Rugby League comes to corridor 

Eagles play first exhibition games this weekend

Rugby has a reputation for toughness, and Rugby League is best described as Rugby Union's toughest cousin. It's all about tackling and getting tackled, and pushing the game line as far as you can before you run out of possessions.

And it's coming to the corridor this summer. The Sea to Sky Eagles Rugby League Football Club is playing its first exhibition games of the season this weekend in Surrey, with matches against the South Surrey Dragons and the Valley Titans from the Fraser Valley.

This is the first league of its kind in the province, although there is another league in Ontario. With enough national participation, Canada will qualify to enter a team in the Rugby League World Cup.

"The reason we're trying to branch out is because we can't enter the World Cup for rugby league with a domestic league, and Ontario already has their league," explained Ally Mac, director of the Eagles.

"We'll launch ours this year and we'll be looking to launch in other provinces as well. Once we have B.C. off the ground we'll be able to play Ontario and create a national team."

Originally the plan was to field a team in Whistler, but given the transient nature of the town Mac decided he would expand to include all of Sea to Sky, including West Vancouver. Because rugby union is a winter league in the Lower Mainland, Mac believes there will be a lot of rugby players looking for a chance to stay in shape while playing summer rugby league.

"The first year is hard because we are a new sport and most people are familiar with union and not league," said Mac, who has lived in Whistler for six years after growing up in Scotland - one of the few hotspots where rugby league is huge.

"As soon as we start getting boys on board and they understand that it doesn't compete with union, and compliments union, we'll get more interest. It's the same way they built rugby league in Scotland."

Australia has the biggest rugby league in the world and there's a super-league in England. Leagues are also growing in Russia and former Soviet Republics.

There are several differences from the sport of rugby union: there are fewer players on the field (13 instead of 15); there are no scrums or line-outs; and there are limits on possession - each team can be tackled and taken to the ground with the ball six times before they lose possession. There's very little kicking during play because that creates an opportunity for a turnover and loss of possession. Passing and tackling are supremely important, as is having a good kicker to convert scores and penalties, and add the occasional drop goal.

In terms of scoring, touching the ball in the other teams try zone is worth four points, a conversion or penalty is worth two points and a drop-goal is worth one point.

Although all of Sea to Sky is invited to play, Mac says the majority of players have come from Whistler - many of them high school-age players. He expects more visiting Australians and Kiwis to join the team once the word gets out.

The official start to the season is on July 8 and the league will run for about six weeks. Each of the five teams in the league will play each other twice.

Mac is still working on the details, but he expects the Eagles will host multiple games in Whistler over the course of the season and he'll be inviting the public to come out and watch.

For more information on the team and practices, email




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