The Brock Badgers Women’s rugby team began a period of rebuilding, restructuring and development for its program when Brock alumni Stephanie Pavlovich was announced as the new head coach last March.
“I am looking forward to stepping into a role that allows me to give back to a program that provided me with so many positive experiences. My goal is to continue Brock’s tradition of excellence by developing high calibre student-athletes within the rugby program,” said Pavlovich when she was named the new head coach. Pavlovich knows there are many methods a coaching staff can employ in order to bring sustainable success to a rugby
program, one of which is consequential investment in young talent.
One player who has already
contributed strong offensive play and who will prove to be an integral piece to the restructuring and developmental phase for the women’s rugby team is Niamh Haughey. The first year kinesiology student and under-18 team Canada rugby player came to Brock University as a well established and highly decorated student athlete. Haughey began her athletic career in Dublin, Ireland where she lived from the ages of 8 to 11. In Ireland, Haughey played Gaelic football, a sport which combines elements of rugby, volleyball and basketball, for the Dublin junior team, an experience which allowed her to tour the country representing her city. When Haughey came back to Canada she began playing hockey and progressed to play in the PWHL for the Etobicoke Dolphins.
“When I got into rugby it wasn’t even my choice. I had never played rugby until grade nine, I was committed to hockey at the time. My gym teacher told me I was coming out to play for the team and I ended up having a lot of fun. I started at fly half but now I usually play wing or outside centre,” commented Haughey.
Many of the skills required to excel in Gaelic football were easily transferable to rugby and it didn’t take long for the Scarborough native to find success in her new found sport. During her high school tenure at Cardinal Newman, Haughey achieved MVP awards on both 15’s and 7’s rugby teams in grades 9, 11 and 12. In her final year of high school, Haughey led her team to OFSAA where they made it to the final day of the provincial tournament. For her talent and leadership, Haughey was then awarded senior athlete of the year.
Haughey’s overwhelming talent on the pitch caught the attention of several scouts who showed interest in the young player.
“I was close with my coaches and every year they told me who was looking at me. St. Francis Xavier University was looking at me and team Ontario followed me all four years of high school. Then Dan Valley invited me to a national 7’s tryout and I made the team,” recounted Haughey.
She would go on to train with team Canada and travel to Lyon, France in early September to compete on the international stage. Haughey, a rookie on the team, played in victories against the Netherlands, Portugual and Spain and contributed a try in Canada’s win over England. Ultimately, Haughey and team Canada would obtain a bronze medal in the tournament.
“It was something I’ve never felt before, being in France, you knew why you were there. We were all there for a reason. We trained every day leading up to tournament and we were focused. When the weekend rolled around and there was a Canada flag on your jersey it felt so surreal because you knew you were representing your country. I was very proud of myself and all the work I put in to be where I was and I wanted to do the best that I could for everyone back home,” said Haughey.
After the French tournament, Haughey began playing in this past OUA season where she proved to be an ineffable asset to the Badger defense as well as a productive member of the team’s offense. Overall, Haughey has scored three tries in her first season which helped the team make a playoff appearance where they were knocked out in the first round against the Western Mustangs on October 15 in London.
When asked what is the most important thing to keep in mind while playing on a team that is developing its program, Haughey responded, “to not give up whether we lose games or things aren’t going our way because we still are growing as a team. If we keep pushing ourselves and each other we will eventually get the outcome we want. That will come with progress with everyone on the team.”
Coach Pavlovich has also acknowledged that successful programs take time and effort to establish and it is something every player on the Women’s Brock rugby team has been working towards this past season. It is also important to note significant contributions from the forwards on the women’s team who have been speedy and physically dominant all season long. Their enforcer style of play was the lynchpin in both of the teams’ wins this season over the Waterloo Warriors (33-12) and the Laurier Golden Hawks (48-0).
It will take a team effort to achieve the level of success that they want, but for now Haughey is part of the
beginning of a new era for Brock Women’s rugby and the future is bright.