Emily Brown has always been a multisport athlete, competing in a number of school sports along with hockey and fastball.
But it was the introduction of rugby into Stettler High School that proved to be perfect for the Byemoor native.
“We got a new gym teacher when I was in Grade 10 and he was gung-ho to start rugby,” explained the 17-year-old. “It was something new so we all decided to give it a go and I fell in love with it right away.”
And Emily has a good reason why.
“It was the first sport where I could hit and it was OK,” she said with a laugh.
She was also a natural at it. She not only excelled at the high school and (the Red Deer Titans) club level but has already caught the attention of the provincial coaches.
Brown joined the Titans last summer and was part of the an outstanding U18 program. This year she was named captain of the Red Deer/Central Alberta Rugby 7s team which captured the Alberta tournament. She was named to the Rugby Alberta 7s team to compete in the nationals in Vancouver in March where they placed second.
“Playing 7-a-side is certainly different than 15s, but it was fun,” said Brown, who played the wing and saw significant time at the nationals.
“It’s a lot more two-on-ones and high tempo … it’s a shorter game, but you wear out quickly.”
Brown played high school with the Stettler Wildcats and helped develop the sport in the area by helping run school and community clinics. She continued to play some high school sports, but her commitment to rugby meant less time for hockey and fastball.
“I play some rec hockey and ball, but that’s about the time I have,” she said, adding that playing a number of sports helped her development in rugby.
“It definitely played a part,” she said. “In hockey there’s the theory of the game, building muscle and speed and the athletic part while you work on quickness. thinking on your feet and hand-eye co-ordination.”
Emily started rugby at the 8 position in Grade 10, but has switched to fly half.
“It’s certainly different as you handle the ball more … more involved in moving the ball. It was different at first, but I worked hard at adapting.”
It was her coaches, including Titans U18 and senior women’s coach Kenton Poelzer, that brought about the change.
“We noticed she was a sensational ball handler and so made the move so she was more involved in handling the ball,” said Poelzer. “She adapted quickly. She’s such a hard-worker, quick to catch on with a large learning curve.”
That was evident last week when she played her first game with the Titans senior women. All she did was score four trys.
“Getting an opportunity to compete at Division I was a lot of fun,” said Brown. “We have an awesome team and I felt comfortable … hopefully I get an chance to play with them more.”
That she will, along with the U18 Elite team. She would also like nothing more than to make the Rugby Alberta 15s.
“I would like to, but we’ll see.”
Emily, an honour student, does know what her near future holds as she’ll attend the University of Alberta, take kinesiology, while working toward a degree in occupational therapy, and play with the Pandas.
“I talked with the coach a few months back and he was interested in me and sent me a schedule. The U of Lethbridge also was interested but they didn’t have the academic program I wanted, or at least I couldn’t finish it there.”
Danny Rode is a retired Advocate reporter who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org