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Whistler Wolves launches youth boys’ program

The Sea to Sky rugby league team repeated as Nines champs and are 2-0 to begin the regular season
The Whistler Wolves are starting fast in their 2024 regular season.

The local wolfpack is off and running to begin their 2024 season. 

Whistler’s Wolves defended their Rugby League British Columbia (RLBC) Nines Tournament title with a convincing late-May effort at South Surrey Athletic Park. After proceeding through their round robin stage undefeated, the Wolves eliminated the Vancouver Dragons 20-12 in the final. 

It was a hard-fought match, with both squads entering halftime tied 4-4. Harvey Lew cashed in two second-half tries to break the deadlock for Whistler, and Isac Cygler’s all-around performance earned him MVP honours. 

Kane Strachan, Blake Mahovic, Conal Donnelly and Michael Balanda also distinguished themselves, with Balanda voted Player of the Day by his peers. 

“We were able to withstand the wet and physicality from all teams down in Surrey to go back-to-back which is great for our club,” said Strachan. “Now we are set on going further in the regular season competition.” 

As of this writing, the Wolves have downed both of their opponents in regular-season fifteens action.

Whistler bested the Vancouver Valley Vipers 48-30 in the opener, with Lew and Guy Williams finding the scoresheet. The Point Grey Thunder proved a stiffer challenge last weekend, but the Wolves grinded out a 34-30 breakthrough. 

“I'm just extremely happy to see so many guys come out from the Sea to Sky and want to play rugby league in Whistler,” head coach Blake Stewart remarked. “We had 20 players suit up at the Nines [in Surrey]. It’s just another example of rugby league growing in the corridor, and hopefully we can continue this both on and off the field.” 

Playing with mentors

One key way to foster more growth is to engage the next generation, and that’s what the Wolves are doing with their new program for boys aged 15 to 18. 

This initiative aims to build a pathway for talented youth athletes to enter the provincial pipeline. The Canada Rugby League Association (CRLA) is organizing a game between Team B.C. and Team Ontario in September, and Stewart thinks some of the local teens can play at that level—especially with intentional training. 

“Some kids might be intimidated to see 25 to 30 men running around playing rugby. Maybe they don't want to join in [at first],” said Stewart. “Getting them skill development specific to their age group was a big factor. I want to make sure that they can come play and train with a mentor.” 

Of course, the Wolves are equally accommodating of novices and newcomers to the sport in their youth sessions, which run Thursdays at 3:30 p.m. on the Whistler Secondary School (WSS) field. The goal is to get more people involved, no matter what they feel comfortable with. 

High-level teens are always welcome to train with the men if desired, while Stewart and some of his team leaders take a hands-on role in facilitating adolescent-oriented programming. 

Organic growth

Sea to Sky rugby enthusiasts of all ages and aptitudes now have a wealth of opportunity to lace up their cleats. The Axemen, fresh off another Division 2 playoff championship, offer rugby union in the winter and spring while the Wolves play rugby league during summer months. 

League is more fluid and fast-paced than union, with fewer stoppages in play and a limit of six tackles before a team turns the ball over to its opponent. Many local athletes like Strachan and Mahovic partake in both codes, even if they didn’t do so growing up. 

“We have the Axemen doing amazing things in Squamish. Our guys play for them, their guys play for us and what happens is: both clubs grow organically,” Stewart said. “The [annual] Nines Tournament is the first exposure that most people get to the game of rugby league.” 

Wolves sponsors like Stinky’s on the Stroll and The Backyard pub have also been “unreal from start to finish”, according to Stewart. Each establishment helped provide a bus for the team, allowing players to travel to the Lower Mainland for away games relatively hassle-free. 

Learn more about the Whistler Wolves on their Facebook page at