format for drawing a range of athletes to the runs, which started off with 14 players the first night and has held double-digit numbers since. “It’s good physically and it’s pretty accessible to most, so a wide spread of age from younger to older, guys and girls… and also the experience as well. You don’t necessarily have to have played before or even touched a rugby ball before to pick it up relatively quick. We welcome anyone that hasn’t played at all, or has played in the past and wants to pick it up again,” he says.
Telfer plans to run the sessions through the fall until either weather or darkness bring them to a close. He hopes the momentum built this year will allow the games to start earlier next year too. Telfer also hopes the Rugby World Cup starting next month in France, featuring New Zealand and Canada, will boost interest in the sport.
In the meantime, scrimmages are continuing Tuesday nights at 6 pm as long as possible. They’re free to join, and as for equipment all you need is a t-shirt, shorts, and running shoes or cleats.