PLAYING IN DIRT
Saints to host 45th annual indoor tournament this weekend
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.
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.