Trio of women’s rugby rookies take to the global stage

Women’s rugby’s Daniels, de Goede and Hickson represented Canada at the U18 European Sevens Championship

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Unconventional would be the best way to describe the first week of classes for three women’s rugby players. 

While their fellow frosh were gearing up for their first semester of undergrad, rookies Hannah Daniels, Sophie de Goede and Rachel Hickson spent the second week of September in France. 

And for good reason. 

The three first-year players represented Canada at the U18 European Sevens Grand Prix Championship against some of the best young-talent Europe has to offer. 

A chance to sport the red and white — even in light of a missed week of class — was an opportunity the women couldn’t refuse.

“Missing my first week of classes has been a little stressful,” centre Daniels admitted. “[But] having had the opportunity to represent my country was the ultimate honour.” 

Back row de Geode concurred, adding that missing the first week of classes was “unfortunate timing,” but she feels “incredibly fortunate to have had another opportunity to wear the maple leaf.” In July, de Goede served as team captain for Canada at the Commonwealth Youth games and was named Rugby Canada Young Female Player of the Year in 2016.

For women’s rugby head coach Dan Valley, his players’ invitation to the tournament came as no surprise. “All three of them have been identified for the last few years as being on the national radar and they’re all considered to be very high-potential athletes,” he said. 

Missing class or practice time, he added, is outweighed by the prospect of playing on the national stage. 

“Any time you get to go and represent your country, it’s a massive of accomplishment,” the first-year Gaels coach said. 

According to Daniels and de Goede, their professors have been accommodating in helping them remain on top of their schooling. 

The biggest takeaway from the women’s trip abroad has been the development they’ve made and steps they’ve taken to improve their games. 

“The tournament was a huge learning experience […] it was an opportunity to challenge my individual skills, to step on the field with a set of athletes [with] very little practice time together and push ourselves,” winger Hickson said.

Playing alongside premier players granted Daniels the “help to gain confidence in her skills.” 

Similarly, de Goede said that being among a group of players that are globally recognized for their play is a boost to her — and her teammates’ — development. 

“The countries at the [tournament] were very competitive,” de Goede said, adding that the exposure to high level competition will introduce the national team to “the level we need to be playing at to compete internationally.” 

Valley said it’s important for their athletic success to go out and play against different styles of rugby, particularly if they hope to pursue an international career. But for this crop of rookies, he’s not too worried about how far they can go. 

“They can one day go on and play senior women’s rugby for Canada if they continue to work and develop — they’re all similar in the regard.”

 

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