Northmen wrap up ‘breakthrough year’

The Terrace Northmen Rugby Club wrapped up a terrific season this past weekend with an awards ceremony honouring their top players

Here is back Craig Dunfield. Dunfield is the recipient of the Adam Heart Dedication award. Although living in Vanderhoof

The Terrace Northmen Rugby Club wrapped up a terrific season this past weekend with an awards ceremony honouring their top players.

“This season was very successful,” said club president Evan Van Dyk. “We’ve had lots of new people trying out the sport and we’ve never been so successful on the field.

“It was a breakthrough year for Terrace rugby,” he said.

The rugby club, one of Terrace’s oldest sports teams, experienced a resurgence in 2007 after years of near-extinction. Dedicated players, including Mike Homeniuk, Don Hill, and Kevin Duarde, brought the team back from the brink and this year marks the height of their rebuilding efforts.

“We finally beat Prince George,” said Van Dyk. “Rupert’s definitely our biggest rival, and we have a great rivalry with them, but Prince George has always been the next step for us.”

The Northmen’s 15 team beat Prince George during a game in Prince Rupert, although they lost the second game to them on Prince George’s home turf – the only game they lost all season. The 15’s, which is regular rugby with 15 players a side, had a record of three wins and one loss, winning twice against Prince Rupert.

The Northmen’s 7’s team, a variation of rugby that sees seven players a side and much faster play, had a record of 16 wins and three losses, including coming in fourth out of 23 teams at Edmonton’s Rugbyfest in May.

There are a number of factors contributing to the team’s success, including an incredibly supportive sponsorship community and just an improved knowledge of the intricacies of the game, but Van Dyk notes that reintroducing the rugby school program last year has been a major factor.

“A big part is the Caledonia High School kids,” he said. “They’re making a huge impact.

First time MVP Jarryd Kurisu is the coach of the Caledonia team.

“Next year we want to keep the momentum going,” said Van Dyk. “We want to win Rugbyfest in Edmonton and grow our team 10 – 15 people.”

Right now, the team has about 18 to 20 committed players who show up to practice twice a week. There’s also a group of about 10 other players who make it sporadically and that the team can call on.

All team members vote for the awards, which were handed out at Boston Pizza on Saturday night. Smithers and Prince Rupert players also send in who they think should win, a testament to the close northwest rugby community.

Players overwhelmingly gave Rookie of the Year to back Jodry DaCosta.

“He’s turned into one of our best players and he’s only been playing for two years,” said Van Dyk, noting that next year DaCosta could easily win Most Valuable Back or Most Valuable Player next year.

The Adam Heart Dedication Award was started in 2008 when player Adam Heart was seriously injured, breaking his neck and wrist during play.

But he came to games and cheered the guys on and was back playing the next year.

“So we give that award to someone who shows that dedication on and off the field,” he said. Dunfield, who was Rookie of the Year last year, was an obvious choice. “It was a no brainer for most of the guys,” he said. “He made every single game, travelling five hours each weekend from Vanderhoof.”

And the winners are:

Most Valuable Player: Jarryd Kurisu

Most Valuable Back: Walker Main

Most Valuable Forward: Jonathan Doane

Most Improved: James Dorrett

Adam Heart Dedication Award: Craig Dunfield

Rookie of the Year: Jordy DaCosta