Coach ‘more than impressed’ with his Canada Ravens
New squad to debut against 3-time champs
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.