Rugby tours are the essence of our sport. It’s how I got interested in the game and it’s a large reason why people stay involved at all levels of the game.
My first taste of the touring life was at the age of 15, when my high school coach Mr. Kirk Robertson arranged a tour to Wales and England for our entire rugby program. That was the first of 2 tours (the 2nd was to Scotland) I went on in high school and I was hooked. On that trip we watched Wales play France at the old Cardiff Arms Park, and I’ll never forget the feeling of being in the crowd. I doubt that it directly had anything to do with my eventual success on the pitch, but it definitely helped to give perspective to the possibilities available to all rugby players.
From there, I’ve been lucky enough to represent our fine country in both 7’s and 15’s, and had the opportunity to play abroad. I know for a fact that all rugby players, whether a 3rd division prop in Quebec or a Top 14 winger, all have a sense of the touring side of the game. And regardless of the level of play, they would jump at an opportunity to travel to a new location and experience both the rugby and culture (read: beer) of the locals.
Regardless of the trips you have been a part of, or the touring sides you have hosted, if you are involved in rugby, you will know the bonds which can be created and friendships which can come from the rugby touring experience.
The Dog River Howlers are taking this concept to greater heights than most have in Canada, and have started to reach out to some of the smaller and more obscure (rugby) places in the world. The often quoted motto of “it’s more than a game, it’s a way of life” is something the Howlers founder Karl Fix actually believes in. And quite frankly, it’s the reason this club has been successful both off and on the pitch.
Fixy for those who know him IS in reality larger than life. If he ever asks for your email address, you may want to think twice about it (or increase your message limits) before accepting. His unrelenting stream of communication has in part helped to solidify this touring side as a legitimate squad which plays at an extremely high level.
While the team does not officially play a role in the NSMT setup, it does provide players a place to represent themselves on a bigger stage and thus be considered for higher honors. For old guys like me, it give us a chance to hang on kicking and screaming to the ‘glory’ days of international 7’s rugby, but the reality is that there are a number of guys who are competing for national team places (both in 7’s and 15’s) who also play for the Howlers. This in itself can only be good for the game in Canada. In my eyes, the more places that young guys have to go to get recognized, the better.
From an off field perspective, most would have heard of the charitable work that Karl coordinates, but I’ll guarantee you that there are few rugby organizations who will make the time and effort to leave the places they visit better off than when they arrived. This type of ethos is the foundation of Karl’s team and I assure all who are involved (players and supporters) strive to maintain that air of respect and integrity for the places we go.
As I prepare for the Howlers trip to Vegas, I get a sense that the team is growing in stature. The teams that we will face in Vegas are either full international sides, or high level rep teams like the Howlers. If we can compete and continue down this road, there is no telling to what heights this team can achieve.
Also, with the Rugby World Cup looming on the horizon, I’d like to take the time to give thanks to all who support the Howlers club and rugby in general in Canada. Without your unending support the game would not be where it is today.
See you in Vegas,