As the Ridge Meadows Lady Bruins were taking the field for their first game of the spring season in Saturday morning’s sunshine, their team captain and leading scorer was having serious anxiety.
“I’ve never been so nervous before a game in my life,” said Andrea Fouchard. “I was shaking on the sidelines.”
She was coming back from a freak injury suffered last September in Seattle. Diving for a ball, she and a teammate smacked their heads together, and Fouchard suffered three fractures in her face. Her cheekbone collapsed. It was a terrible injury for the 27-year-old.
“It looked pretty funky – sunken in and lumped,” she said glibly.
It was also excruciating.
The “land of the free” does not apply to health care, so Fouchard waited on the sideline until the team returned to Canada to avoid a huge medical bill.
Twelve hours after the injury she finally got a CT scan. The following Tuesday a plastic surgeon realigned the bones in her face, mostly working from inside of her mouth. She said he did a good job.
Fouchard got her looks back, but she still had to get her game back.
“It was a confidence-shattering injury,” she said.
Coach Malcolm Knox said it was a freak injury, but it was severe, and getting back out on the field took a lot of character for Fouchard. She’s is the team captain, and an inspiration to her teammates, he said.
“To have her back for the weekend was amazing.”
The first time she got the ball, Fouchard took off, shifting into some seventh or eighth gear that nobody else on the field had, and scoring a try on a long run. Making it look easy.
She joked that she was fleeing in terror. Or half joked.
This is just her third year in rugby. Two of her best friends have been Bruins since high school, and Lindsay Hill and Bri Railian finally talked Fouchard into trying their sport.
It turned out the longtime volleyball devotee had a rugger inside of her that was dying to get out.
She was born for the game. In 15 games during her last year she scored 160 points on 32 tries.
“There’s no substitute for speed in rugby,” said Knox. “She’s notorious in B.C. for her speed.”
“Her scoring rate is incredible. Her attitude and humility is incredible.”
Within the first 10 minutes of Saturday’s game she had scored two tries, and she finished the day with three.
In her great comeback game, the Bruins ran over the Surrey Beavers, winning by a score of 61-5.
Fouchard loves the spirit of rugby – like going a cold one with the opposition at Ridge Brewing after a hard-fought contest.
“I love the camaraderie that comes with it. I’ve got another family in my teammates – in my Bruins.”
Fall season outlook
The Bruins have been a strong team, and they are getting reinforcements from a strong senior girls rugby program at Maple Ridge Secondary.
“This spring some young players are coming up and doing incredibly well,” said Knox.
One notable is Faith Fitzpatrick, who gives the already fast Bruins another speedy back. Fitzpatrick has been selected for the provincial Under-18 sevens team.
He said the Bruins should again challenge for a league championship.
They will be back on the field on Feb. 4 at 11:30 a.m. at Thomas Haney secondary, and the men’s third division team will play at 1 p.m.