Coach ‘more than im­pressed’ with his Canada Ravens

New squad to de­but against 3-time champs

National Post (National Edition) - - SPORTS - NEIL DAVID­SON The Cana­dian Press

Canada steps into the deep end at the Women’s Rugby League World Cup in Syd­ney, Aus­tralia, on Thurs­day when it makes its in­ter­na­tional de­but against three-time cham­pion New Zealand.

While many of the Canada Ravens have im­pres­sive rugby union cre­den­tials, they are new to the 13-woman code. And Canada coach Mike Castle, a trans­planted Brit who now makes his home on Aus­tralia’s Gold Coast, has had lit­tle time with his new team. But he likes what he sees. “I’ve been blown away by how quickly they’ve picked up the whole con­cept of the game,” Castle said af­ter an­nounc­ing his ros­ter. “Ath­let­i­cally I didn’t ex­pect it to be quite as good. I knew there were go­ing to be a lot of qual­ity ath­letes in Canada but I’ve been more than im­pressed.”

Canada rugby union in­ter­na­tion­als on the Ravens squad in­clude An­drea Burk, Gil­lian Hoag, Mandy Mar­chak, Stevi Sch­noor and Natasha Smith.

Mar­chak and Burk both started for Canada in the fi­nal of the 2014 rugby union World Cup. Burk was also a mem­ber of the Cana­dian team at this sum­mer’s World Cup.

Bar­bara Wad­dell is one of the few Ravens play­ers with rugby league ex­pe­ri­ence. Born in Que­bec, she spent time in Canada, Fiji and Aus­tralia and now makes her home in Syd­ney. She has played rugby in both codes, in­clud­ing three years with rugby league’s Forestville Fer­rets.

Pri­mar­ily played in England, Aus­tralia and New Zealand, rugby league is the sport’s lesser-known code — al­though it has made in­roads in Canada this year with the suc­cess of the Toronto Wolf­pack.

League fea­tures 13 play­ers in­stead of 15 with teams given six chances to ad­vance the ball up the field. It can be a bru­tal game with gang­tack­ling on de­fence, but there is also room for cre­ativ­ity on at­tack.

Af­ter New Zealand, Canada plays Pa­pua New Guinea on Nov. 19 and de­fend­ing cham­pion Aus­tralia on Nov 22. The other sides in the six-team women’s field are the Cook Is­lands and England. The top four will face off in the semi­fi­nals Nov. 26.

Canada is tar­get­ing Pa­pua New Guinea, whose women’s pro­gram is also new, know­ing one win could mean a berth in the semi­fi­nals.

While the women kick off Thurs­day, the men have been at it since Oct. 27. Their 14-coun­try competition wraps up Dec. 2 in Bris­bane with a cham­pi­onship dou­ble­header that in­cludes the women’s fi­nal.

The Cana­dian men were beaten in qual­i­fy­ing by the U.S.

Canada and the U.S. are host­ing the 2025 World Cup, mean­ing the Cana­dian men and women will qual­ify au­to­mat­i­cally.

The 2025 tour­na­ment was one of the rea­sons the Cana­dian women were given a berth to this event. An­drea Burk is a mem­ber of the new Canada Ravens.

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