International sport returns to Burnaby with a showcase for women’s rugby league

The Canadian women’s national team journey to the Rugby League World Cup in England this fall made a stop in Burnaby in mid-April for a three-day training camp and two games with players from the United States. The camp and games at the Burnaby Lake Rugby Club (April 13 to 17) marked the first international test match for the Canada Ravens since 2019 and a first trip to the north for the USA Redtails’ national and development teams.

Alanna Fittes of Edmonton, who plays fullback for the Canada Ravens, says this camp was an exciting opportunity to see players from across the country come together for the first time since the start of the pandemic. “It’s been very challenging to train at home alone, so it’s amazing to be around your team.” Fittes has high praise for Burnaby and the facilities at the Burnaby Lake Rugby Club. “The city is so welcoming. I just love being in Burnaby, it’s so beautiful and green.”

Canada Ravens Head Coach Mike Castle says the facilities at the Burnaby Lake Rugby Club are well looked after. “It’s just great and the fields are immaculate,” he says. “This is our first national camp of the year as we prepare for the World Cup this this fall. This event is all about providing our players with an opportunity to learn more about rugby league, develop as an athlete and build some stronger connections with each other.”

This was the first time across the border for the USA Redtails as the women’s rugby league program in the United States is new. “Being in Burnaby is an important step as we develop a growing pool of players in the United States who can compete on the world stage,” says USA Head Coach Ady Cooney. “It is a huge honour for me to lead this group of talented women into battle and they are equally proud to represent their country on an international stage. The goal is to keep building towards earning a spot for the USA women’s team for the 2025 World Cup.”

The Redtails’ Samantha Black-Keels from Tampa, Florida says “its absolutely wonderful being in Burnaby.”  Back at home, her team often plays on soccer and football fields, so she appreciates training and playing on fields dedicated to rugby.  Black-Keels says the livestreaming of the matches in Burnaby will help provide more exposure to the sport. “Rugby is a unique sport. There’s a place for everyone on the team and gives women a chance to be in a contact sport. It’s powerful and you feel like you’re going to war with all your friends when you step onto that field.”

Fittes agrees and calls the sport “really special, where anybody with any ability can play and showcase how good they are as an individual.”

The 2021 Rugby League World Cup, with 61 matches across England, was to take place last fall. But because of the pandemic, it’s now scheduled for October 15 to November 19, 2022 featuring women’s, men’s and wheelchair competitions. The Canada Ravens will compete in the women’s tournament and United States has qualified for the wheelchair tournament.

Results – April 16, 2022 Burnaby Lake Rugby Club

Canada Selects win 30-10 over USA Selects

Canada Ravens win 42-10 over USA Redtails

Watch here.

For more information: CRLA – Canada Rugby League Association Official Website

Photo Credit: Daniel Usher Photography, @Danielusherphotography

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