Running away from the competition

Women's rugby star leads the OUA in tries

Emma Chown has scored eight tries in three games, helping to propel the Gaels to third in the CIS rankings.
Emma Chown has scored eight tries in three games, helping to propel the Gaels to third in the CIS rankings.

In her three years at Queen’s, women’s rugby winger Emma Chown has gone from being a redshirted freshman to leading the OUA in try scores. 

The third-year life science major has eight tries in three games, propelling the Gaels to an undefeated record and a rank of third in the CIS. 

While Chown’s elevated game has put her in the conversation as one of the league’s best, she initially arrived on campus to try out for the women’s hockey team. Unfortunately for Chown, this attempt was unsuccessful. 

Chown was at a loss for words once she realized competitive hockey wouldn’t be a part of her university life.  

“I was devastated,” Chown said. “I had played hockey since I was five years old, I was on the ice four times a week — it was my life.”

Although discouraged, Chown knew she always wanted to participate in university athletics. For her, the best opportunity was to try out for the women’s rugby team, a sport she had also played in high school. 

Unfortunately for her, rugby tryouts had been at the same time as hockey, leaving her no chance to audition for the Gaels.

After talking to head coach Beth Barz, Chown was allowed to come to practices, where she eventually earned the position of a redshirted freshman.

“I knew I was never going to play [in first year], but I knew I wanted to get better and be there for my team,” Chown said. 

In second year, Chown’s role increased. Playing the centre position, she scored four tries in four games, contributing to the rugby team’s 4-1 record in conference play. 

To make the next step in her rugby career, Chown decided to switch positions on the field. Instead of playing on the inner half of the field at centre, she made the transition to playing wing. 

With her combination of speed and strength on the wing, Chown has had no problem fitting into the starting lineup. She’s been a constant thorn in the side of the opposition, rolling through their defenses. Against U of T earlier this year, Chown scored five tries en route to the Gaels winning 106-3.

In a defining moment earlier this year, Chown provided the turning point against their rival, the McMaster Marauders.

Down 14-3 in the second frame, Chown intercepted a McMaster pass and took it well over 100 metres for a try.

“We were deep in our end in a 2-on-2 situation and I was covering their wing on the outside,” Chown described. “I was blocking the pass, I didn’t even have to really run on to the ball to intercept it — I was just in her way.  After that it was just me and the fullback.”

Despite the remarkable play, Chown was quick to point out the importance it had on a potential comeback. 

“We had lost some momentum earlier but I think that helped pick us back up.”

In the end, the Gaels would win 15-14 against their rivals. The performance of Chown and her teammates would place them second in the CIS — a ranking the team has only had twice in the program’s history.  

For captain Lauren McEwen, Chown’s efforts against McMaster has helped define the Gaels season. 

“That was a big try for her against McMaster,” McEwen said. “It’s amazing effort on her part, and she definitely has a bright future in rugby.” 

“She is just such a delight to play with and she always keeps me humble. I always see her working that extra bit,” she said.

McEwen, the Gaels’ all-time leading scorer,  said Chown has been flying under the radar to most teams. 

“Emma Chown is one of the most underrated players right now in the OUA and at the CIS level.” 

To coach Beth Barz, confidence has been a key factory in Chown’s play.

“The biggest thing is that she has confidence in herself,” Barz said. “Her teammates have a ton of confidence in her, so they know that if they can get her the ball she has the opportunity to score pretty much every time she touches it.”

While Chown’s play has warranted an OUA All-Star selection, Barz knows that Chown wants team success.

“The key part isn’t the individual accolade,” Barz said. “It’s her contribution to the team, and I really think that she has nailed that part of what it means to be a part of QWR.”

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