Three years ago the Chuckanut Bay Youth Rugby club was in the talks of having an Australian tour in the future.
On Monday, April 6, the rugby team will finally see it come to fruition.
The U-17 team for the club will play four games throughout the tour. The first game will be in Hawaii against a high school team. Then the team heads to Australia to play the West Brisbane Bulldogs, Toowoomba Bears and Maleny Bushrangers.
The Chuckanut Bay club has hosted teams in the past, but now the club gets the opportunity to travel.
“Rugby has really taken off (in Bellingham) recently,” Chuckanut Bay Youth Rugby assistant coach Todd Vasey said in a phone interview. “What rugby has is the sportsmanship portion of the sport. We’ve had kids come from around the world — New Zealand, England, Wales and Scotland have come through.”
Youth rugby players who are sophomores, juniors and seniors in high school will have the chance to experience the rugby culture in a place where rugby is the dominant sport. Australia has been the world champion twice and a runner-up another year, Chuckanut Bay Youth Rugby coach Peter Witecki said in a phone interview.
Twenty-three players will travel with the team to Australia. While in Australia, the players will be staying with the families of the opposing team, showcasing the sportsmanship that encompasses the sport.
“It’s a great opportunity for the kids to go travel, experience other parts of the world and see how rugby is played in different regions,” Witecki said. “A lot of these kids have never had the opportunity to leave the continental United States.”
During the two-week trip, the club will watch the Brisbane Broncos, a professional rugby team in the city. The team also gets to have a practice session with the Broncos while in Australia.
“The tours aren’t about winning. It’s about learning the culture of rugby from different areas,” Witecki said. “I expect the boys to come back as better players and also understand rugby is more than just the field. It’s a whole culture.”
This tour for the Chuckanut Bay club, which is now 40 years old, will be the farthest tour the club has had and the first tour taken by a youth team in the program.
Even though the team only has three practices together and one scrimmage before it takes off for Australia, Witecki doesn’t expect the players to be rusty. Most players have been involved in a rugby league and are currently playing every weekend.
The one thing Witecki said will make the team better is the amount of time spent together developing team chemistry while experiencing Australian rugby culture.
“There’s nothing more bonding for a team than spending a long period of time together,” he said, “I expect the kids to becloser after a tour like this.”