Westwind Weekly News
Rugby season will be pushed back one week for the Raymond Comets.
Mother Nature’s penchant for dumping snow on southern Alberta made this week’s schedule a hit-or-miss proposition for many squads in the Southern Alberta High School Rugby League.
Raymond was set to face Lethbridge Collegiate Institute last night but instead, the girls will open the season next Thursday in Taber against W.R. Myers.
“We would have been good to go for Wednesday, but LCI has not been able to prepare,” said Raymond coach Dan Bikman, whose team has benefited from the Town of Raymond being able to clear off the town’s turf field. “We’ve been on the field. We only actually cancelled one practice, and we’ve been in the gym a few times too.”
Those early-season practices have been remarkably crisp thus far, according to the coach, who added this is one of the most veteran-laden teams he has ever coached.
“We’ve got 18 returning varsity players, and there’s 15 starting positions,” said Bikman. “We’ve got a really experienced team.”
A core of those 18 returnees have been starters in their Grade 10 and Grade 11 years, as the coach remarked that’s not the only reason why he’s so optimistic about 2018.
“The first thing I’d say about this group is they are talented and united across the board,” said Bikman.
Ivy Jensen, Madi Miller, Gracie Nelson and Cora Schmale will be four players the Comets will rely upon this year, according to the coach, who added there are at least another 10 players on the roster he could highlight, who could be major contributors.
Loaded with talent and experience, Raymond will look to build off a provincial silver medal in 2016, and a gold in 2017, with a balanced squad that can beat opponents in a variety of different ways.
“We’re fast, but we’re also strong this year,” said Bikman, who added if teams contain Raymond’s speed, the Comets are capable of moving the ball into the middle of the field and gaining yardage through a powerful collection of players in that segment of the pitch. “I’ve coached for 14 years now, and this team has everything across the board a team would want.”
The Comets will face a more challenging league schedule this year, as teams have split into Tier 1 and Tier 2.
“Winston, LCI and Taber all have strong programs, so we’ve decided it would be better to have home-and-home games with these teams,” said Bikman.
The first of those contests goes next Thursday in Taber, as yesterday’s schedule game against LCI has been moved to May 7.
Raymond’s varsity team will also try its luck in pair of tournaments this year, in Red Deer and Sherwood Park, while the junior varsity players will complete in a tournament in Vulcan.
Bikman added a number of Grade 9 players are also augmenting the program this year, as the coach added a record number of younger players have been coming out to practices.
“We’ve had days where we have had close to 60 kids out running around.”