Last month, Bayside Sharks junior director Andrew Fiddis predicted that touch rugby – which the Semiahmoo rugby club was rolling out – would be an unequivocal success.
And early returns across the province suggest he was right.
While the South Surrey/White Rock club was the first in the province to launch its touch rugby program – which splits players and teams into strict cohort groups – BC Rugby announced earlier this week that clubs from across the province have followed suit, and are “embracing COVID realities.”
More than 3,400 players have returned to the rugby pitch throughout the province, and more than 30 clubs have had their return-to-play plans sanctioned, according to a news release. Current return-to-play protocols only allow for touch rugby, flag rugby and “modified training sessions.”
“While numbers were slow at first, clubs are now seeing success in welcoming returning players, and even some coming back out of ‘retirement’ for the non-contact games, as well as many newcomers,” BC Rugby said in the release.
News of touch rugby’s popularity comes as little surprise to Fiddis and others at Bayside. In September, the Sharks launched the new, non-tackle endeavour, with Fiddis telling Peace Arch News that not only was the program borne out of necessity, considering the pandemic, but would continue into the future, COVID notwithstanding.
“We’ve built it so it can be sustainable going forward. We think it’s going to be super popular,” he said.
This week, he reiterated that the program – which has continued to run smoothly, with protocols in place – “has been a big success for Bayside.”
In fact, the program has been so popular that the club had to add a second cohort league to accommodate all interested players.
“We have players that have never played rugby before as well as players who haven’t played in years coming out,” he said.
Bayside plans to run three separate touch-rugby seasons per year. The current session ends in November, but planning is already underway to run a second season from January to March of 2021. After that, another round of play would run from April until early summer.
“We fully expect the numbers will continue to grow with each new season,” Fiddis said.