At 5-foot-9 and 150 pounds, Vernon’s Tanner Nordstrom-Young isn’t likely to overpower many players on the rugby pitch.
Instead, the Fulton Maroon grad relies on more of a cerebral approach when it comes to overcoming larger opposition.
“It’s how I think about the game,” said Nordstrom-Young, 20, who helped the Calgary Dinos go undefeated in university rugby play this season.
“It’s not so much that I’m faster than everyone, I’m good at thinking about the situation and my skill set’s pretty good too.”
The Dinos’ year ended their season with a thrilling 14-13 comeback win over the host Kelowna Heat in the second annual Hindson Cup in Kelowna in late October. Trailing in the final minutes, they battled through more than a dozen phases at the goal line before Wes Lee pushed through for the winning try.
“It was probably the most stressful ending of a game,” said Nordstrom-Young, a scrum-half.
The Dinos, who bowed to the Heat in the inaugural tourney last year, reached the final by knocking off Washington State (24-0) and the Mt. Royal Cougars of Calgary (20-0) in the seeding rounds.
Nordstrom-Young, a second-year chemistry major, will tour Scotland with the Dinos during reading week in February. Two of their coaches are Scots and will be arranging three fixtures, as well as a Six Nations game at Murrayfield.
After that, Nordstrom-Young plans to compete with Calgary at the third annual University 7s, March 1-3, in Victoria.
“I prefer 15s because it’s more strategy and you have to think more, where as 7s is more reading and reacting right away,” he said.
Nordstrom-Young already has some international rugby exposure on his resume, having traveled to South Africa with Rick Smith and the Salmon Arm Rugby Club in Grade 11, and again to Argentina with Fulton in 2010.
“It’s awesome that you can go anywhere in the world and play rugby,” said Nordstrom-Young, likening rugby in South Africa to hockey in Canada.
“We didn’t win a game because they were so good down there (in South Africa).”
Nordstrom-Young was introduced to rugby in Grade 8, honed his skills with the Maroons, and then played with the Vernon Jackals senior C men’s team after graduation. He credits high school/Jackals’ coach Mike Scheller for sparking his passion for the game.
Said Scheller: “He is a great kid, a tremendous competitor and he is one of those rare athletes who optimizes his talent to the best of his ability.
“In rugby, he is a very tough and aggressive player. You would not think it to look at him, but he is tough as nails. He is one of the brightest athletes I have coached and a guy who puts his team first.
“He makes some intelligent decisions on the field, and he has a great fake near the try line.”
Nordstrom-Young’s goal is to play as high a level as possible, for as long as possible.
“I’m hoping to advance my game even further,” he said. “It’s (Dinos) definitely a lot higher than anything else I’ve played.
“We added a lot more structure and it really helped our game. It’s definitely improving my game.
“I’ll just play rugby for the rest of my life. Club rugby is everywhere.”