Ridge Meadows Bruins Rugby player Josh Ladd got the chance to play his first game for Team Canada this summer and is looking forward to pulling on a Maple Leaf jersey again.
Ladd played for the new Canada Wolverines, who play Rugby League, in their biggest game in their young history.
It was played in Hawaii, in Aloha Stadium, where the NFL hosts its annual Pro Bowl, so it was always going to be a memorable first trip. And then there was the opposition.
Rugby fans know how imposing the Fijian side is, and that was Ladd’s opponent in the first game. He admits to being a little nervous. Fiji doesn’t need to do a Haka war dance like New Zealanders to intimidate their opponents. Observers said it would be an accomplishment if Canada could keep Fiji under 50 points.
“There are some big boys, and they’re all fast. And they’ve been playing since they were little kids – like us in hockey, so it all comes naturally,” said Ladd, who brother Andrew now plays for the New York Islanders and has twice won the Stanley Cup.
By the second half the nerves were gone, and the rugby team’s play improved.
Josh Ladd almost crashed his way to a try in his first game, getting wrapped up just a few yards from the goal line.
Canada lost, but the 26-12 margin was closer than expected, and raised eyebrows in the rugby world.
It was hailed by the coaching staff as a proud day for the Wolverines.
“Canada is on the rise in rugby, as a whole, no matter what rules you play by,” said Ladd.
He was back with the Ridge Meadows Bruins for their big win on Saturday afternoon, and the 26-year-old said he loves playing social rugby with the third-division team. But he also gets the opportunity to play rep rugby at the provincial level, and the Wolverines have indicated he will get more opportunities to play for them in the future.
Rugby League is a version of the more popular Rugby Union game played in Canada. It is intended to be faster, and rucks and mauls have been eliminated from the rules.
Josh said he gets a lot of questions from sports fans about his hockey-playing brother, who was captain of the Winnipeg Jets and won Stanley Cups with the Chicago Blackhawks and Carolina Hurricanes.
“He has been one of my biggest role models, seeing how hard he works, and his passion.”