The Fort St. John boys' rugby team wraps up its regular season today in Grande Prairie when they take on Peace Wapiti Academy, and while the team's season hasn't been a winning one, it's the regional growth of the game that's important.
The team is only in its second year after a 10-year hiatus, and Fort St. John as well as other northern rugby teams, are looking to expand their presence, and their chances, at provincials next year.
According to Fort St. John rugby coach Clayton Woodruff, there is only one berth in the North to advance to provincials. This year, Smithers was the only northern team to go to the AA B.C. Secondary Schools' Rugby Union (BCSSRU) provincials currently being held in Abbotsford, and many northern teams didn't get a chance to compete for the opportunity.
"They're hoping to get another berth for the North [for provincials]. It's such a vast area, it's hard to get together to compete," Woodruff said. "The intent of some of the north western teams like Prince Rupert is to get another berth so we can get together and playoff [for provincials]."
"We didn't even get to playoff for the Zone; we just went to this tournament [in Vanderhoof]."
While rugby teams like Fort St. John and Dawson Creek are relatively new and not necessarily successful compared to long-established southern B.C. teams, when they combine forces, the Peace Region has proven it can hold its own and possibly vie for a spot at provincials in the near future.
Female players from Dawson Creek and Fort St. John have been playing as a united regional team this season, and have gone undefeated in the regular season.
Meanwhile, the two boys teams created a Peace Region team to compete in Vanderhoof last weekend where they also went undefeated against northwest B.C. teams over five games with a record of 3-0-2.
"They named us Peace Country for the tournament and I think it was a really good weekend for Peace Country rugby overall," said Dawson Creek coach Shaun Henry.
"[There's] lots of success and growth as players and lots of building a good rugby community up here."
The Northern Interior Zone for BCSSRU currently consists of Caledonia Senior (Terrace), Charles Hays (Prince Rupert), Columneetza (Williams Lake), Houston, North Peace and Smithers with Dawson Creek (South Peace) not even listed.
Five of the six Northern Interior teams faced off over the weekend in Vanderhoof at the North District Rugby Championships while Smithers was already in Abbotsford for AA provincials.
The five other teams didn't get a chance to compete for the opportunity.
Creating another berth for such a wide area seems to make sense to Woodruff and other north western rugby coaches since there are "so many teams in such a wide area."
Whether or not the North will get another berth as the sport of rugby grows will have to be put forward by North Interior clubs and ultimately determined by the BCSSRU.