By Garrett Simmons
Westwind Weekly News
The defending provincial Tier 1 girls rugby champions are back to work this week.
Raymond began the Southern Alberta High School Rugby League schedule last night with a pair of home games against Fort Macleod’s F.P. Walshe (scores not available at press time).
It marked the beginning of another year for a Comets squad that hopes to replicate last year’s undefeated season, capped off with a 24-7 win in the provincial final over Calgary’s Notre Dame.
Raymond coach Dan Bikman is optimistic for the 2019 season as well, which has featured another strong turnout of players.
“Training camps has been looking good so far,” he said. “We have a lot of numbers and seven or eight returning starters from last year, and another 15-20 competing for the remaining starting positions.”
That type of depth would be the envy of any other team in southern Alberta, as once again, the Comets junior and senior varsity programs have very strong numbers.
“We’re hovering around 50,” said Bikman. “It’s always a good problem to have that many kids and that many good kids.”
The coach added it is a huge challenge to finalize the junior and senior varsity rosters, with so much talent to choose from. The rosters should become a little more clear in the coming weeks, however, as Raymond is set to host a junior varsity tournament on Saturday, which will be followed up by Friday, April 12 home games against Calgary’s Notre Dame.
“Ten days from now, I’ll know a lot more about my team,” said Bikman, as the senior team will battle Notre Dame at 4 p.m., with the JVs to follow at 5:30 p.m.
As for the southern Alberta league, Bikman expects Taber’s W.R. Myers and Lethbridge’s Winston Churchill to provide stiff tests this season, as the Comets also have a couple of big tournaments scheduled as well.
“Red Deer – that’s always an exciting tournament because the Notre Dame Hounds from Saskatchewan are always there, and they are similar to our athleticism, and that’s always a big tournament for us.”
The Comets and Hounds have battled in Red Deer for years, and the two teams will look to renew acquaintances during the May 10 weekend. Raymond will also take part in Vulcan’s tournament on the May 3 weekend.
Raymond gets a week two bye in the league schedule, and won’t hit the pitch again until April 18, with 5:30 p.m. and 6:45 p.m. games in Taber against W.R. Myers. But with next Friday’s exhibition game, and the May tournaments, the Comets will have a busy start to the season.
“We should be able to run through the roster and give a lot of the kids a chance to see where they fit on the depth chart,” said Bikman about the first couple of weeks of the season.
High school baseball also starts this week, as Magrath and Raymond both play two games this weekend. The Comets take on LCI Friday at 5:30 p.m. at Lloyd Nolan Yard, while the Zeniths and Kate Andrews also play at 5:30 p.m. at Spitz Stadium.
Saturday will see the Comets take on Chinook at 4:30 p.m., while Magrath will play LCI at 7 p.m. Both of those games are at Spitz.