Malvern flanker a game breaker on the defence

LEADER OF THE PACK: Emily Pitre, far left, was a source of inspiration for her fellow Malvern and Balmy Beach Club teammates Beth Safarian, Caitlin Harvey and Erin Stephenson. Though she’s graduating from Malvern, Pitre will hit the pitch, hoping for a spot on the Guelph Gryphons’ roster.

Black Knights’ juniors to miss Emily Pitre’s on-field leadership

Like Malvern’s namesake, the Black Knight, out of the darkest depths of a game comes Emily Pitre.

For the past four years of Black Knights rugby 15s, coach Claudine Tyrell has witnessed her star flanker make plays in the most dire of circumstances.

“You can see someone make a break and you’re like, ‘Oh no, they’re going to score’, and then out of nowhere comes Emily,” she said. “On the sidelines I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said, ‘Thank you, Emily.’ ”

For Pitre, who was named captain of the hockey squad and co-captain with good friend Danielle Underwood of the rugby team, there’s a warm feeling in wearing the C.

“I had been working hard all four years and it was nice to be recognized as a leader,” she said. “I like being a captain. I like inspiring people, motivating people, so that was a lot of fun.”

This year saw the 18-year-old hit OFSAA twice, not just the quarterfinals with the varsity girls rugby squad but with the field hockey team as well.

It was on the field hockey team they got into the habit of eating jujubes before every game of importance, especially against rival Leaside.

“We sort of had candy before a game and thought we did well when we won, so from then on we had candy at important games,” she said.

But it was a different habit she had before every rugby game, leaving the teammates with a quote that would inspire.

“She had one every single game,” said Tyrell. “It was kind of funny because when it got down to playoffs she was like, ‘I don’t know what to say’, and I said, ‘Sometimes it’s not about doing the research, it’s saying what’s on your mind, or coming from the heart.’ ”

During OFSAA the younger Black Knights showed their dedication to players like Pitre and Underwood, Tyrell recalled.

“The juniors on the sidelines were crying and I remember Lesley (Gage) asking them, ‘Why are you guys crying because you can play next year’, and they were ‘Because we’re going to miss the seniors,’ ” she said.

Pitre won’t be too far away though, as this fall she heads to the University of Guelph for a general arts and sciences degree.

Rugby is in her future.

Tyrell sees little resistance in her protégé’s path to making the Gryphons roster.

“It’s a very competitive team. There are people coming back for a fifth year because they want to win,” she said. “I think with Emily’s work ethic she definitely has a good chance of making the squad.”

As for a young lady playing such a rough sport, Pitre admits she likes to surprise people with her choice.

“I like the look on people’s faces when you say, ‘Yeah, I play rugby and I like hitting people’,” she said with a laugh. “They stand there with a slack-jaw expression on their face.”

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