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Rugby’s unlikely centre of attention: Langford, B.C.

The nation’s locally based rugby program held its first annual awards dinner at the Westin Bear Mountain on Saturday.
Maria Samson and Tyler Ardron are the 2012 national 15s rugby team players of the year.

Rugby Canada’s Langford factory is now producing a full line of products.

The nation’s locally based rugby program held its first annual awards dinner at the Westin Bear Mountain on Saturday.

Of the dozen award winners, seven were players who’ve trained regularly with the under-20 and senior national teams at Rugby Canada’s Centre of Excellence at City Centre Park in Langford.

It’s all part of Rugby Canada’s newly established development model, with players coming through the provincial channels and into the under-20 and senior national programs at the COE.

Tyler Ardron was named the men’s 15s Player of the Year.

He is quick to attribute his success to the amount of time he’s spent on the Island in the past few years. For Ardron, a former McMaster Marauders CIS rugby player, it’s meant relocating to Langford full time, twice.

“When I came out in 2012 I didn’t know where to live,” Ardron said. “Now there’s about 10 of us who live in Langford. And it’s starting to catch on (with the community), people recognize me now.”

Though the men’s and women’s national programs have been more-or-less based in Victoria for over a decade, having players living in Langford is a new phenomenon.

Next for the COE is a dormitory to house players for short and extended training camps, though Ardron was unsure about staying there over the long term.

“I don’t know how that will change things but it will be very helpful to players coming here for the first time.”

The 21-year-old captained Canada to second place at the 2012 Americas Rugby Championship hosted in Langford back in October. Since then he completed a full semester towards his economics and finance degree at McMaster University in Hamilton and is now back in Langford, continuing his studies online, while preparing for a massive summer schedule on Canada’s sevens and 15s teams.

Ardron’s 15s Player of the Year counterpart is Maria Samson, a second rower from Calgary.

Eleven of the trophies are brand new. Prop Hubert Buydens, a former Castaway Wanderers player, won the resurrected Canadian Shield, the national 15s

Player’s Player of the Year award, as voted on by his teammates. The Canadian Shield was last awarded in 2006-07, shared between World Rugby Cup veterans Morgan Williams and Pat Riordan, who both played club rugby in Victoria.

Also winning awards on Saturday were Jen Kish and John Moonlight winning the respective women’s and men’s sevens Player of the Year trophies.

Bianca Farella and Lucas Hammond were named the respective Young Player of the Year (under-20) awards. Coach of the Year awards went to Chris Silverthorn (male) and Jen Ross (female). The Match Official of the Year is Andrew McMaster and the Provincial Union Award went to the Federation de Rugby du Quebec.

Volunteer of the Year Award went to Dean Kittleson of Calgary, Alta.

“The players will get their recognition, so it’s really important to recognize everyone that makes the game happen, the volunteers, referees and administrators,” said Gareth Rees, manager of the men’s 15s team.

“(The awards dinner) is something that can become an annual event.”