Dedication, goals are common law

Lady Gaels rugby — from winless to .500 in three seasons.
Lady Gaels rugby — from winless to .500 in three seasons.

When describing the Gaels women’s rugby program, head coach Peter Reid likes to say, “Rome wasn’t built in a day, but we’re getting there.”

It’s been three seasons since Reid began reconstructing the team from ruin, and while they may not have gained empire status yet, they’ve definitely shown improvement.

In his first year at the helm of the team Reid had only seven returning players to shape the program around. At the conclusion of that season, the team was winless and destitute, with the only glimmer of light coming in a 15-15 tie against the University Of Toronto.

However, the young team bounced back last year and finished the season with five wins and five losses, an amazing accomplishment given their previous state of affairs. The difference, says Reid, is the team’s new found commitment.

“Basically what they’ve done is accept responsibility for their performances rather than just play. We now have a lot of players prepared to play hard rugby,” said Reid.

In a move that is symbolic of their recent dedication, the team set personal objectives in last year’s off-season. From an early glance, Reid is convinced that these objectives have been fulfilled.

One player emulating the squad’s change in desire is inside center Tara Feeney, a fifth year veteran entering teacher’s college and a former CIAU silver medalist in wrestling. Feeney, whose return wasn’t anticipated after graduating last year, is a welcome surprise for the Gaels, especially after the loss of captain Audrey Doyle. Last spring Doyle tore her ACL training for an exhibition game against England’s Sandhurst Military College and will be unable to suit up for the Tri-colour because of the injury. Instead she is acting strictly in a coaching capacity, and has decreased the total number of returning starters to seven. Fortunately, Reid has many eager, young players ready to fill the void left by Doyle and the other graduates. On Tuesday’s opening session of training camp, more than 40 players showed their stuff on Kingston Field, of which more than half were first year players. Big things are also expected of young returning players like Kari Morine, a second year scrumhalf who spent the summer playing for a Toronto Rugby Union representative side.

The team will take their next step toward dominion in an exhibition game against the RMC Paladins at RMC at 5 p.m. on Friday. Their first regular season game pits the Gaels against the York Yeowomen next Wednesday on Kingston Field, an opener that suits Reid fine.

“It’s a great game for us to start with. Our schedule builds from the not stronger teams to the stronger teams. Luckily for us, York doesn’t travel very well,” said Reid.

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