Bayside junior players warm up prior to a two-day rugby camp held earlier this summer. The South Surrey club has recently announced the launch of its touch rugby league, which begins this week at South Surrey Athletic Park. (Contributed photo)

Bayside Sharks launch touch-rugby program in South Surrey

‘It’s pretty exciting to finally get back out there,’ says club executive member Andrew Fiddis

Plenty of hard work and planning have paid off for the Bayside Sharks rugby club and its members.

Last week, on the heels of BC Rugby’s announcement that its COVID-19 return-to-play plan had moved into Phase 3 – which allowed for limited on-field contact, among other things – the South Surrey-based club announced that a 10-week touch rugby season was ready to hit the pitch.

The new co-ed program began this week, and includes a variety of divisions, each playing within their own 50-players-or-less bubble. An elite division is for older, more advanced players – members of Bayside’s senior men’s and women’s teams, as well as its older junior athletes – while a social division allows for competition that is a little more relaxed. Various junior divisions are available for the club’s high school-aged players, and a mini-rugby league is for elementary-aged players.

In total, there are seven divisions, with the option to add more if demand increases.

“Our elite division filled up fairly quickly. Within a few days, we had 48 people signed up,” said Bayside’s junior director Andrew Fiddis, who is one of the club’s executive members at the helm of the new program.

“We have a lot of guidelines to follow now… but it’s pretty exciting to finally get back out there.”

The new program will feature teams of 12 players, with six on the pitch at once; players will sub on and off in a rolling fashion – “Like hockey,” Fiddis said – and the field will be half the size of the usual game.

For the last number of weeks, Bayside and other B.C. rugby associations have been in Phase 2 of BC Rugby’s plan, which allowed for players to be on the field together for training purposes while maintaining a two-metre distance from one another. Phase 2 – dubbed ‘Rugby Re-engage’ in July by BC Rugby – also mandated that the only shared equipment could be the ball, which had to be thoroughly and consistently sanitized.

Phase 3 allows for limited on-pitch contact between players, while players on the sidelines must continue to stay two metres apart.

“Because it’s touch rugby, it’s basically keep-away, so the idea is literally not to be close to anybody – that’s the point of the whole game anyway,” said Fiddis.

Other protocols include contact tracing at every session; no on-field contact between the different bubbles; and a health questionnaire that is required to be filled out by each participant weekly.

Bayside was able to launch its program immediately because, as Fiddis points out, they planned for weeks in anticipation of the move to Phase 3. It’s the only program currently up and running in the province, he noted.

Bayside was one of a few clubs used as test cases, of sorts, for Phase 2, he noted – Bayside hosted a two-day junior-rugby camp earlier this summer, during Phase 2, “to sort out the bugs and the hiccups.”

“We worked closely with (BC Rugby officials) to get it up and running safely, and we’d been going on the assumption that Phase 3 would be approved … so we could get out of the starting gate right away.”

In its news release announcing the move to Phase 3, BC Rugby acknowledged that “many die-hard rugby players may still feel like this is still too much of a compromise,” but Fiddis said buy-in from Bayside members has been unanimous. It’s even attracting players from neighbouring clubs and former Bayside players – and even Canadian national program alumni – who are excited by the idea of returning to the sport in a format that is less physically demanding.

“Physically, rugby is very demanding and obviously (the traditional game) can take its toll on you,” he said.

“It’s not secret, and the (BC Rugby Union) would tell you the same thing, that this has the potential to be even bigger than the regular rugby product because it’s so inclusive. It’s open to a lot more people and it’s what a lot of people are looking for.”

The creation of a touch league has always been on Bayside’s agenda, Fiddis said, but it took the total shutdown of the sport due to the COVID-19 pandemic to finally bring it to the forefront.

“We all talked about it, and realized it was something we needed to do, but normally, we’re all busy with our own leagues and our own programs. But the (pandemic) provided us with some time to stop and reflect and realize this is a good opportunity to get it up and running, and give people a chance to enjoy rugby.”

Bayside is planning to run three seasons a year – spring, summer and fall – and hopes to continue the touch program long after the traditional game is allowed to return, whenever that may be.

“We’ve built it so it can be sustainable going forward. We think it’s going to be super popular,” Fiddis said.

More information on Bayside’s touch rugby program can be found at http://baysiderfc.com



sports@peacearchnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

rugby

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

‘Each step is a prayer’: Ojibwe man will walk from Hope to Vancouver Island for Indigenous healing, reconciliation

James Taylor departs Sept. 20, returns to Saanich in five days for sacred fire

Surrey school district proposing 13 new schools in the next decade

Staff suggest new designs for future builds to maximize school space

Delta McDonald’s temporarily closed after employees test positive for COVID-19

Two employees at the Annacis Island location (1285 Cliveden Ave.) reported testing positive on Sept. 18

Two Surrey schools report COVID-19 exposures, including second contact for Panorama Ridge

Fraser Health has created a new webpage listing COVID-19 cases in schools

Surrey school district student enrolment down from projections

‘That’s not something I can say in my time in Surrey, I have ever said at the board table’: superintendent

3 new deaths due to COVID-19 in B.C., 139 new cases

B.C. confirms 40 ‘historic cases,’ as well

Ferry riders say lower fares are what’s most needed to improve service

Provincial government announces findings of public engagement process

Air quality advisory ends for the Lower Mainland

It had been in effect since Sept. 8

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dies at 87

The court’s second female justice, died Friday at her home in Washington

Emaciated grizzly found dead on central B.C. coast as low salmon count sparks concern

Grizzly was found on Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw territory in Smith Inlet, 60K north of Port Hardy

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

VIDEO: B.C. to launch mouth-rinse COVID-19 test for kids

Test involves swishing and gargling saline in mouth and no deep-nasal swab

Young Canadians have curtailed vaping during pandemic, survey finds

The survey funded by Heart & Stroke also found the decrease in vaping frequency is most notable in British Columbia and Ontario

B.C. teachers file Labour Relations Board application over COVID-19 classroom concerns

The application comes as B.C.’s second week of the new school year comes to a close

Most Read