Ethan DeRidder-Potts of the Lindsay Thurber Raiders bursts through a pair of tackles against the Notre Dame Hounds of Saskatchewan at the 12th Annual Cougar Rugby Classic at the Collicutt Centre on Friday. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)

12th annual Cougar Classic attracts top rugby talent

Rugby, it seems, is on the rise in Central Alberta.

The Collicutt Centre has been home to a budding tournament for the last few years, as the new location of the annual Rugby Cougar Classic, hosted by Notre Dame High School.

It’s the 12th edition of the tournament this weekend, with five boys’ teams and eight girls’ teams competing.

“Every year it has been better than the year before.

“We try and get some of the best teams in Alberta, B.C. and Saskatchewan,” said Notre Dame athletic director Ian Rattan.

“It gets some high-quality rugby to Alberta which is awesome to see. There’s a lot of good players and it’s nice to get more games in.”

Both the Notre Dame Cougars and Lindsay Thurber Raiders are competing on the boys side, along with Sturgeon, the Notre Dame Hounds of Saskatchewan and Holy Trinty.

The Raiders, who won the tournament last year, went 1-1 on Friday to open the tournament.

In the girls draw, the Lindsay Thurber Raiders, Notre Dame Cougars and Rimbey Spartans are the Central Alberta representatives. The Raymond Comets are back, who won the title last year against the Notre Dame Hounds, who are also back in 2019. W.R. Myers, Sturgeon and Paul Kane are also at the event in the girls draw.

“We don’t really have to invite anybody. It’s more or less, you’re coming back. Raymond has been coming for 12 years, Notre Dame Sask. has been coming for 12 years, if anything it’s teams saying we want on the wait list so if a team drops, they can get it. They see the quality of teams that come,” said Rattan.

He added that the tournament is the same format as provincials with two games on Friday and one Saturday, which helps teams prepare for that challenge. With the Alberta Schools Athletic Association Rugby Provincials set for the second week of June, this event is a crucial tune-up for the big show in the midst of a short season.

“It’s a really short season so it’s just nice to get these kids a chance to play some of the top teams in the province and even Western Canada,” Rattan said.

The girls final is set for 1:30 p.m. Saturday, with play starting at 10:30 a.m. There is no final on the boys side, but play gets underway at 9 a.m. and continues until 4 p.m. Saturday. For the schedule, check out sites.google.com/rdcrs.ca/cougarclassicrugby/home?authuser=0

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