MacDowellRugby Elite VII and supporters after winning the Edmonton Rugby Fest 7s Tournament in Edmonton, AB.
Coming off of their win at the Ryback 7's in Regina, MacDowellRugby entered a team into the Edmonton Rugby Fest 7's elite division over the May long weekend. The team was comprised this time around of not only Sask players, but a mix of athletes from across the country (and in one case, Mexico City) that have trained with or have been coached by Robin MacDowell. Straight off of a long day's drive (9 hours for the Sask group and 14 for the BC group), the team fought hard their first game, as a team and of the tournament, and came away with the win. As the team familiarized themselves with the mix of different playing styles and abilities, age, and experience, the quality of rugby kept increasing while the team kept winning. In the end, the MacDowellRugby Elite VII came away as the champions, going undefeated the entire weekend.
Team captain, Doug Fraser, was highly impressed with overall experience playing with the MacDowellRugby Elite VII team. As one of the players that made the trip from the West Coast, this was the first Alberta tournament Fraser had played in, and was happy with both the quality of rugby and the professionalism of the MacDowellRugby staff. Fraser was also impressed by the passion and commitment he saw in Robin and the Saskatchewan players from the MacDowellRugby program and the sport in general. He thinks MacDowellRugby can "become a huge building block for players looking to further their rugby skills".
Hailing from Ladysmith, BC, Fraser got his first real introduction to Rugby 7's through Robin MacDowell, on a team that MacDowell selected him "BCRN's" to play for. Since then, Fraser has gone on to represent teams such as the North Island Tsunami, the Vancouver Island Tide, BC U-23, as well as the BC Senior Men's Bears. He has won two National University 7's championships with the University of Victoria Vikes, has gone on two tours with the Canada "A" squad, and is currently playing for the Castaways Rugby Club in Victoria, BC. For Fraser, his goal in rugby is naturally to compete at the highest level possible, and one day earn his first Canadian cap. He sees MacDowellRugby as a legitimate outlet "built in order to support an athlete's growth as a player with the goal of pushing them to become the best they can be".
Captain Doug Fraser (middle), with some hometown fans Maddoc & Declan!
Regarding the weekend in general, Head Coach Robin MacDowell commented:
"It was a wonderful weekend of rugby 7's with a great group of athletes, coaches, and friends. I have had the opportunity to work with many great players over the years across the country, so putting a number of them together to compete at the infamous Edmonton Rugby Fest was very exciting. The standard of rugby this team showed over the 3 days of competition was very high. We were able to build a tight culture in a short amount of time. We wanted to play a fast paced style and control the game on both sides of the ball. It was special having Doug Fraser Captain the side, as he lead my first development team "BCRN 7's" at the Abbotsford 7's a number of years ago when he was still in high school in Ladysmith. We focused heavily around the restarts. Having the legendary Mark Wyatt on board was a great learning opportunity for our entire team. Mark worked with our kickers before every game, while Dustin Dobravsky prepared our forwards with endless pre-game high balls. This resulted in retaining 85% of our restarts which lead to a majority of our tries. We hope to continue to build this program from the ground up, led by our academy program in Saskatchewan and future regional camps across Canada."
Picture 1: Robin MacDowell (left) and former Canadian 15's flyhalf and Hall-of-Famer, Mark Wyatt (right).
Picture 2: MacDowellRugby Elite VII Coaching Staff (L to R): Nishant Jain (manager), Brett Kannenberg (assistant coach), Robin MacDowell (head coach), Mark Wyatt (assistant coach), and Dustin Dobravsky (water boy).
Aside from an influx of new players from the West Coast, a very enthusiast water boy, and a cherished mascot, the MacDowellRugby Elite VII team was very fortunate to have the expertise of Canadian legend, Mark Wyatt. Wyatt wrote the following about his experience with MacDowellRugby over the weekend:
"After receiving an invitation from Robin to assist with a MacDowellRugby Elite team taking part in the Edmonton Rugby Fest, I accepted and packed my bag. Along with his committed and capable entourage of Brettski and Nish, they pulled together a collection of players from Saskatchewan, Ontario, BC, Mexico (yeah, Meno) and Williams Lake (Nathan, not sure if the rest of the province has acknowledged your hometown).
