Rising rugby star making a name for herself in Esquimalt

The first time Emily Parker saw men playing rugby, she thought to herself “Why would anyone play that?”

Sixteen-year-old Emily Parker competes in a rugby tournament in the Fraser Valley. This is the Esquimalt High School student's third year playing with the school's rugby academy.

Sixteen-year-old Emily Parker competes in a rugby tournament in the Fraser Valley. This is the Esquimalt High School student's third year playing with the school's rugby academy.

The first time Emily Parker saw men playing rugby, she thought to herself “Why would anyone play that?”

Parker was watching her sister’s soccer game at Windsor Park in Oak Bay when she saw a team of men playing the sport. It was her father who initially suggested she try it.

“I thought no way, that’s going to be too crazy for me because it was a huge contact sport,” Parker said.

“I noticed the men were hitting each other really hard. I looked at my dad ‘do you really want me to play this’?”

It wasn’t until Grade 9 at Esquimalt High, after Parker discovered the school operated a rugby academy, when she decided to give it a go. In her first game, as soon as she touched the ball she scored a try.

Since then, the rising athlete hasn’t looked back. For the past three years, Parker has been playing fly-half with the academy and the Castaway Wanderers Rugby Club.

Rugby, she says, has become a part of her.

“Rugby is a part of me. I really feel it in me,” said the 16-year-old Grade 11 student, adding she also likes the team aspect of the sport.

“You don’t work by yourself, you work together to get what you want to get done. You’re not playing individually, you’re playing together.”

The school’s rugby academy practices everyday (right now, they’re focused on skill development, fitness and training) with the season starting with practices in February and games in April.

Over the summer, she played Junior Tide rugby, and was scouted to play in Toronto at the youth Canadian Rugby Championships, where the team earned a silver medal.

What sets Parker apart from her peers, said Esquimalt High’s athletic director Mike Thompson, is her determination, laser-sharp focus and competitiveness. She also has excellent ball-handling, passing and field-awareness skills.

“She knows where she needs to be in relation to what’s happening with the play. When there’s a breakdown on the field, she knows where she needs to be and she’s always in the right spot,” Thompson said. “Her field awareness is outstanding, she’s definitely miles ahead there.”

But rugby isn’t the only sport she excels at.

Parker also played soccer for 12 years (this is her first year not playing the sport), and continues to play basketball and lacrosse.

While she admits, playing multiple sports does have an affect on her social life, Parker believes her hard work will eventually pay off, as she hopes to score a rugby scholarship in the future.

“I’d rather focus on sports and getting a future rather than just wasting my time,” she said.