By Karlene Skretting
Westwind Weekly News
Coming into the 2015 Southern Alberta Rugby League off the high of a six-peat provincial championship is bitter sweet for the Raymond Comets who will be missing eight girls from last year’s championship squad. But at the same time, there is lots of young talent eager to work hard and fill the holes left at key positions like fly half and inside centre.
“We have always had outside speed, and we have it again this year, so that helps,” said Dan Bikman, Comets head rugby coach, about what Comets rugby has become synonymous with aside from winning.
“Having been at it for ten years, we have a good idea of what it takes. And this team looks good,” said Bikman about the teams likelihood of continuing their dominance on the rugby field and capturing a seventh consecutive provincial title.
This season will mark Bikman’s tenth season as head coach and he is eager to see how the season unfolds. He credits his trusted starting core athletes, seven of the 15 are seniors, for his early excitement.
“I trust them all to catch and make passes, make tackles and just do the little things that you have to as a team. We just have a really nice well-balanced group.”
He knows that replacing strong athletes like Sunder West and Mataya Bartsoff, who both graduated after last season, will be a challenge, but there is a strong group of grade 10s that will be starting this year.
“We have Grade 10s playing key positions, so that is always going to be a weakness because they are going to have to learn by trial by fire,” said Bikman. “So our weakness is our youth, we have young kids playing high pressure positions.”
Seniors Nevi Bartsoff and Kassi Bogdan are expected to do a lot of outside scoring. And seniors Megan Anderson and Taylor Maynes are expected to add to the offensive attack.
This year’s senior varsity team is made up of 24 players from Raymond, Magrath and Stirling.
There are 50 rugby athletes who regularly take to the field for practice between the senior and JV squad. The girls have been practicing for three-and-a-half weeks, putting in some major time over Easter break.
“I don’t know how we are going to look, because we haven’t played a game yet, but I like what I’ve seen in practice. As a group they have a desire to be the best team that they can, to work as hard as they can. I expect incredible work ethic, which they have shown and a willingness to work as a united cohesive group.”
The Comets home opener is tonight (Thursday) against Medicine Hat on the Don A. Steed Sports Field. The Senior game starts at 5:30 p.m. with the JV game set to follow at about 6:45 p.m.
Medicine Hat is a strong and physical team, one that will hit. It will provide a good chance for the Comets to assess where they stand and see what they bring to the table for the 2015 season.
“I’m just excited to see what our new team looks like because we are so different than last year. I am really excited to see what they do.”