PLAY­ING IN DIRT

Saints to host 45th an­nual in­door tour­na­ment this week­end

Truro Daily News - - FRONT PAGE - JOHN MACNEIL @John­ny­ma­chockey

More than 400 play­ers will take it in­side this week­end for the an­nual Truro Saints sev­ens rugby tour­na­ment in Bi­ble Hill.

This might be the off-sea­son for Nova Sco­tia rugby, but there’s lit­tle of ev­i­dence of that this week in the Truro area.

About 400 play­ers from Eastern Canada are vis­it­ing the Hub Town for the 45th edi­tion of the Truro World In­door Rugby 7s tour­na­ment, which runs Fri­day through Sun­day at the Macmil­lan Show Cen­tre in Bi­ble Hill.

“Gen­er­ally, in­door rugby isn’t re­ally a thing,” said Dave Cot­ter­ill, pres­i­dent of the host Truro Rugby Club and cap­tain of the Truro Saints, one of the 39 teams en­tered in the tour­na­ment.

“It’s a niche tour­na­ment that you don’t re­ally get any­where else, es­pe­cially to play in the sand and dirt that’s in (the arena). I think that’s a big rea­son that peo­ple come.”

Bleach­ers full of fans are the norm at the fes­tive Truro event, a stark con­trast from the rel­a­tive quiet of the lo­cal out­door sea­son each sum­mer and fall.

“Ev­ery­body wants to be rec­og­nized by their peers, and that’s what you get out there,” Cot­ter­ill said of the in­door rugby scene. “Whether you’re a pro­fes­sional or an am­a­teur, you do one nice play and ev­ery­body cheers and is ex­cited. The at­mos­phere is some­thing that we’ve never been able to repli­cate. For peo­ple of our level, this is kind of our Su­per Bowl, to go out there and play these games (in front of) peo­ple just roar­ing, cheer­ing for you.

“On a gen­eral Satur­day, when we go play with the boys, there’s usu­ally more peo­ple on the field than there are fans in the stands. So, this (tour­na­ment) makes it ex­cit­ing for all the young peo­ple. It’s a lot of fun. I look for­ward to it ev­ery year.”

The his­tory of the tour­na­ment goes all the way back to the for­ma­tion of the Truro Rugby Club in 1975.

“I know some­body tacked world on (to the tour­na­ment name) one time,” Cot­ter­ill said. “It’s be­come (unique) in Canada any­ways.

“We’ve had Red Deer (Alta.) show up year af­ter year quite a few times. We’ve had United States teams. We once had a team from over­seas. We’re hop­ing to get back to that level and get these teams back up (here). This year, I think the far­thest that they’re com­ing from is (Trois-riv­ieres) Que­bec. But we’re re­ally happy with how things are go­ing right now.”

This year’s tour­na­ment fea­tures two men’s di­vi­sions and one women’s divi­sion. Truro is rep­re­sented in both men’s and women’s play, with the de­fend­ing cham­pion Saints men com­pet­ing in the A divi­sion and the Saints women par­tic­i­pat­ing in the sin­gu­lar fe­male cat­e­gory.

“The A side has six (men’s) teams in it and will be very com­pet­i­tive,” Cot­ter­ill said. “The B side is al­ways com­pet­i­tive (as well). It’s just that (those) teams gen­er­ally come with the in­tent of hav­ing a fun week­end, so they kind of play down in that (divi­sion) a lit­tle more. There are 17 teams in men’s B and there’s 16 in the women’s (sec­tion). But there’s no short­age of good teams.

“There’s usu­ally con­sis­tently the same six to eight teams that com­pete re­ally well, but ev­ery now and then, there’s a wild­card that comes in who just un­ex­pect­edly takes over re­ally well. P.E.I. has been good. Hal­i­fax is al­ways good. There’s cer­tainly go­ing to be some good rugby.”

In many cases, the gath­er­ing is a fam­ily af­fair. Cot­ter­ill’s wife, Holly, plays with the Truro women’s team. His fa­ther, Dick, played in the 1970s dur­ing the for­ma­tive years of the lo­cal club.

“There’s a cou­ple of us that are kind of legacy play­ers that are kids of play­ers who played (with Truro),” said Dave Cot­ter­ill, 36. “My fa­ther is al­ways ex­cited to see all the kids play. It’s nice to see all the old guys come down and still love the tour­na­ment. It’s great.”

Univer­sity play­ers give the tour­na­ment a youth­ful feel. That group in­cludes teams from Dal­housie, St. Fran­cis Xavier, UNB, UPEI and King’s Col­lege.

“If you start look­ing at the col­lege teams, it doesn’t mat­ter if they’re com­ing to have fun or not, these young guys are just full of en­thu­si­asm,” Cot­ter­ill said. “They lay it all out on the field.”

For the most part, the tour­na­ment is com­prised of se­nior teams. The Truro men are on a roll as the de­fend­ing A cham­pi­ons.

“So, we’re look­ing to re­peat,” Cot­ter­ill said. “It’s kind of home­town pride. For a lot of years, we could never seem to win this (tour­na­ment). Now, we’ve won a cou­ple of times in the last decade, which has been nice. We’ve got some core guys that work re­ally hard.

“Our women’s team should com­pete re­ally well.”

Among the notable play­ers with the Saints’ men’s team are Brett John­son, who has Team Canada ex­pe­ri­ence, and 37-year-old Mor­gan El­liott.

“Mor­gan El­liott has been play­ing for 20 years,” Cot­ter­ill said. “Just a big mus­cly guy who ev­ery year gets the same kind of re­spect. He just hasn’t lost a step. He’s con­sis­tent. Oh, he’ll power in a bunch of tries. He’s fun to watch.”

Cot­ter­ill es­ti­mated the av­er­age ages for the Truro teams are 25 for the men and 22 for the women.

CON­TRIBUTED

The Truro World In­door Rugby 7s tour­na­ment fea­tures some in­tense rugby ac­tion at the Macmil­lan Show Cen­tre. The 45th edi­tion of the event will be held this week­end, as more than 400 play­ers will lace up their cleats to com­pete in the three­day com­pe­ti­tion, which kicks off on Fri­day.

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