Canadian rugby players bid World Series adieu, focus on 2021

There was an air of inevitability to the news among Island players on the Canadian sevens rugby teams.

The remainder of the 2020 World Series season has been officially cancelled with standings leaders New Zealand awarded the men’s and women’s championships.

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It was hoped the remaining tournaments, including the women’s Canada Sevens at Westhills Stadium in Langford, could be salvaged. But the pandemic put paid to those hopes.

“It’s not unexpected,” said Canadian player Pam Buisa, a graduate of the University of Victoria Vikes.

“I believe everything happens for a reason. Now this is all about resiliency on our part.”

The Canadian women’s and mens’ teams, both qualified for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, had already absorbed the fact their Olympic dreams have been deferred to next summer. It was a forlorn hope that anything could come of the remainder of this season.

“It’s not a shock. More of a formality. We were expecting it,” said Pat Kay of Duncan, a player on the Canadian men’s team.

The Canadian women placed third while the men finished in the top-eight overall following a home-field podium performance in the Canada Sevens at B.C. Place in March, the last tournament to be held.

“We saw it coming but this makes it real,” said Canadian women’s team player Caroline Crossley of Victoria.

The players are working out in small groups at the national training centre in Langford in accordance with the current phase of the B.C. return-to-play guidelines.

“It’s hard to find motivation but I’m the fittest I’ve ever been running because that’s about all I have been able to do,” said Crossley.

“We’re in the gym now in small groups and slowly getting back.”

A small core has remained on the Island since the shutdown with all the national-team players expected back in Langford from their hometowns by the end of this month. It’s a gradual return but with anything approaching normal still a long way off.

“We are respecting the guidelines but it’s tough to be creative,” said Buisa, who has used the time away from the field to help organize the Victoria Black Lives Matter rally in Centennial Square last month.

Buisa and Crossley have also raised money for families in need through the pandemic through their Vancouver Island Steps Up community relief fund.

“While it is very disappointing for players, fans, organizers and everyone involved to have to cancel these events due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, the health and well-being of the rugby community and wider society remains the No. 1 priority,” said World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont in a statement.

“These difficult decisions have been taken following detailed consultation with our union partners and in line with advice from the various government and public health agencies around the world, given the global nature of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series. As we begin to see light at the end of the tunnel, 2021 has potential to be a very exciting year for rugby sevens with the Tokyo Olympic Games on the horizon.”

That Olympic horizon is a long way off yet. The Canadian players know next July is a thousand years away in term of COVID time.

“I am not even thinking that far ahead yet,” said Crossley.

“I am not going to deal with that until I have to.”

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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