Girl makes history by playing with boys

John
John Browne
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Rugby player Deidre Rees takes to field in championship game

There were only about 10 minutes left in the rugby game and Bishops Barons fans were getting restless.

Their favourite player was still on the sidelines and time was running out.

"We want Deidre! We want Deidre!" chanted a hundred or so supporters - some with faces painted in the school's red and white colours, others wearing giant fluffy red clown hats - including three bare-chested young men, who were apparently oblivious to the cold weather Thursday afternoon at Swilers Rugby Complex.

Deidre Rees runs down the field with fellow Bishops Barons players during their game against the Holy Spirit Falcons during high school rugby action at Swilers field Thursday. - Photo by Keith Gosse/The Telegram

There were only about 10 minutes left in the rugby game and Bishops Barons fans were getting restless.

Their favourite player was still on the sidelines and time was running out.

"We want Deidre! We want Deidre!" chanted a hundred or so supporters - some with faces painted in the school's red and white colours, others wearing giant fluffy red clown hats - including three bare-chested young men, who were apparently oblivious to the cold weather Thursday afternoon at Swilers Rugby Complex.

Finally, with four minutes to play and Bishops up 41-5 against the Holy Spirit Falcons, Barons' coach Danny King tapped Deidre Rees on the shoulder and sent her in, to the cheers of the crowd.

Rees said after the game it didn't matter that she played just a few minutes and didn't get a touch on the ball from her wing position.

After all, she'd just made history in becoming the first girl to play with a boys' team in a provincial high school final.

"Pretty damn good, I'll tell you that much," Rees said with a smile when asked how she felt about making history as she emerged from the team's dressing room.

"I just had to say thank you to the guys for letting me play and practise with them and making me a better rugby player," she added moments after her team had finished its wild, on-field celebration.

"We put in a hell of a lot of training for this," said Rees, whose boyfriend, Matt O'Reilly, is the team's scrum half and captain.

Rees, who started laughing when she heard the fans chanting her name, said she "loved every minute" of the support the team got on the day from her schoolmates.

King, who told Rees before the game that she would get to play at some point, said he was somewhat concerned she might get hurt playing against boys, "but every time you step on a rugby field there's a chance you might get injured. But the same goes for basketball or cheerleading, it's all the same."

"I was only concerned for her making a tackle too hard on someone and putting herself out as opposed to someone hitting her because she's as tough as nails," King said about the five-foot-five, 140-pounder from Kilbride.

Rees, 16, who competed for Canada's under-18 women's team during a three-day camp in San Diego in March, is looking forward to participating in the Eastern Canadian regional tournament in Halifax, N.S., and the nationals in Calgary, Alta., later this summer, where she hopes to be scouted.

Both teams went into the championship game Thursday with 6-0 records and it was the Falcons who took the play to the Barons early.

However, as it turned out, the eventual winners were just getting warmed up. After moving the ball out wide and opening the scoring with a run down the sidelines for a try in the corner, the Barons never looked back, building up a 24-0 lead at halftime.

"These guys deserved to win. Their commitment to training and fitness was impeccable," said King.

jbrowne@thetelegram.com

Geographic location: Canada, San Diego, Halifax Calgary, Alta

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Recent comments

  • Mike
    July 02, 2010 - 13:34

    You all need to realize that this is not a gender issue, this is an athlete development issue.

    Deidre has been identified an elite rugby player and as a potential Canadian National team player. In order for her to make it to the highest level, she needs the best possible training environment.

    In smaller centers, like NL, the reality for female athletes is that the best possible training envoirnment is often with the boys teams. It's no secret that boys are faster, stronger, more skilled and play the game at a higher level. Danny King and the rest of the rugby lads have done the right thing by putting Diedre in this more challenging environment and ensureing she trains and plans with a team where standards are high. This will give her the best chance to reach her potential and hopefully make it to the next level.

    We are seeing the same thing in soccer where Hannah Rivkin (U20 Canadian Women's National Team player) often trains and plays with boys teams.

    Cheers to Danny and the rest of the NL rugby coaching staff for their continual and consistent development of local elite athletes.

  • Will
    July 02, 2010 - 13:26

    It is clear that the coach did not want her there or he would have put her in alot sooner ( they were leading 24-0 at halftime ) in the end after the coach bows to pressure from the crowd he tries to save face and be all positive about it. And Don from NL it is time to grow up, it is not 1957 anymore ). It is more than obvious that Deidre Rees has earned the right to be there. She earned the right to be there, earned the right to play, and earned the right to celebrate the victory. Anything else is a crock

  • Al
    July 02, 2010 - 13:25

    My guess is she threatened a human rights complaint if she didn't get to play.

    Are the boys allowed to play on the girls teams yet?

    Thought so.

    Nothing like a double standard.

  • Lisa
    July 02, 2010 - 13:22

    How unfortunate that there are small minded individuals who would discourage a young lady from working hard and participating in a game she loves! She is not 5 years old, and is obviously well prepared by her coach and aware of the potential dangers and injuries that can occur in a rough sport such as this. Until this province has a girl's league for her to join, I think it is inspirational that she has the drive and confidence to pursue this. It's strong, determined young women like Deidre that change the world. Congrats to Deidre and particularly to her coach, who should be commended for giving her this opportunity.

  • Don
    July 02, 2010 - 13:22

    Deidre, play with the girls before you get hurt! You don't belong in a boys league and by doing so, you are making a mockery of the game.

  • Mike
    July 01, 2010 - 20:24

    You all need to realize that this is not a gender issue, this is an athlete development issue.

    Deidre has been identified an elite rugby player and as a potential Canadian National team player. In order for her to make it to the highest level, she needs the best possible training environment.

    In smaller centers, like NL, the reality for female athletes is that the best possible training envoirnment is often with the boys teams. It's no secret that boys are faster, stronger, more skilled and play the game at a higher level. Danny King and the rest of the rugby lads have done the right thing by putting Diedre in this more challenging environment and ensureing she trains and plans with a team where standards are high. This will give her the best chance to reach her potential and hopefully make it to the next level.

    We are seeing the same thing in soccer where Hannah Rivkin (U20 Canadian Women's National Team player) often trains and plays with boys teams.

    Cheers to Danny and the rest of the NL rugby coaching staff for their continual and consistent development of local elite athletes.

  • Will
    July 01, 2010 - 20:13

    It is clear that the coach did not want her there or he would have put her in alot sooner ( they were leading 24-0 at halftime ) in the end after the coach bows to pressure from the crowd he tries to save face and be all positive about it. And Don from NL it is time to grow up, it is not 1957 anymore ). It is more than obvious that Deidre Rees has earned the right to be there. She earned the right to be there, earned the right to play, and earned the right to celebrate the victory. Anything else is a crock

  • Al
    July 01, 2010 - 20:12

    My guess is she threatened a human rights complaint if she didn't get to play.

    Are the boys allowed to play on the girls teams yet?

    Thought so.

    Nothing like a double standard.

  • Lisa
    July 01, 2010 - 20:07

    How unfortunate that there are small minded individuals who would discourage a young lady from working hard and participating in a game she loves! She is not 5 years old, and is obviously well prepared by her coach and aware of the potential dangers and injuries that can occur in a rough sport such as this. Until this province has a girl's league for her to join, I think it is inspirational that she has the drive and confidence to pursue this. It's strong, determined young women like Deidre that change the world. Congrats to Deidre and particularly to her coach, who should be commended for giving her this opportunity.

  • Don
    July 01, 2010 - 20:06

    Deidre, play with the girls before you get hurt! You don't belong in a boys league and by doing so, you are making a mockery of the game.