Hyundai backs touch rugby program

Vernon Youth Touch Rugby hasn’t even started yet, but it is already scoring points.

Bruce Townsend will boost the touch rugby program in Vernon.

Bruce Townsend will boost the touch rugby program in Vernon.

Morning Star Staff

Vernon Youth Touch Rugby hasn’t even started yet, but it is already scoring points.

The grassroots program, which starts Sunday at Grahame Park, received a triple-pronged boost in the form of a $500 sponsorship from Vernon Hyundai, the addition of another quality coach in Bruce Townsend and further support from the B.C. Rugby League.

Townsend, a Hyundai sales associate, tried unsuccessfully to get a similar program off the ground more than a decade ago. When he heard Iain Scott and Gord Cheyne were trying again, he quickly got on board.

“This is my dream,” said Townsend. “I went through this 10 years ago, but just couldn’t get it going. The idea of two codes (union and league) is pretty cool. It’s in the same interest. It’s getting the ball in kids’ hands.”

Townsend brings a wealth of high-level coaching experience to the Vernon program. He lived in Australia to help coach the rugby union Canberra Royals from 1996-00. He then became head coach of the Calgary Saints club team from 2000-03.

Paul O’Keefe, provincial development manager for Canadian Rugby League, says by running the rugby league season in summer, it will complement the spring high school union season.

“We’re targeting kids coming out of school on summer holidays and there’s nothing to do,” said O’Keefe.

Both codes of rugby are relative fringe sports in Canada, league in particular, so the potential to go far with it is much greater than mainstream sports.

There are a number of differences between the two sports, one of the most prominent being that rugby league has a system of limited tackles, whereas rugby union does not. Also, union scrums tend to be more physical, whereas league scrums are a simple means of getting the ball back in play.

“Rugby is wide open,” said O’Keefe. “There’s huge opportunity, but people don’t see it.”

The touch rugby program, which is also sponsored by the Kalamalka Rotary Club,  is open to boys and girls ages four to 12. There will be a total of six weekly sessions starting Sunday from 10-11 a.m. Opening-day registration is at 9:30 a.m., and the $20 fee which includes snacks and a T-shirt.

Scott and Cheyne are looking for volunteers to help with registration, set up, supervision and skills coaching. They are also seeking further sponsorship.

For more information, or to volunteer, contact Gordon Cheyne at ghcheyne@gmail.com, or 250-938-1162; or Iain Scott at iain.scott@investorsgroup.com, or 250-307-4888.