Competitive Clubs

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They’re not varsity, but the Gees rugby men are worth your attention

Photo Credit: Kofi Amoah

The Gee-Gees men’s rugby team may be a lesser-known facet of the University of Ottawa’s athletic profile, but they’re well worth all the attention they can get.

The team has been operating as a highly efficient, self-run startup since they acquired competitive club status at the university in 2002. Just as the Gee-Gees women’s soccer and volleyball teams have become synonymous with success, the varsity women’s rugby team is typically the first thought when it comes to Gees rugby. With the women among the nation’s elite in the rugby landscape, the men’s team has to deal with a bit of little sibling syndrome—and they’ve certainly proven themselves.

The team has grown with new and returning players over the past three years. Last season, the team concluded their year with a 2-2 record.

The Gee-Gees kicked off their new season mid-September with exhibition games against some of the top universities in Ontario, Quebec, and the United States.

“We have a really good team of strong and dedicated players,” says team captain and fly half Patrick Wright. “Commitment is really high and we are all really improving a lot as a team.”

One of the primary struggles of a competitive club is that there’s much less exposure than a varsity team would get, resulting in lower turnout from both fans and prospective players. Regardless, the team has been able to recruit talented young players every year and their home games have been well-attended.

“It’s really promising for the program,” said Stuart Locke, a loosehead prop and team trainer. “It makes us feel pretty good that we can foster a successful rugby culture for men at the university without being varsity.”

They’re also playing at a high enough level that the Gee-Gees are gaining recognition from other schools. The players’ time and dedication isn’t just for fun—they’re in it to win. A week for the team is filled with almost daily practices leading to a game each Saturday.

“It’s a huge commitment,” said Sonny Xue, an assistant captain and team manager. “These guys are here every single day. We really couldn’t be happier.”

He added that competitive clubs offer the opportunity for young players to take on a leadership role they likely wouldn’t have in a varsity program.

As the season continues, the players look forward to building on their success and carrying it into stiffer competition, such as the 2012 OUA Champions, the Queens Gaels, and McGill Redmen.

“We always appreciate when everyone comes out to our games,” said Wright. “They always help cheer us on and it affects our play. It encourages us a lot.”