HISTORY OF THE CAPILANO RFC WOMEN'S PROGRAM by John Langley
[ed. if you're interested in the history of women's rugby in Vancouver in the 70's and 80's check out this article by Dave Pearcey
written by John Langley
The last 20 years of Capilano Women’s Rugby is quite a story. What a success story it has been! The Women have made the Capilano Club and their fans very proud. Also what a contribution our players have made to the success of the Canadian National Team. Placing three starters in Andrea Burk, Hilary Leith and Mandy Marchak on the Women’s World Cup of Rugby Silver Medal winning Canada team and the Dream Team in 2014, was remarkable. This silver medal was the highest finish of any Canadian Rugby team, Women or Men, in International 15’s competition and was an amazing feat.
The Canada Internationals from Caps are very thankful to the Club, the Alumni and the Snowcaps for the generous financial support that helped make it all possible. Hilary said she would not have been able to do without this support. The other players have made similar comments. In a similar fashion to the Capilano Men, the Women are mostly locals but some players from across Canada and abroad have added strength and talent. Carson Graham has been the primary feeder School but other North Shore schools such as Argyle have also added talent.
A North Shore News story by Andy Prest from 2002, with a picture of Erika Shand now Smortchevsky, entitled “The Perfect Season” outlines how the Capilano women, captained by Lauren “Stumpy” Cashato, went on an undefeated tear and won 12 straight games and were promoted to the Premier League of BC Women’s Rugby. This accomplishment helped put the Capilano Woman’s program on the map and established the club as a power in BC Woman’s Rugby. The Women won their first Provincial Championship in 2002-03, then again in 2009-10 and the latest in 2019. I don’t have details about all of the Cup wins but the 2002 was a decisive win over United 52-8. United had beaten Capilano 30-12 in the final regular season match and this was quite a turnaround. Caps had a number of players return from the U-20 Canada National Team and with others coming back from injuries the team jelled at just the right time. They had struggled somewhat during the regular season with injuries and Canada call ups and were down to 50% strength. The playoffs though were a different story. Caps knocked off first place and number one seed Burnaby in the semi finals then overwhelmed United. Capilano was led by Hilary Leith, Andrea Burk and Erika Shand with two tries each.
Erika was the first Capilano Canada selection but she was followed by a host of other up to and including this past fall season of 2021. The following is a list of Capilano players selected to play for Canada: Erika Shand Smortchevsky, Mandy Marchak, Aiden McKinnon, Heather Jacques, Rania Burns, Hilary Leith, Darcy Patterson, Andrea Burk, Gillian Boag, Mikeila Nelson. Hopefully no one has been missed.
In another NS News story Hilary Leith explains how she convinced Mandy Marchak at a young Canada rugby camp, to move from her home in Winnipeg to join the Capilano RFC. Mandy moved, became a star player for Capilano and Canada and stayed in BC. Hilary and Mandy later played in the English Premiership the top Women’s league in the world and were well thought of.
Coaches: The Capilano Women have had many coaches over the years and they have had a positive affect on the teams. The Capilano men have also provided a number of assistant coaches that have likewise helped raise the calibre of play. The current coach Demi Stamatakis is off to a good start. Demi was a star player who had her playing career cut short by injuries but brings much enthusiasm to the game and we wish her continued success.
The Capilano Provincial Championship in 2019 was a major upset. Westshore was heavily favoured having gone through the season undefeated. Caps came out flying and ran up a decisive lead at the half. Westshore roared back and took the lead late in the game. Caps fought back and were awarded a penalty kick that was knocked through by Macy Munson. Macy was the Caps leading scorer throughout the season and scored tries in bunches as well as doing a stellar job kicking. The Caps had two players yellow carded and finished the game two players short. They scrapped hard and managed to hang on and win a thriller 20-19.
This win put the Capilano Women in the National Women’s Club Championship in Toronto in August, 2019. Despite not playing since the Provincials in May Capilano won the Championship defeating Charlottetown 39-14 and the Quebec Champions Club de Rugby de Quebec 34-19. Capilano was given the chance to pick up players from other BC clubs but Melissa Robinson put it this way “ That has never been our style, we will win or lose as Capilano’s”. Caps only addition was Andrea Burk who had moved to Toronto to pursue a broadcasting career. Andrea had always been a Capilano and was a welcome addition as an impact bench player. A couple of Capilano regulars were unavailable, due to work so it was great that Andrea Burk was available. Caps started their regulars in both games rewarding the regulars for their support throughout the season. Andrea was brought on at the half in the semi final game and made an immediate impact. In the final against the Quebec Club she came on midway through the first half following an injury. She was also very helpful in developing a defensive strategy to be used against the Quebec team who were impressive in their win over the Ontario champs. Caps were able to shutdown the wide ball that Quebec had used so successfully in their previous game. The Capilano RFC name will be on the trophy as the first winner of this new competition. What a great honour for our Club. A great memory for all of the players involved and the Capilano supporters.
The Capilano Women have set an amazing standard for future Capilano women players. They are currently hoping to put two teams on the field and could use a few more players. This is a great opportunity for young women to join a great club and continue the legacy that has been established by the past and current Capilano Women.