The first-ever rugby sevens team from Queen Margaret’s School’s isn’t just dabbling in the sport.
This is believed to be the first time in its 97-year history that QMS has fielded a rugby team, but the Royals aren’t content to just participate. The team is preparing to host a tournament for other developing teams at the Cowichan Rugby Football Club pitch this Thursday.
It’s an ambitious step, but QMS has the coach to do it. Marlene Donaldson is an established figure in the rugby community, and she has the wherewithal to get something like this done.
“Planning the event, I had resources,” she said. “My contacts at Rugby Canada were helpful. The Island in general is a hotbed of rugby knowledge.”
This is Donaldson’s third year at QMS, not including a maternity leave she subbed for prior to her current stint. The school’s athletic director, she has a remarkable rugby background. Donaldson played in Ontario while growing up, and competed for provincial teams and the University of Toronto. She moved to Vancouver Island to pursue opportunities with the national team, and represented Canada in the 2010 World Cup.
In addition to her duties at QMS, Donaldson is also the director of women’s rugby for Westshore RFC, and played in the B.C. women’s premiership until last fall.
Donaldson began the rugby program at QMS last year, with a handful of exhibition games, but the team is more structured this year, with more games, the home tournament, and a commitment to participate in the Island girls sevens championships at Brentwood College School next month, part of the largest field in the tournament’s history.
“Having that pinnacle event is a big step forward,” Donaldson said.
This year’s squad doesn’t have a lot of holdovers from last year, either, with one notable exception being Skye Koyote, who helped the Cowichan-led North Island team win the U16 girls XV provincial title last fall.
Thursday’s tournament will go a long way to preparing the QMS players for the Island championships, Donaldson believes.
“For us it’s ideal,” she said “A week before the Island championships, getting the tournament environment, lots of games in.”
The tournament will feature eight development-level teams, all from north of the Malahat, including Cowichan Secondary’s junior team. Games will start at 10 a.m.
Sevens is a rapidly growing aspect of rugby, and it provides a way for small schools like QMS to take part in the sport when forming an XV side would be impossible. They just need a staff member with the knowledge and passion to make it happen.
“To push programs, you need people who are passionate about it,” Donaldson said. “Rugby is my passion.”