For the first time since the 1980s, Durham College will have a rugby team.
Students overwhelmingly voted in favour of new programming, which included adding a rugby squad, during a referendum last year. Although the team will not join the Ontario Colleges Athletic Association (OCAA) until the 2018 season, the Lords will play a handful of friendlies this fall in preparation for joining the OCAA the following season.
“We’re excited to welcome rugby back,” states Durham College athletic director Ken Babcock in a news release. “Students have been asking to have rugby return as a varsity sport and we are pleased to be able to do this. The Durham Region has a history of rugby success and the addition at the collegiate level here will only grow the game further locally.”
The women’s program will play sevens, while the men will play the traditional 15-player game.
Chris McKee has been named head coach of the women’s program, while the search is still on for a men’s coach.
“There are so many good rugby players in this area and that go to this school and it’s got such a great history of sports at Durham and I think it’s about time” states McKee. “There’s lots of really good programs at schools from Pickering to Bowmanville, up to Brock High School, it’s some great rugby and there are lots of good players that come out of this areas. Having rugby so close, from a club point of view, is great because there’s a bunch of really good athletes, rugby players that are really close so we can try to get them out to play for our men’s and women’s teams.”
McKee joining the Lords continues to add to his long coaching résumé. He currently coaches the Uxbridge Secondary School varsity girls, as well as the senior and junior girl’s sevens. With the varsity squad, he coached them to 2014 and 2016 LOSSA championships and a OFSAA bronze in 2014.
The Uxbridge sevens squad has also seen a lot of success under McKee, appearing in four consecutive LOSSA championships and most recently a provincial title.
At the club level he continues to be involved with the Ontario Blues U-20 girls team, who were 2016 national champions, as the forwards coach. He also coaches U-18, U-16, senior women and all sevens programs offered by the Oshawa Vikings Rugby Club.
“We’re one of the oldest clubs in Ontario, we’ve got a great tradition,” he states. “As we speak right now we probably have the best junior program in the province – both girls and boys, the women’s team has had great success.”
Training camp and tryouts for the Lords rugby program will take place in August. Further details, including dates and times will be released soon on www.durhamlords.com.
Rugby is the first sport to be introduced at Durham College since men’s and women’s golf, which was re-introduced in 1997.