Competition in this year’s Northern Rugby League is expected to be stiff with three strong teams vying for a berth to provincials.
The Terrace Northmen, the Williams Lake Rustlers and the Prince George Gnats will play one home game and one away against each team – 80-minute, full 15s rugby – this season, which sees its first official game May 23 here against Williams Lake.
“It’s very strong rugby,” said Northman Evan van Dyk, back this season after spending last year abroad. “The level of competition will be way higher – every year it seems to improve.”
He said he anticipates the Northmen will be stronger than ever thanks to some tough coaching by Mike Homeniuk and Jamie McKinstrie.
“They’ve got a real focus on conditioning, so although it sucks at practice we’ll probably be faster and in better shape than we’ve ever been heading into the season,” said van Dyk.
The team’s roster is fairly consistent compared to last year – a strong core with a few new faces – but they’re always looking for more bodies.
“We always want to see new faces out,” he said. “No experience necessary. Doesn’t matter what shape they’re in, if anyone wants to try it out we practise Tuesday and Thursday at 6 p.m. at the college.”
A friendly icebreaker with players from Prince Rupert and Houston was the unofficial kick-off to the season earlier this month, and the team will spend the May long weekend defending its title at Rugbyfest in Edmonton.
“Really looking forward to it,” said van Dyk. “It’s a chance to try to defend the shield and try to come away with another win.”