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Local rugby club holding practices at Genesis Place

By: Lucas Punkari

  |  Posted: Thursday, Mar 06, 2014 11:13 am

Will Gregson sprinted his way down the floor at Genesis Place on March 1 during an Airdrie Highlanders rugby practice at Genesis Place on March 1.
Will Gregson sprinted his way down the floor at Genesis Place on March 1 during an Airdrie Highlanders rugby practice at Genesis Place on March 1.
Lucas Punkari/Rocky View Publishing

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Every Saturday night has become rugby night at Genesis Place Recreation Centre, as the Airdrie Highlanders Rugby Club has been holding indoor novice practice sessions since Jan. 18.

“We have steadily been having about 20 to 25 people each week, and we have been seeing a lot of younger players come out as well, which has been great to see,” Club President Tim Van Vleet said.

“We really want to get to around the 50-player mark by end of April here, so that we can build off of that when we head outdoors,” he added.

“This is obviously the type of sport that more people will want to try when we go outside, but it’s nice to have a solid base, as we would like to hit the 200-people mark in terms of participants here.”

For Airdrie’s Jordan MacKenzie, the fact that a rugby club is happening here is something he is excited about, especially for those who want to be involved in a sport in the summer.

“In the past, you would have to travel to Cochrane or Calgary if you wanted to play rugby,” MacKenzie said. “So when I found out that we would be having rugby here in Airdrie, I jumped right in to get back playing.”

“During the summer, the big sports here are football and soccer, so it’s nice to have another sport added to the mix,” he added.

Many of the participants in the Saturday sessions are learning about the sport for the first time, such as Calgary’s Will Gregson.

“My girlfriend (Emma Heizer) plays rugby, so I decided to come up here with her and try things out for myself,” Gregson said. “It ended up being a lot of fun, especially for someone like myself who doesn’t take part in a lot of sports.”

“I had to relearn how to throw a ball, since a rugby ball is a lot different than anything that I am already used to,” he added. “However, the biggest adjustment for me was just how good of a physical workout it was, which is something that makes me want to come out here again.”

The mix of experienced veterans and newcomers to the sport is something that Van Vleet keeps in mind during the sessions, as he wants to make sure that everyone is having a good time.

“There are some people here who have never touched a rugby ball before, and there are other people who have touched a ball 10,000 times,” Van Vleet said.

“So what we want to do with those new players is to allow them to get used to things so that they don’t feel out of place with those who are veterans.”

“As a result, we have worked a lot on the fundamentals of the game to start things off, and we will just keep building off of that as everyone gets comfortable,” he added.

The Highlanders will be inside Genesis Place until the end of April, when they hope to start practicing outside at a yet to be determined field.

“We have been talking with the City about finding the right facility for us, and we hope to have that finalized here in the next week or so,” Van Vleet said. “But as soon as everything is dry outside, we will be going full boar out there.”

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