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Dauphin players to compete at nationals

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Four Dauphin rugby players will suit up for the Prairie Blizzard U18 teams for the 2017 Canadian Rugby Championship in Calgary, next week.
Carly Ryz, Kalee Dyck and Kaila Stratuliak were all selected to play for the U18 women’s team, while Brayden Tomchuk will suit up with the U18 men’s team. Former Dauphin Clipper Gabby Robbins, who’s family moved to Souris earlier this summer, was named a non-traveling reserve for the women’s tam.
The Blizzard consists of players from Manitoba and Saskatchewan.
Dauphin native Shawn Sarkonak, who now lives in Brandon, is co-coach of the women’s squad. As a referee at the high school level, Sarkonak has been able to watch Ryz, Dyck and Stratuliak play in recent years and he has been able to develop a relationship with the players as a coach at the provincial level.
“Kalee Dyck has played for me for the last three seasons now and she just keeps continuing to grow as a player with her game knowledge, her tackling ability and just overall keenness to keep learning the game,” he said.
“Kaila is in the same boat. She played last year for me in 2016. She impressed me right from game one that I saw her play with the Dauphin Clippers and she just continued to get better and better. And Carly Ryz, she came out and started playing in the regional 7s program for me last September. And just with her size and her speed and her overall aggression, she’s a big, fierce mobile front row player and I look for big things from her out in Calgary.”
Being a referee allows Sarkonak to scout players for the provincial program. Being on the field gives him a better view of what is happening than if he were limited to watching from the sidelines.
“As a referee, you’re there at the breakdowns with the rucks and you get to see the scrumming ability with the forwards and how they get their body positioned. With the movement of the play from sideline to sideline, you get to see their running lines and just how they notice the play develop from start to finish,” he said.
Growing up in Dauphin and playing nine years with the Dauphin Mavericks, Sarkonak is a proud supporter of rugby in the city. Since taking over the U18 provincial women’s program in 2011, he has had at least one player from Dauphin on the team.
“It shows the commitment to the game and the athleticism that’s there,” he said.
This is the inaugural season for the Blizzard. The idea is to take the best 24 players from the two provinces to nationals. Ideally, they would like to have an even split, but this year’s squad consists of 14 players from Manitoba and 10 from Saskatchewan.
The Blizzard, Sarkonak said, has size, speed, athleticism and skill and will be a force to be reckoned with.
“We’re in a pool with Nova Scotia and Alberta and I think we will be able to compete with both those teams. And once they’re done finishing the seeding rounds after the round-robin, we’ll look to, hopefully, be able to take on Ontario, B.C., or Quebec and see how we match up against the bigger provinces,” he said.
The Canadian Rugby Championships runs, Aug. 14 to 20.
The Blizzard’s first game is Aug. 15 against Alberta.

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Doug Zywina
REPORTER
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