For 50 years the Red Deer Titans Rugby Club has promoted the British-born team sport in central Alberta.
In addition to celebrating the golden anniversary from June 24 to 26 with a weekend reunion and games, the club is working to rebuild its membership after two years of COVID-19.
The focus is on introducing both youngsters and adults to non-contact flag rugby.
“The idea is that everybody can play safely. You don’t have to tackle anyone,” said founding member Norm McDougall, who is also in charge of the flag rugby program, also known as action rugby.
He said the flag rugby for children started at the club in 2021, and this year adult flag rugby will be offered — no experience necessary.
“We really want to build our programs right on through from six-year-olds to 50-year-olds. It’s a lot of fun.”
He said, unlike football, everyone gets the ball in rugby, and there are different ways to move the ball down the pitch.
“When you’re playing rugby, and you have the ball, you have options to run with the ball, pass the ball, kick the ball. I like the sport because you have to think on your feet.”
Registration for the season is still underway, but the club has maintained a strong senior women’s program through the years.
McDougall said one reason it may be more popular for women is that rugby has the same rules for men and women, compared to a sport like hockey where women can’t body check.
“I think it appeals to women because there’s a chance for a physical game. It’s a very big team sport, so players rely on each other to succeed. There’s a social side to it,” he said.
He explained universities have women’s rugby teams and support players with scholarships. Several local female players star on Canadian university teams, and last year two were members of the national team. Paige Farries, of Red Deer, and Courtney Holtkamp, of Rimbey, played for Canada, now ranked third in the world.
“We have awesome women players.”
McDougall said the Red Deer Titans Park, located in the McKenzie subdivision south of Red Deer, has two full-sized rugby pitches and a well-equipped clubhouse.
“Red Deer is definitely one of the well-established clubs,” he said about Alberta’s rugby clubs.
He also noted that rugby is an affordable sport for kids. All they need are shorts and sneakers or soccer shoes.
“It’s an opportunity for kids to get out and run, and pass the ball around, and have fun and get tired.”
For more information about the club’s 50th-anniversary celebration, or register to play, visit www.titansrugby.com.