A Dynamic Duo

Stingers Women’s Rugby MVPs Set to Make International Impression

Alex Tessier was named RSEQ MVP of the 2014 season, followed by teammate Frederique Rajotte (left) in 2015. Photo Courtesy Brianna Thicke
Alex Tessier (left) was named RSEQ MVP of the 2014 season, followed by teammate Frederique Rajotte in 2015. Photo Courtesy Brianna Thicke

The dynamic duo centering the Concordia Stingers women’s rugby team, Frédérique Rajotte and Alexandra Tessier, is set to establish their incredible chemistry in England for two test games against the host nation with the Canadian national squad.

It has been a winding road for the student athletes, who both started in a different sport before settling on rugby.

Rajotte was born in Montreal but moved at a young age with her family to Markham, Ontario. In grade nine, she was introduced to rugby and decided to join the team.

“I was a soccer player before I started playing rugby,” Rajotte said. “The kind of contact area fit in with me because I was a bit of an aggressive soccer player, so I ended up quitting soccer and then joined rugby full time. I started playing [in a] club afterwards.”

After starting her first year at Concordia University and playing with the Stingers during the 2012-2013 academic year, she left to go to Victoria, B.C., to play on the national team.

Elsewhere, a busy Tessier, hailing from Sainte-Clotilde-de-Horton, was playing basketball at Dawson College when she incorporated rugby into her routine during her second year.

About half a season into her math and statistics studies at Concordia in 2013, she decided to commit strictly to rugby. She has never looked back, and has earned several recognitions for her dedication, including the 2013 RSEQ Rookie of the Year.

In 2014, the pair would start blossoming. Rajotte made her way back to the Stingers and her Communication Studies.

In the past two seasons, the duo has made quite the impact. Tessier was named RSEQ MVP last year, while Rajotte recently earned the honour for 2015.

“I was in shock,” Rajotte said. “I wasn’t considering myself at their level particularly, so I’m really happy that my hard work paid off. I have to credit my teammates because it’s a team sport, and it was huge for us to go to the nationals.”

Both Rajotte and Tessier were also named to the RSEQ all-star team, holding the two centre spots. It’s an honour Tessier is thankful for. For Rajotte, it’s still sinking in—the aspiring sports broadcaster can only praise her teammate.

“She’s amazing,” Rajotte said. “She’s a hard worker [and] I don’t think she gets enough credit for it. She’s obviously a shy person off the field, but on the field she has such a huge presence and I always tell people that she makes me look good on the field because we have a good connection when we play.”

Tessier expressed the same sentiments. She added that it was fun for her because there is so much confidence and trust between them.

“I knew she was there and I could focus on my job,” Tessier said. “We just connected. She was really good out there. It just makes the game so much fun and you can try more things.”

McGravie has been the head coach of the women’s rugby team since 2005. He jumped on the opportunity to lead a team to the nationals—the men’s league is limited to provincial competition. According to him, it’s been amazing to have both athletes on the roster.

“Knowing somebody out there, or two people who are out there can win a game by themselves is pretty impressive, so I think when it gets tough, people always look to them,” McGravie said. “I think there’s a confidence that’s strong from playing with those people. You see them in practice the same way they are in games, so I think people take inspiration from that.”

According to Tessier, much of their ever-developing chemistry has been thanks to their training—they have spent time working out together, running and weight lifting. Wednesday, they will be going to England with Canada’s national team where they will be paired up again.

“We’re actually going to be roommates, and we tend to be roommates on every single trip we go on, which is a bonus when you connect off the field and on the field, it’s great,” said Rajotte. “Obviously, it’s nice to have a fellow Stinger because we know what’s it like. We work together day in and day out.”

Tessier remarked that representing Canada is already a memorable experience.

“I would say you feel so much pride,” Tessier said. “You represent everybody who supported you. It’s special. I’m having trouble describing it. It’s like every time you wear that jersey, you deserve to wear that jersey because you worked so hard.”

While Rajotte’s first experience was at the 2013 U20 Nations Cup—where Canada became the only other nation champion apart from England—Tessier made her national debut for rugby sevens in 2012 when she participated in the World University Championship in France. However, she attributes the 2014 edition in Brazil, where her team won the championship, as her real start.

“After that, my first senior appearance was this summer at the Super Series in Calgary,” said Tessier. “I earned my first cap against New Zealand and then after that we played the U.S. and England. It was a good opportunity for me to start at that level.”

McGravie is hopeful someone will be able to put up the game in England on a live webcast, notably a link via Twitter. He has been nothing short of amazed by both athletes, whom he qualifies as great people.

“They train hard, they are committed to the sport, they are committed to their teammates,” McGravie said. “It makes them easy to coach, it makes them easy to play with, [and] it makes them hard to play against. I can’t say enough good things about them.”

As the players continue to make their families proud, the focus is now about making an impact for Canada’s national team, who will face England in the first days of December on the Maple Leaf tour, made up of with hopes of one day making the World Cup team.

“I think we just need to keep up the chemistry and then bring it up to that level. It’s going to be fun,” Tessier said. “It’s going to be challenging and I think we both enjoy challenges, so I can’t wait to play against England and play with all the other amazing athletes at that level.”