Tanika Bonneville is used to being the youngest player on her rugby team.
Only 16, the Elgin Park Secondary student has played with Team BC’s under-16 program for the past three years; last February with Team BC, she played with older players at a Las Vegas seven-a-side tournament; and in the spring of 2014, when she was just 14, she suited up for a U15 boys team that travelled to Bermuda on an exhibition tour.
Now, however, she’ll face one of her biggest challenges yet – making the cut with Canada’s U18 women’s rugby team.
Bonneville – who was “long-listed” for the team about six weeks ago – left Tuesday for Kingston, Ont., where she will be one of 60 players aiming for a spot on the national squad, which will eventually pare down to about 30 players – plus a few non-travelling alternates – for a spring rugby tour overseas.
“I’m really excited,” Bonneville said of the chance to try out for the national side.
“I’ve played with older players for awhile now, and I feel like that has prepared me a lot for this. I think my maturity, my skill levels, are at that level.
“The only thing I feel a little nervous about is that is the unknown – I don’t know how good the other players will be, and I don’t exactly know what it’ll be like at (the national) level. But about 30 are going to make it, so I’ve got a 50/50 chance.”
Bonneville, who plays “all over the field” at the provincial level and with her Elgin Park senior girls high school squad, will be aiming to make Canada’s U18 team in the second row, as a prop.
While making the team is, obviously, her goal, Bonneville also realizes she will have as many as three years left to play at the U18 level, and will use this week’s camp to gain valuable experience, at the very least.
“The biggest thing for me, as one of the younger players, is to make it a learning experience.”
Rugby Canada is focusing attention on the U18 women’s program with an eye towards developing talent for a few years down the road, specifically the 2020 Women’s World Cup, which is set for Japan.
Bonneville – who was invited to the camp after a standout performance with Team BC at an Ottawa tournament in late-summer – said that tournament is something that motivates her, even though it’s five years away.
“Ever since I started playing rugby, that’s been my dream – to play for Canada, to play at the World Cup. And to see that it can maybe be a reality one day, that’s really exciting.
“I know I’m on the right path.”