Boys’ rugby remains confident after state finals defeat

Cass Melo and Justice Huang

A tough season filled with hard work and dedication brought the boys’ varsity rugby team to the state championship against Weymouth on June 18. Even after a heartbreaking 14-57 defeat, their confidence has not wavered.

Though the team started off the season shaky, they quickly developed to become the number one seed. Junior captain Nick Southey reflected on the successful season.

“We were a ragtag group of guys at the beginning of the season,” Southey said. “We had a few academic eligibility issues, a few people who couldn’t make it for various reasons, just the most random assortment of people, but we really came together and became just a team of fighters. The scoreboard didn’t matter; we would always keep going. We showed resilience and had a good time together.”

Coach Dominic McNeil feels good about the team’s performance this year, his sixth year of coaching.

“They required me to grow as a coach, and that’s just the most rewarding thing,” McNeil said. “They took such ownership and leadership of this season. Rugby is such a special game because it empowers players to do that. We are a funny little tribe of players and coaches. To be here at a state championship game was just such a great payoff.”

With an Algonquin player tearing their ACL and others suffering head injuries, one resulting in a red card for Weymouth, the game required perseverance and dedication. However, senior captain Cullen Doherty remarked on the bright side of things.

“Injuries are tough,” Doherty said. “It’s part of the game, and it really influences us when one man’s down. It’s a key part of clockwork that we lose. We are all gears on a wheel and when you miss a gear, things can break down, but we have a great sub team that comes on and gives it their all.”

Senior captain Jon Valentine was pleased with his teammates’ performance throughout the season.

“I was really happy with how we played because we never gave up in any game, and we always fought back,” Valentine said. “Everyone always tried to win and always gave 100% effort every practice and every game.”

Senior captain Jace Golden agreed with Valentine’s sentiment.

“As we grew as a team, we grew as a family, and this really became a brotherhood,” Golden said. “I love these kids.”

The team feels none of their success would have been possible without support from the Algonquin community. Doherty was especially grateful for applied arts teacher Ralph Arabian.

“There’s a lot of mental preparation involved, but I usually like to think about one of my mentors Mr. Arabian,” Doherty said. “He’s just really pioneered and given me the spirit to continue.”

In future seasons, boys’ rugby will take advantage of the new Gonkplex additions of a turf field and a full size international grass rugby field; these are often rare at even a professional level. McNeil believes there is a lot to look forward to for future seasons, but losing the graduating senior class is a huge loss. 

“I’m just so proud of these guys and so impressed with their versatility, their work ethic, their commitment and it’s just a great bunch of guys,” McNeil said. “There’s a lot of great senior leadership, great senior players, and it’s going to be absolutely gut wrenching to start up again in the spring and not have them.”

While final goodbyes from the seniors leave the team downhearted, Southey looks to the future with optimism. 

“In the time that I have been a member of the rugby team, the quality of play has only improved and I expect I will see it continue to improve next season and seasons to come,” Southey said.