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Waterford Valley High students, Swilers, family, community pay tribute to Danny King

Maddie Leonard runs with the ball as she tries to avoid a two-hand tag by Yohann Pavaux during the second annual Danny King Memorial Rugby Game Wednesday at Waterford Valley High School on Topsail Road.
Maddie Leonard runs with the ball as she tries to avoid a two-hand tag by Yohann Pavaux during the second annual Danny King Memorial Rugby Game Wednesday at Waterford Valley High School on Topsail Road. - Joe Gibbons

People from all walks of life gathered to remember DK on Tuesday.

Young, old, students, former teammates and family gathered at Waterford Valley High School on Topsail Road for the second annual Danny King Memorial Rugby Game.

The contest served as a fitting tribute for the mentor, teacher and coach lost too soon. King died in his sleep in January 2016 and now, two years later, the countless lives he touched flocked to an event to pay tribute to him.

Grade 12 student Evan MacKenzie, who is captain of the Waterford Valley rugby team, has fond memories of his former coach, teacher and friend.

As a three-year player on the team, MacKenzie’s love of rugby was fostered by King, who guided him through his Grade 10 season in addition to helping him as coach of the Swilers Under-18 team in 2016.

“Mr. King meant a lot to a lot of people — including myself — as both a mentor and teacher, and there was a lot of respect for him from both the rugby and school community,” MacKenzie said.

“I had him for phys-ed in Grade 10 — he had a hard attitude that pushed people to be better.”

MacKenzie said the game of rugby has been good to him and many others before him, as it helps to build strong character as you work hard to achieve both personal goals and team goals.

In addition, the friendships the players forge will be with them for life, as evidenced by the outpouring of support shown by Waterford Valley High students, staff and family and the numerous members of the Swilers Rugby Club who attended the contest.

“If he were here today, he would probably tell you, ‘Don’t be afraid of the snow,’ and go and have a ball,” MacKenzie said.

Morgan Lovell, who served as referee for the contest, was a teammate with King on the Swilers for a number of years and has many memories of his teammate and friend.

One of those memories stems from a photo that appeared in The Telegram after a rugby match which depicted King in action, bloodied from a hit, but still competing.

He said he was so proud of that photo, he had it hanging above the mantle in his home.

“I am sure DK would enjoy today a lot. He liked to be the centre of attention,” Lovell said.

“He was a life-sized character who would enjoy seeing the kids out there playing.”

Lovell said in terms of the world of Swilers, he had played and coached with King for a number of years and he considered him one of his closest friends.

“Because the link was already in place between Waterford Valley High and our rugby club, it is fitting that we help pull off an event in support of DK’s life.”

He said the Swilers were well represented at the match, some from as far back as 20 years who stood in the weather to support the cause, indicating the pull rugby has for friends and teammates.

“We brought the game out of a student government meeting last year as a means of recognizing DK and as a way to keep his legacy alive,” game organizer Liam Warren said.

“We felt a winter rugby game would be the best way to remember him.”

Warren said from all the support shown during the inaugural game in 2017, the school should make the game an annual event and will make it so by enlisting Grade 10 students to participate.

In addition, he said, there is the possibility of the game becoming a charity event that raises money in support of a charity or cause that King would have supported. Those discussions will be held in the coming months.

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