Northmen ready to tackle the province’s best

First is the name of the game this year for the Northmen rugby team from Terrace B.C.

Jared Stephens breaking two tackles against Prince George.

Jared Stephens breaking two tackles against Prince George.

First is the name of the game for the Terrace Northmen this year.

Winning every game in their rugby league this year, the team claimed their first undefeated season and their first shot at provincials, which will be in Penticton on Sept. 12-13.

“We’ve been very successful. The Northmen are undefeated. We beat both Prince George and Williams Lake in our league play, both home and away,” said team vice-president Evan van Dyk.

The Northmen are training hard now so they will be ready for provincials where they will face three other regional champions from division 3, which is for clubs limited by a shorter summer season.

The 24-man team will face Cranbrook from the Caribou region, Vernon from the Okanagan, and Penticton who are the defending provincial champions from last year.

“We’ve never played any of them before,” said van Dyk. “No idea what to expect.”

Coach George Dacosta, who is the first coach for the team and stepped up to the helm early this year, said the team’s training has focused primarily on general conditioning.

“It’s fitness, simple as that,” said Dacosta. “You’ve got to be fit. It’s a running game, it’s a physical game and if you’re not fit, you’re not going to enjoy it.”

And that focus has given them many victories, he added.

“We will weather the storm for the first half of a game, but in the second half the fitness starts to show through, and [while opponents are] starting to melt away, we’re just getting stronger,” he said.

As an example, Dacosta said they were tied with Prince George at half time in their final game this season, but in the last 20 minutes, the Northmen dominated the play and ran away with the win.

The second key focus in the training has been sharpening their skills with the ball.

“From day one, it’s been ball handling,” Dacosta said. “You are going to touch the ball — everybody is. If you can’t make a pass in rugby, what’s the purpose? It’s a team sport.”

Now Dacosta is driving the team hard as they gear up for provincials.

“I’m definitely not going there without coming back with first place,” he said. “The boys have been training that hard. I told them, ‘if you wanted a summer that’s relaxing, you came to the wrong team, because I’m really taking hard to this. I’d really like to come home with some hardware.”

Dacosta said that whether the team wins or loses, they will not be beaten.

“If we don’t win the trophy, the team that takes it away from us is going to know that they played Terrace. That’s for sure,” he declared.

The team’s undefeated league season this year launched with an invigorating victory at the Montana Maggotfest in early May.

They triumphed over 24 men’s teams from across U.S. and Canada, and van Dyk said that they entered that tournament with similar feelings as they have now — completely unsure what to expect.

“When we went to Montana, we were up against 24 other teams… we were pleasantly shocked at how well we did when we ended up taking it,” van Dyk said. “We’re hoping for the same result [at provincials].”

“But I’ve got a feeling that it is going to be a difficult tournament, which is also exciting, because it will be a new challenge.”

Even as they drive to provincials, coach Dacosta said anyone is welcome to come out for a challenging workout on Tuesday or Thursday nights at the college field.