Game Fixer

Rugby sevens keeps on ruckin’

BRIAN BAKER, The Game Fixer

The International Olympic Committee has sanctioned rugby sevens for Rio’s 2016 Summer Games.

So one would think the sport is an easy line out for Don Mills CI coach Daniel Kunanec when he seeks approval at the TDSB’s AGM in June.

But …

“We’re hearing all kinds reasons why it might not get approved, as opposed to a lot of great reasons why it should be,” he said. “There’s a lot of resistance in our way.”

Kunanec, a tireless volunteer, has massaged the sport into the TDSB’s psyche since 2003 with hopes it will be another option for students.

“Let’s leave it up to the kids,” he said candidly. “Just like they can choose the courses they take, let them choose the sports they want to play.”

Don Mills will be host to a TDSSAA tournament in October. The last bracket in 2010 saw 35 schools participate, with 75 teams in five divisions. That included a girls division. At final count, 1,091 students participated.

Sure rugby sevens is recognized as an official sport by the TDSB, but it still has one more ruck to roll over.

“The difference is we have the right to do our little tournaments but as a fully sanctioned sport we get full financial support,” he said. “It’s not a huge deal.

“What it means is (the board) will pay for playoff referees and city championship medals and banners.”

Aiding Kunanec from the humble origins of four schools, 12 teams in two divisions in 2003, are Daniel Gana of Northern and Leaside’s Alf Scharlach.

Gana jokes that the trio are rugby sevens’ Three Musketeers, but considering their tournament design is the model for both provincial and national junior rugby, his valiant comparison is apropos.

“Both Gana and I were at Rugby Canada’s senior mens team selection and conference … and they were referring to the TDSB model as the model in the country,” Kunanec said.

Rugby Ontario’s junior mens director Glenn Tarver lauds Kunanec’s efforts and model.

“Rugby Ontario is hopeful that other Ontario athletic associations will follow the TDSB lead and develop similarly strong programs,” he said, adding it’s important to not get frustrated when facing lengthy processes.

“Sometimes change happens slowly,” Tarver said. “It may take a while longer before reality impacts on perception.”

Come AGM, three voting members from each of Toronto’s 86 public high schools will vote on whether amendments will be made to their constitution to include rugby sevens.

Working as intermediary between Kunanec’s camp and the membership is the board’s North Regional athletic administrator Nick Rowe.

He sees no barriers for rugby sevens, especially after Kunanec waited a year before submitting his proposal, allowing for larger numbers.

“The sport has done very well as far as its growth,” Rowe said. “It’s played right across the city.

“There are certain parts of the city that are definitely more represented than others.”

Lagging behind would be the West Region.

Still, if a vote goes nay on rugby sevens in June, not only will I be a tad disappointed, but more than 1,000 kids will be fuming. And that’s one scrum I wouldn’t want to be in.

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