Women’s Rugby Preview: Building Off a Successful Season

Stingers Looking to Continue Recent Success With New Young Players

A healthy Jenna Thompson will be key to the Stingers’ success this season. Courtesy: Brianna Thicke
Veteran Frédérique Rajotte returns from competing in the Women’s Rugby World Cup ready for a new season with Concordia. Courtesy: Brianna Thicke
Alexandra Tessier will be one of several Stinger veterans looked upon to acclimate new recruits to the next level. Courtesy: Brianna Thicke

After a strong season that saw them qualify for the national tournament, Concordia’s women’s rugby team comes back with a strong foundation to work from.

“Obviously we did really well during [last year’s] regular season” said head coach Graeme McGravie. “The aim is always to qualify for nationals and we did that so I think overall [it was] a pretty successful season.”

After qualifying for nationals, the Stingers lost their opening game, but went on to end the season on a high note by winning the consolation round.

Still, it doesn’t seem like the team is satisfied to rest on their laurels and be content with where they are. The goal this year is to go even further than last season’s success and build off that experience.

“I think our expectations are to win every game every week, to win the Quebec championship this year” said McGravie, whose end goal is to see a championship banner raised by his team.

McGravie’s team had a taste of success at nationals last season, which has only whet their appetite for more.

“With the returning players it won’t be difficult to know that [nationals] is our goal, that’s where we wanna be. It’s our job now to instill it in the younger players that are coming in” said returning player Jenna Thompson.

Thompson and her coach share an enthusiasm for what may be the weapon that gets the Stingers where they want to be: fresh young talent.

After having graduated more than ten players from a year ago, one might think the team would be worried about who could fill those spots. Luckily for McGravie and his team, they have plenty of strong options. After an offseason with a focus on recruiting impact players that fit right into his system, McGravie is confident about a batch of young players coming in.

In particular, McGravie thinks fans should watch out for Shawna Brayton, a new recruit from Dawson College who he describes as a “bright star” for the team. Brayton, who has represented Canada at the U18 and U20 levels, should have no trouble fitting on a Stingers team that she’s always wanted to play for. She learned the game beside Stingers stars Frédérique Rajotte and Alex Tessier.

“That’s where I learned how to play, how to pass, how to catch. I learned how to play the game with Tess and Fred,” said Brayton

Now, Brayton is looking to crack the regular lineup next to the athletes she learned with and even have a crack at rookie of the year. McGravie is also confident that a group of new recruits out of Alberta, a traditionally strong Rugby province, could infuse key talent onto his team. On top of his new recruits, McGravie sees a big opportunity for some returning players to take on bigger roles.

“I still have some girls who have been sitting on their bench and biding their time quietly for the last two to three years so this is a real big step up for them” said McGravie, who hopes some of these players can get on the field every week.

The team has already set their sights on being the best by beating the best. “The goal is obviously to win and not to lose to the [University of Ottawa] Gee Gees,” said Brayton.

The Gee Gees are a top team with plenty of recent success to show for. This makes them a difficult target.

Just like his players, though, McGravie is looking forward to the toughest competition.

“We’ll be circling Ottawa first and Laval second, those are the two big games of the year for us” said McGravie. “Going to McGill to start is gonna be pretty sweet.”

“I still believe bragging rights in this city still means a lot,” he added.

With big goals in mind, the Stingers are not without a plan. McGravie sites a bigger commitment to fitness and learning the teams systems as important ways the team will aim to improve from the first day of camp. His players know that bringing a strong defensive game from day one will also be a major asset.

“A strong defensive team wins games. If we focus on our defense skills, the tackling, the integrity of our defense line, that really gets under people’s skin and messes teams up” asserted Thompson who played through last season with a torn ACL.

McGravie summed his plans up succinctly.

“We’re going to be a little more dynamic and a little more physical than we were last year. I’m excited for camp to start so I can see that live.”