Arriving mid-afternoon Friday, May 19th I waited for Robin at the hotel. Once he checked in I hopped in his van that was full of Sask boys who had left at 5:30am from Regina – yikes. When we arrived at the field I soon discovered that the BC guys had driven overnight to arrive in Edmonton a few hours before the first game. Due to my advanced years, that was out of the question and the 2 hour flight from Victoria was just right!
Shaking off travel legs, the boys cruised to their first victory and it was clear this was a talented group who would gel after a couple of games. Dinner followed and it was a quiet night. Saturday’s fixtures went the same way and with a deep bench, and talented players, and the boys delivered – entering Sunday as the number one seed. Our semi-final went according to plan and the boys were operating as team. While the final was a comfortable win, we were pushed as the opposition had bolstered its ranks after witnessing the strength of the team during the prelims. After a patchy first half, the boys knew what was expected and how to deliver – and deliver they did. A lopsided second half saw us step comfortably into the winner’s circle. Exercising common sense (for once) I opted to catch an earlier flight, abandoning the post-tournament festivities.
After the initial invitation, I debated whether or not I wanted to give up the long-weekend. I have been watching MacDowellRugby slowly build its brand and it had captured enough of my interest to fly out and assist. It is quite a testament that Robin, Brettski, and Nish had managed to convince two groups of 20 something year-old men, separated by 1800km of pavement to meet in the middle on the May long weekend, and in Edmonton (with the bugs)! It was clear to me that Robin has the passion and drive to build programs and instill confidence. Demonstrating the ability to simply get it done, in spite of any real or perceived obstacles, he delivers. As impressively, he seems to have the innate ability to seek out talent and sell an opportunity. I met some great young men who have a diverse background and was amazed at where Robin, Nish, and Brettski had uncovered the talent. MacDowellRugby has a mandate to open pathways, seek talent, and develop rugby in ways that may prove challenging for most. Moreover, his coaching style and supporting cast of coaches and managers are professional, professionally kitted out, and well drilled.
With the weekend well behind me, I am grateful for the invite and really enjoyed working with the group. MacDowellRugby has carefully crafted their brand and as far as I am concerned, they are doing the right thing for the game, and for the young men and women they represent. Well done boys. I am looking forward to following this emerging story.
Footnote: All Sask guys had to pick out a CD from Walmart for the journey. Worst Pic – Pit Bull. Best Pic – Best of Hall and Oates (I downloaded from Spotify on way home)!!"
Below is the full roster and staff for the MacDowellRugby Elite VII Edmonton Rugby Fest 7's team:
Doug Fraser (C) - Ladysmith, BC
Mike Clarke - Calgary, AB
Wade Lavallee - Regina, SK
Nathan Stewart - Williams Lake, BC
Gonzalo Pons - Mexico City, Mexico
Riley Dinardo - Toronto, ON
James Pitblado - Vancouver, BC
Payton Hall - Regina, SK
Marcus Hall - Regina, SK
Patrick Young - Regina, SK
Kyle Lagasca - Toronto, ON
Mitchell Novak - Regina, SK
Brandon Baker - Regina, SK
Tristen Franc - Prince Albert, SK
Head Coach: Robin MacDowell
Assistant Coach: Mark Wyatt
Assistant Coach: Brett Kannenberg
Manager: Nishant Jain
Water Boy: Dustin Dobravsky (injured)
Team Mascot: Kane
MacDowellRugby would like to thank our generous sponsors of the MacDowellRugby Elite VII team:
Beer Bros Gastropub & Deli;
X-Treme Rugby Wear