White Rock rugby player Izzak Kelly was recently selected to play for Canada’s U18 team. (Contributed photo)

White Rock rugby player raising funds to cover national-team costs

‘Gentle giant’ Izzak Kelly selected to play for Canada’s U18 team

A White Rock rugby player with talent nearly as big as his six-foot-six frame is aiming to raise funds so he can continue to play at the sports’ highest level.

Izzak Kelly, a key member of Earl Marriott Secondary’s senior boys rugby team and also a member of the Bayside Sharks, was recently picked to play for Canada’s under-18 boys team, which is set to travel to Phoenix, Ariz. for the North American 4 Series that runs from Dec. 27-Jan. 3. In the spring, the national U18 team is also scheduled for a European Tour.

At the North American 4 event, two Canadian teams will participate – Canada Red and Canada White – alongside two U.S. regional squads, USA West and USA East.

Both events, of course, come with price tags attached, which is why Izzak and his mother, Leeanne – a single mom – have spent recent weeks fundraising any way they can, from bottle drives to selling chocolates. Recently, a GoFundMe page was also set up, with a goal of raising $5,200.

“It’s just been Izzak and me since he was born,” Leeanne told Peace Arch News.

“At this stage, for Izzak, to play at this level, it’s pay-to-play, and I don’t want him to not be able to play for Canada, just because my income isn’t enough. We’re just trying to do our part.”

As of Monday morning, the online effort had raised $315, and Leaane said “we’re just so grateful” for not only that, but other support from the community, in supporting their various fundraising efforts.

“The community has helped us so much,” she said. “People really want to see Izzak (succeed).”

Since first stepping onto the rugby pitch in Grade 8 at EMS, the hulking teen has had plenty of success. He’s a key member of Marriott’s team – the high-school season is still a few months away, yet EMS coach Adam Roberts is already brainstorming ways to get the most out of his talented senior – and has experience with other provincial and regional teams, too.

“He’s an absolutely huge kid – massive – and I think he’s just starting to grow into his body and really figure it all out. You just don’t get a lot of high-school kids that size who can move the way he can,” said Roberts.

“He’s so intimidating out there… nobody wants to tackle him. But off the field, he’s such a gentle giant.”

Izzak – who credited his coaches at all levels for helping him get to this point in his rugby development – said the recent selection to don Canada’s colours was a great honour. It’s also recognition that his hard work has started to pay dividends, and that his game is truly rounding into form after just four years playing the sport.

“It’s nice that I’m being noticed… all my hard work is starting to pay off,” said Izzak, who played hockey and lacrosse before joining the EMS rugby program. “It means a lot to me.

“Previous to this last year, people would see me and say, ‘Hey, that’s a big guy,’ but I really didn’t know how to use my size (to my advantage). Now, it’s all kind of come together – size, speed, all that stuff.”

The GoFundMe page can be found at www.gofundme.com/he-made-team-canada-rugby

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