Rugby season affected by ongoing pandemic

Daily Herald File Photo Jacques Flemming of the Prince Albert Whiskey Jacks works his way past a member of the Saskatoon Kradgers last Wednesday night at Max Clunie Field.

Like other athletes and coaches across Canada, those involved with rugby in Prince Albert are waiting things out to find out when they return to taking part in the sport that they love.

“We’re in the same boat as everyone else,” coach Paul Roy said. “We’re just riding things out and seeing what happens. We can’t speed the process up.

“You are seeing sports like golf, auto racing and badminton getting online quicker, but it might take a little bit longer for team sports or contact sports like rugby.”

The Saskatchewan Rivers Dragons and the Prince Albert Panthers teams have already seen their seasons come to an end as their campaigns were cancelled a few weeks ago due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I’m most disappointed for the Panthers girls’ team,” coach Darcy Murphy said. “They had their inaugural season last year and we’re going to have a lot of players coming back, plus they had done a ton of fundraising over the winter to get new jerseys.

“We typically start our team training during the last week of March at the Alfred Jenkins Field House before we go outside, but a lot of the players were training during the winter already. Our touch program was cancelled right when the pandemic started and nothing else has happened since.”

While major events such as the Under-19 nationals, which were set to be held in Ontario in July, have already been cancelled, there’s hope for other events to take place.

“Rugby Canada has suspended operations until June 30, but there’s still a chance of something taking place during the summer for the senior clubs,” said Murphy, who is a player for the Prince Albert Whiskey Jacks.

“We obviously don’t know what rugby is going to look like around the province, but we do know that it’s going to be a shortened season. Typically…the fields are booked early before the year gets going and we have a good idea of what players have committed to the season, but that’s all changed now.”

During the layoff, rugby programs throughout the province have been in touch with one another to work on possible games if the season takes place.

“There’s been some talk of maybe having a mini-tournament over a weekend here, but we’re all looking at different possibilities,” Murphy said.

“Most of the boys are disappointed that we’re not going ahead as normal, but we’re all eager to get back on the field soon.”