Malvern’s Danielle Underwood wins coveted sports grail
Tucked in behind Malvern Collegiate facing the street was Danielle Underwood in her natural habitat: the rugby pitch.
It was year-end, and her father and Black Knights’ phys. ed. head, Doug Underwood, snapped photos of one of the Beach-area school’s top two athletes for 2011.
However, Danielle was also chosen as the Town Crier’s East Region Athlete of the Year but was unable to attend the awards banquet due to two exams, French and chemistry.
Her surprise at being honoured was visible on her face, but ask her why she won it and she’ll tackle the question right away.
“I think I’m a leader on the teams that I’m with,” she said. “I’m not the best player sometimes but I bring a lot of spirit to the team.”
Apparently enough to send all three of her teams — senior girls field hockey and volleyball as well as varsity girls rugby — to OFSAA.
Her spirit and drive comes from her favourite sport: rugby.
“In rugby everyone gets hung up on positions but it really doesn’t matter where you’re playing as long as you do the job in front of you, whether it’s rucking or mauling or passing,” she said.
The task at hand is always her focus, a lesson learned from her coach Lesley Gage as wells as her parents, Doug and Susan (a phys. ed. teacher at Sir Oliver Mowat). Most importantly, it’s her brother who has inspired her to excel.
“When I was little I used to want to be him,” she said. “I think I still look up to him.
“Liam’s done a lot with his rugby, he’s traveled a lot lately so I’d really like to do that.”
As little kids the two would pass the ball around, so when grade 9 came along, Danielle waited patiently for the spring to join the rugby squad. It was there she met Emily Pitre who became one of her many friends at Malvern.
With the two as co-captains in their senior year they did their best to past down the knowledge they had learned from East Region Coach of the Year, Gage.
During Underwood’s time, she’s seen growth in girls rugby, and it’s something that makes her smile.
“We set an example but when I came into grade 9 it wasn’t that big,” she said. “Over the past couple of years it’s become big everywhere.”
Though rucking days for the Black Knights are over, Underwood will continue at her fly-half position at Queen’s with the Golden Gaels while taking kinesiology.
As for her rugby co-captain Pitre, she will be a Guelph Gryphon, and on the other side of the ball.
“We’re both hoping to join the rugby team, so we’re hoping to see each other on the pitch,” Underwood said. “She plays flanker so she’ll probably be hitting me, too.”