An enthusiastic coach, Rob Norton, with some intense recruiting at the high schools and a progressive club executive are what laid the foundation for the Pirates women’s rugby program.
In the summer of 1995, a group of girls battled together in an exhibition season and fielded the first ever Pirates women’s team. High school rivalries, new teammates, and experienced oppositions were just some of the obstacles this team managed to overcome.
In 1996, after the success of the exhibition season, the Pirates R.F.C. entered a 2nd division women’s team into the league. Slowly, our program began building, our numbers started to increase and our success on the field began to improve.
In 1999, the first junior women’s U-18 team was fielded. In 2001, the women’s program took its biggest step forward and entered a 1st division team into the league. The timing was right; we had the numbers, the skill level and some experienced players had moved to our club.
For a developing program, we have had considerable success within the league. The 2nd division team earned playoff spots in the 1997-1999 and 2002 seasons. The 1st division team earned a playoff spot in 2002, after only two years in the division.
Individually, the women have also had considerable success. Eight players have represented the club on the Edmonton junior and senior rep teams, while ten players have represented the club on the Alberta junior and senior rep sides. Most impressively, four players have been invited to attend national training camps: Chrissy Piquette, Randi Ross, Heather Denkhaus and Heather Thomlinson.
The women’s team has thus far been coached by a total of five individuals ~ Rob Norton, Rich Wirsta, Sid Fontoura, Matt Parrish and Maxi Miciak. Each of them provided a unique perspective into the game of rugby, but most important, each has helped to instill a love of the game and competition into our players.
As a team, the women have had the unique opportunity to host four foreign players over the various seasons. Joe Hull, Rebecca Newcombe, Elaine Lamonde and Iona Frickleton have all spent memorable summers with us. Their rugby skills have helped contribute to the team’s success on the field, but it is their personalities that have created lasting friendships.
The women are a team that has been built around a solid core of players many of whom are still playing. The players are constantly working to ensure their future, a cycle that is evident when one sees players that have been coached by current teammates returning to their high schools to coach future teammates. The women have been supported by the men of the club from the start and strive to do the same for them. The reality of this becomes most evident when one notes that to date, seven Pirate women have married seven Pirate men and have produced five future Pirates!
2003 – Women’s 1st Division Team
Back row – Chantel Parkin, Randi Ross, Kirsten Leigh-Balance, Kathy Andrews, Andrea Murrie, Rhonda Seiban, Cheryl Cassie
Front row – Crystal Sinclair, Kim Reiter, Kathy Yu, Stephanie McFayden, Terri-lynn Pincombe, Tenaya Price (kneeling), Delacey Robbins, Candace Mergle, Michelle Winton, Nadine Kellman
Their success on the field really offers only a glimpse into the real story of the Pirate women. The “pink panty,” “on the pill again” and “beauty pageant” tour themes are truer reflections of the Pirate women. From after practice “pops” to the Wench Cup, they have always believed that it is the club’s social traditions that build the camaraderie and friendships, which allow them to perform on the pitch. Memories of events such as Saskatoon Snow Seven’s, the annual treks to Fort McMurray, the “got fat in Canada” pub-crawl and the countless sightings of the “Tipper Moon” all bring a smile to ones face.
As we celebrate our fiftieth year, the Pirates have two men’s teams (2nds and 3rds), two women’s teams (1sts & 2nds) and one junior team (U-19).
Pride ~ Heart ~ Tradition, are words that must be used when describing the teams of the Pirates Rugby Football Club, with no exception.