Nikki Thomas pursues her love of rugby

Nikki Thomas readily admits she’s nervous prior to trying something new.

But the talented 18-year-old has been able to convert those nerves into positive energy, making her one of the top athletes to come out of Lindsay Thurber in recent years.

“Before I attended Lindsay Thurber what stopped me was stepping out of my comfort zone,” she said. “But Dwayne (Lalor) made me do just that which forced me to take the next step.”

Thomas had all the natural ability and it showed at a number of levels.

In Grade 12 she was named co-winner of the MVP award for girls rugby and basketball and co-winner of the female athlete of the year, along with Hayley Lalor. She shared the MVP award in basketball with Lalor and rugby with Sierra Laye. She shared the rugby MVP award in 2016 with Nicole Baskier and was the Raider’s team award recipient in handball in both 2016 and ‘17.

But it’s rugby that the five-foot-nine, 150-pound Thomas fell in love with and will continue on in, joining the University of Calgary Dinos in the fall.

Prior to graduating Thomas wasn’t positive what road she would take. She was offered an opportunity to continue on in basketball and try out for the RDC Queens.

“Queens coach Ken King talked with me and said I should come out to his club team in the summer and then try out for the Queens,” she explained.

“It was a hard decision but I decided to continue on in rugby and wanted to concentrate on that during the summer, so I didn’t go out for the club team.”

Nikki’s sister, Sarah, is a veteran on the Dinos, making the decision that much easier.

“She talked with her coach about me and he contacted me and we’ve stayed in contact since,” said Nikki.

“It was still hard as I would like to be around home, but I wanted to play at a higher level and also be independent.”

Although Sarah is close to two years older, Nikki has played with her on a number of occasions.

“I got into soccer at a young age because she was playing. For a few years I always played against kids older than me because I wanted to play with Sarah.”

It was in middle school at Gateway, where she expanded her interests, playing volleyball, basketball and handball., which she continued to play in high school along with track and field.

“I was first introduced to rugby in Grade 9 at Lindsay Thurber, but couldn’t play until Grade 10,” she said. “I made the senior (rugby) team in Grade 10 and I got to play with Sarah that one year. I think that was the year I fell in love with the sport.”

The following two years she and Laye were co-captains.

“The first year was great as we had a veteran team and went to the provincials. The next year was tougher as we lost a lot of the girls and had a lot of new people and missed the provincials. But in Grade 12 we went back and it was a lot of fun. Something I really enjoyed, which also helped in making the decision to go on to the Dinos.”

Thomas plays a number of positions in high school and with the U18 Titans and with the senior women’s program on occasion.

“Playing with the women was a great experience as it was the first time I played against older women and there was a big difference as they were bigger, stronger with a faster tempo,” she said. “I was nervous, but it was good. I learned a lot and it will help me when I join the Dinos.”

Thomas is excited to make the move to Calgary.

“I’m working out a lot as I need to add muscle and get stronger as it will definitely be a game I’m not used to playing. I was strong for high school, but I definitely need to improve on that area.”

Danny Rode is a retired Advocate reporter who can be reached at drode@reddeeradvocate.com.

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