Rugby, a tradition at St. George’s

St. George's 1st XV 1952

St. George’s is one of the largest and most respected independent schools in Canada. An English gentleman, Captain F.J. Danby Hunter, in 1931 established the school. Despite the economic depression, Hunter succeeded to appeal investors and incorporate his school as a private company. More prominently, he was able to appeal to twenty-five boys by the time the school began on January 7th, 1931. Hunter unfortunately was an indifferent teacher and a poor financial manager. He did not have a good relationship with his staff and his Board of Governors curdled. In March 1933, he resigned and returned to England.

Soon after, John Harker, a former Rugbian was hired as the schools’ headmaster in 1932. Harker put the school on a firm balance, reestablished the assurance of investors and parents, and increased enrollment. He also instilled the school with the spirit of philosophy and characterized Rugby, one of the oldest and most famous public school sports in England.

“When I took over here, I automatically tried in a modest way to inculcate something of the fundamental quality of Rugby in St. George’s,” Harker said, who served as St. George’s headmaster until his retirement in 1962.

Ever since John Harker served as the headmaster for St. George’s, rugby has only grown into what St. George’s is now known for. Rugby has been a part of the school for 81 years now, since 1933.

In the latest edition of The Saint; the magazine of St. George’s School, Mr. Palmer had this to say about the tradition of rugby at the school. “Anyone familiar with St. George’s will recognize the role and value of traditions at a school like ours. Traditions guide us, provide continuity, and create a framework within which people can explore change with a degree of comfort and confidence. There are many traditions at Saints, and they add value to the rich tapestry of events and programs offerings here: the uniform, Remembrance Day, Hamper Drive, House Supper, The Annual School Fair, and Prize Day to name a few. One cannot talk about traditions without including Rugby.”

St. George’s offers many different sports, but none of them tie back as far as Rugby. There have been countless students playing Rugby on the Saints pitch, and nothing else can compare.

“I was quite nervous moving from France to Canada in 2011. I had been playing rugby ever since I could remember and in France rugby is taken very seriously. I wasn’t sure of what to expect here in Canada at St. George’s, but I heard the school took rugby very seriously. It wasn’t until I arrived here in grade 9 where I really realized how seriously rugby is actually taken. It also amazed me how many students actually play rugby as well. This year there were over 70 boys playing rugby in the senior program, it is almost impossible to find that anywhere else in BC,” said Ben Scher, a student in grade 11, who has a stern passion towards the sport.

Marc Levin, the school’s current Sports Captain, had this to say: “Coming to Saints I knew that the tradition of rugby was one that was very important. Not only did I feel an obligation, but a duty, to carry on the tradition with as much success as possible. There is a reason why every year the 1st XV jerseys have the number of years that rugby has been played at Saints on the back. That is to remind the current players that yes, they are playing for themselves and the 14 other boys on the pitch, but more-so they are playing for the 80-odd years of 1st XV’s that came before them.”

John Hosking, the current Rugby Captain, says that “Saints rugby is more than a sport. Over the past five years of Rugby at Saints, I’ve come to realize that everyone involved, from the coaches and the training staff to the players on the field, has made me the person I am today. Through all my ups and downs at St. George’s, my release has been Rugby – every time you step on the pitch you leave everything on it. I’ve devoted myself to Saints Rugby, and its values of team first and camaraderie have taught me everything I know.”

It is evident that Rugby is much more than just a sport to the students who play. It is simply a way of life, a way to forget everything that went on before and a way to simply cut out all distractions when stepping foot onto the pitch.

In the recent magazine, Georgian Ben Grant speaks of his experience with the rugby tradition at Saints by saying, “St. George’s students who played during Mr. Toy’s tenure as Headmaster were particularly lucky, because he exemplified determination. His involvement with Rugby instilled that quality in the culture of the Rugby Program. It’s something that I would consider to be appropriately emblematic to St. George’s broader identity. When I reflect on my time at St. George’s, Rugby is at the forefront. I quickly became aware of the significance of the sport of Rugby including its storied tradition and the details about those who had contributed to its prominence.”

Not only is Rugby a key foundation to the development of recent students, but also past Georgians who still remember their rugby experience at Saints to this day. Many past Georgian’s have even gone on to represent their country at the international stage such as Mike Chambers ’53, Barrie Stubs ’56, Tim Cummings ’60, Thomas Fraine ’63, Angus Stewart ’69, Robbie Greig ’72, Barry Leigh ’72, Andrew Bibby ’75, Patrick Palmer ’80, Ian Cooper ’87, Richard Bice ’88, Stanley McKeen ’00, Tyler Hotson ’03 and Conor Trainor ’07. The recent success of the St. George’s 1st XV winning the Provincial Title and last year’s 1st XV coming oh-so-close only proves that rugby is and will continue to be an enormous influence on the school, students and past Georgians. It is also apparent that we will be seeing many more Georgians representing their country in the future as well.