Red Deer’s Gradyn Bowd ‘pitch perfect’

He’s climbed the rugby ladder to the extent that he’s now reached one of the top rungs.

He’s climbed the rugby ladder to the extent that he’s now reached one of the top rungs.

Actually, for many players, earning a berth on the national men’s rugby team would be considered the top rung. Red Deer’s Gradyn Bowd, however, is hopeful he can take it one step further and perform at a professional level.

Not that Bowd is taking his latest feat lightly.

After winning a national championship with the Calgary-based Prairie Wolfpack in July, he returned to the University of Victoria in September— where he’s enrolled in the education faculty and plays for the rugby Vikings — and recently attended a Canadian national men’s team selection camp in nearby Langford.

As it turned out, the 22-year-old not only won a roster spot, he earned his first men’s international cap last week as the starting flyhalf in Canada’s 33-17 win over visiting Uruguay.

“It’s pretty amazing, actually,” he said this week from Victoria.

“I came back from injury last year and started playing for the Wolfpack and then came out here for school again. I was asked to join the national team and we’ve been training for a couple of weeks now.”

While Bowd didn’t score in last Saturday’s six-country 2016 Americas Rugby Championship match, he set up veteran Phil Mackenzie’s try with a perfect looping pass.

“It was a pretty good result for us actually, because they (Uruguay) had quite of few of their World Cup players,” said Bowd.

“We had six new caps, six guys who had never played for the Canadian men’s team before, myself included.”

The Canadian team is off to Austin, Tex., this weekend for a match against the United States, then faces Brazil Feb. 20 in Langford before departing for South America for matches in Argentina and Chile.

“It’s a pretty awesome opportunity for me,” said Bowd. “With the opportunities coming around hopefully there’s a possibility I can keep playing at higher levels.

“This is definitely part of the stepping stone to getting my name out there and a huge opportunity. Obviously, when you play for your country it’s never a small accomplishment. This is a pretty exciting time for me.”

Bowd has been involved in the sport for as long as he can remember.

“I kind of grew up around the rugby field,” he said. “I was always out there with my dad (long-time Red Deer Titans player/coach/executive Bill) and my family, always having a ball.

“My dad played for a quite a few years until he broke his hip. Now he’s coaching the (Titans) senior women’s team and is the president of the club.”

Bowd played men’s rugby with the Titans at the age of 14 and also suited up with the Lindsay Thurber Raiders high school team coached by Dean Plant. He also played with the Alberta under-16 and under-18 squads, the Canadian under-20 team, the Vancouver Rowing Club and the Sunnybank Colts in Australia.

“I played out of Brisbane for a year,” he said of his time Down Under. “That was an awesome experience, the time of my life. We trained with some pros and got to play against some of them. That definitely helped me get this far.”

While professional rugby doesn’t exist in Canada, a new five-team United States league is scheduled to start this year.

“And Canada is looking to join next year. I’m not too sure of the details, which are still being ironed out,” said Bowd.

If the chance to play at a pro level in North America does not surface down the road, he’ll be willing to take his rugby talents elsewhere.

“There are definitely opportunities overseas,” he noted.”There’s a lot of teams in Europe and some in Australia and New Zealand.”

gmeachem@bprda.wpengine.com

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