By Jesse Laufer
Caroline Crossley is a product of Victoria’s ballooning women’s rugby scene, but in some ways she is also the cause.
Her dad, David, remembers the first time he watched her play when she was in Grade 5.
“She was just a ferocious tackler naturally,” he said. “Some people you have to teach how to tackle and contact, but she just did it from the get go.”
A former soccer coach of hers was also in the stands that afternoon. He convinced David to bring her out to mini rugby, and the rest is history.
Last Friday Crossley accepted Rugby Canada’s Young Female Player of the Year award.
“It was such an honour to be able to be with this group of people,” she said. “There’s so many people that could have received that award, like amazing rugby players. So to be picked for that was such an honour. It was definitely very nerve racking (going up on stage). I didn’t trip which I’m very proud of myself for.”
David was ecstatic about his daughter’s award.
“It fills you with parental pride,” he said. “For me I think it is doubly satisfying because I’m not sure she would have still been playing rugby if it wasn’t for us starting a girl’s program and supporting female athletes.”
Even though there was some rugby offered in elementary and middle school, one of the biggest hurdles Crossley faced was the lack of girls only rugby as she got older. Eventually she wasn’t allowed to play with the boys, and her dad points out that it wasn’t safe either. That’s why he started girl’s Rugby Sevens through the Castaway Wanderers Rugby Club five years ago.
At first it only had about a dozen players, but it has since grown to more than 50, with U12 teams up to U18.
The club concentrates on sevens’ as opposed to the traditional Rugby Union Fifteens, but that’s mostly a logistical thing. With twice as many players on the field, it’s twice as hard to fill a roster. Five years later and Crossley has played some top developmental level fifteens, but sevens remains her specialty.
Still, the girls rugby program at Castaways has paid dividends.
She trains with the senior squad about four times a week, and is listed on the national player pool for the senior sevens. She has three caps with the senior squad so far, all of which were in Dubai December 2015. She also has U20 experience in the red and black. Making the Rio 2016 Olympics, the first Olympics to showcase Rugby Sevens, is a not so distant possibility for Crossley, though she’s striving to make the roster in 2020.
If she can avoid injury, she has plenty of time to hone her skills for an Olympics somewhere down the road. She just turned 18 yesterday.