A local rugby player is making history this weekend.
Phil Mack, a former player with the James Bay Athletic Association, is the first Canadian to compete in his 50th World Rugby Sevens Series tournament in Las Vegas this weekend.
“It’s definitely pretty special,” said Mack, while on his way to the tournament. “It’s a big milestone and I’m pretty proud of the achievement.”
Mack, who plays scrum half, made his sevens series debut in Hong Kong more than a decade ago in 2005. Since then, he has registered 956 career points and hopes to become the 13th player in series history to score more than 1,000 points.
Team Canada head coach Liam Middleton said Mack has built up the perfect combination of talent and knowledge of the sport to be successful on the field.
“The world series is an incredibly competitive competition. It’s hard on the body, it’s very physically and mentally demanding and demanding of the very best talents that you have,” Middleton said.
“For Phil to have played in 50 tournaments is a testimony to his physical, mental and technical talent.”
The 30-year-old began his rugby career 15 years ago at Oak Bay High School. He credits his school coaches with instilling a life-long passion for the sport.
“We had a pretty passionate high school coach that ran a pretty successful program at the school. It was one of the sports that was leading the way at the school so it was an easy decision,” Mack said, adding he also played soccer at the time.
It wasn’t until after high school that Mack decided to take on rugby full-time. He joined the James Bay Athletic Association’s men’s team and after several successful seasons, joined the Team Canada sevens team in 2006.
But his career hasn’t been without challenges.
In both 2010 and 2013, Mack was sidelined for more than half a year after having knee surgeries for a torn ACL.
But he persevered, training hard and was eager to hit the field again.
“The unique thing about sevens is that there’s a lot of travel. You get to go to various countries around the world and you get to do that alongside some of your best friends and comparing where you measure up against some of the best in the world,” Mack said.
Team Canada is heading into the tournament sitting 12th in season standings. The team is coming off a season-best performance in Australia where they claimed the Bowl title after defeating Wales, Scotland and Samoa.
Heading into the sevens series, Mack hopes to remain focused on the tournament at hand to set his team up for success in the inaugural Canada Sevens at B.C. Place in Vancouver from March 12 to 13.
Victoria’s Mike Fuailefau and Sean White were also named to Team Canada’s roster to compete in the series.
The HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series tournament takes place in Las Vegas from March 4 to 6. Team Canada will take on hosts USA, South Africa and Wales in their pool.