The University of Saskatchewan Rugby Club prides itself on inclusivity, featuring men’s and women’s teams comprising both veterans and newcomers. Despite their lack of experience, the teams have had some of their best-ever finishes at recent tournaments.
The club is not ratified as an official Huskies team, but this presents a unique opportunity for the club to accept players of all skill levels. Coach Mike Sheinin preached inclusivity as a focal point for the club in an interview with the Sheaf, stating that the coaches are capable of coaching players with differing experience levels without there being a disconnect between the team.
“In rugby, if you focus on the basic skills, that’s what’s going to really make a difference out there. So we do focus heavily on the basics, and really teaching people the how and the why for rugby,” Sheinin said.
The club hosted a sevens tournament on Feb. 26 at the Saskatoon Soccer Centre, where the women’s team won the tournament for the first time in club history and the men’s team placed second.
For the uninitiated, sevens rugby is a variation of typical rugby rules that allows for fast-paced games. Instead of 15 players per team playing 40-minute halves, each game involves two seven-minute halves with seven players per team.
Sheinin explained that the women’s team had undergone lots of turnover, fielding a roster composed of mostly new faces. Despite their lack of game experience, Sheinin noted that the team was able to flip a switch and deliver a dominant performance.
“They were defensive animals out there as they didn’t really let many players by them… And then on offence, they really just put things together so they were able to beat some really good teams… It’s really awesome to see that,” Sheinin said.
Sheinin highlighted team captain Brooklyn Grimard as a “voice of reason” for the team and an offensive standout who is always a scoring threat. Another notable player is Ashley Martins, who is a defensive stopper and a great kicker, a quality that Sheinin says is rare in a newer player.
However, the player of the tournament went to Sarrah Tremblay, who Sheinin described as a “scoring machine.” Her speed on the defensive end was also an asset, as she stopped a potential score in pivotal moments of the tournament’s final game.
“To chase somebody down like that and not quit … was a huge help to us actually winning that tournament,” Sheinin said.
Tremblay’s accomplishment is bolstered by the fact that it was her first time playing rugby games, which is a testament to the coaching staff’s ability to improve newcomers into impressive players.
Beginners have also made a substantial impact on the men’s team. Shaad Salido, who Sheinin described as a great decision-maker and an offensive standout, has been crucial to the team in his first year of playing rugby.
Following the home sevens tournament, the men’s team placed second and fifth at two consecutive tournaments in Red Deer. The second tournament served as the last career games for two longtime veterans of the club, Connor Smyth and Braydon Goldstein.
Sheinin praised Smyth and Goldstein’s leadership, noting that they were key to the club as mentors both on and off the field. One specific instance came during the pair’s last game when they were tied at halftime with their provincial rivals, the Regina Cougars.
“Braydon gave a speech, and said ‘You know what guys, this is our last game, we’ve been with the club for almost seven years, and [let’s go win it]’. It was so awesome to see and it really got everyone’s morale up,” Sheinin said.
The Rugby Club’s positivity and inclusive attitude extend outside of games, as the club offers students opportunities to socialize and build connections with the community.
“Rugby is a very social sport, and a big aspect of rugby is hanging out after the games and practices and getting to know your teammates, and that is what really builds a lot of the chemistry,” Sheinin said.
With the club not being an officially ratified Huskies team, fundraisers are necessary to help fund the team. Sheinin added that conducting fundraisers helps the team spread the word about rugby in Saskatoon.
Sheinin explained that the team is happy with the progress they’ve made in conversations with the Huskies for becoming ratified in the future. But if ratification were to go through, Sheinin stressed that the club’s inclusive philosophy would not change.
“I think we’ll want to really try hard to make sure that [the club] stays open and inclusive because it’s always been a big part of what we do.”