Toronto Scottish soldiers on, in spite of struggles

Rugby troupe Toronto Scottish, of the Ontario Women’s League, calls Yonge and Eglinton its hub, but there is a problem in drumming up interest among the kids of North Toronto.

While practising on the field at North Toronto Collegiate in mid-July, team captains, flyhalf Linda Manzo and tighthead prop Fiona Boyd, along with new head coach Ken Forsyth, shared some of the obstacles the squad faced in this year’s campaign — one that ended with a 1-9 record.

After years of being atop the OWL, the Scottish are faced with the threat of being relegated. With so much of the talent taking their rugby game to the national level, new systems have had to be introduced, says Forsyth, who has also coached Seneca College’s team.

“A lot of the better players have moved on to Canada,” Forsyth said. “Once they play for Canada their commitment to the club disappears, because they are expected to be at the national level.”

Five key players have left the Scottish for the national program, women’s director Manzo said.

“These past three years we felt the brunt of their absence and so we’re really relying on our junior players to fill in those gaps,” she said. “Recruitment is still a challenge because we find that a lot of the juniors aren’t as committed to rugby, because they’re still committed to being young.”

What has helped the Scottish in dealing with the recruitment problem is the Toronto Inner-City Rugby Foundation. Additionally, Manzo, a teacher at David and Mary Thomson CI, and Boyd, a teacher at Earl Haig SS, have brought on some of their former students.

“I really like getting to play with the kids that I teach,” Boyd said. “It’s really special.”

The lack of representation from the closest schools, Northern SS and North Toronto CI, has been explained as having connections with other leagues.

“They’re linked with other clubs that haven’t done much with their junior program,” Manzo said. “We’re always putting word out there, but everyone’s a bit territorial about their kids and where they play.”

While the team is still gelling with their new coach, and grapples with the threat of being relegated to the league below, they enjoy a good gathering after practice at the Duke of Kent, on Yonge at Roehampton.

“These ladies do a really good job on the social side, and the enjoyment aspect,” Forsyth said. “The whole attitude of the whole club is really good.”

Toronto Scottish (By the Numbers)

May 10: Waterloo County @ Waterloo County L 5-34
May 24: Aurora Barbarians @ Fletcher’s Fields L 5-53
May 31: Yeomen Lions @ Sunnybrook Park L 7-27
June 7: Toronto Saracens @ Fletcher’s Fields L 15-55
June 14: Oakville Crusaders @ Fletcher’s Fields L 24-37
June 21: Waterloo County @ Fletcher’s Fields L 10-98
July 5: Aurora Barbarians @ Fletcher’s Fields L 12-53
July 12: Yeomen Lions @ Fletcher’s Fields L 26-39
July 19: Toronto Saracens @ Fletcher’s Fields L 5-25
July 26: Oakville Crusaders @ Crusaders Park W 93-15

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Posted: Aug 13 2014 6:00 am
Filed in: Sports
Edition: Toronto