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Macleod players join Alberta at nationals

Rugby players Walmsley and Kinsella

Ruby Kinsella and Cassie Walmsley of Fort Macleod will play for Alberta in the national rugby festival in Quebec

Two young Fort Macleod women will represent Alberta on the national stage this month.
Cassie Walmsley and Ruby Kinsella earned spots on the U-18 Alberta team travelling to Quebec for the national rugby festival.
“It’s great to be able to represent our province doing something we love to do, at an elite level,” 17-year-old Cassie said.
Ruby Kinsella, 17, said it is exciting to wear the Alberta colours.
“I get really pumped whenever I get to wear them,” Ruby said. “I feel special, like I’ve achieved something. You don’t just get to buy it, you earn it.”
The two F.P. Walshe Flyers competed in regional playdowns and caught the eye of provincial team coach Liam Hutchinson.
Flyers teammate Amanda Hofer was named to the reserve team but will not travel with the squad Aug. 6-10 to Sherbrooke, Que. unless there is an injury.
Ruby and Cassie have represented Alberta in the past.
Two years ago Ruby made the U-17 team. A knee injury sidelined her last summer.
Cassie also played two years ago on the U-17 team and last summer was part of the U-18 team that competed at the national festival.
“It’s like nothing else,” Cassie said of the national festival. “It’s amazing. There are so many elite players there. To be able to compete among them and to be grouped in with so many elite rugby players is amazing.”
Ten teams from British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Newfoundland will compete in the U-18 women’s tournament.
The teams play preliminary round-robin games, with the top teams advancing to the medal round.
Cassie and Ruby said it is difficult to know how well Alberta will do at the national festival, since the team will have had just six practices when it leaves Aug. 6 for Quebec.
“Our coach says we’re coming home with a gold (medal),” Cassie said with a laugh. “We definitely have the skill set to pull it off.”
Ruby, who is entering Grade 12 next fall at F.P. Walshe school, agreed.
“We’ve just got to figure out how to put it all together,” Ruby said.
One of the key components of putting it all together is for the athletes on the Alberta team to trust each other.
The athletes must understand that everyone on the team is capable of playing at an elite level, so everyone must concentrate on doing one’s own job, and not trying to do too much.
“You know that every single player on your team is at an elite level and you can trust them to perform,” said Cassie, who in June graduated from F.P. Walshe school.
Ruby agreed. “There is no thought in your head other than every player on your team is worthy of being there.”
Playing with elite players means getting more chances to show what you can do. Players are more skilled overall than in the high school league, so the plays are more developed.
The speed of the game at the national level is also a change from high school rugby.
“Everything is fast-paced, hard-hitting,” said Ruby, who will be fullback with the Alberta team.
The level of play is also more technically advanced, as well as mentally and physically demanding.
Players have to come to every game ready to put everything into it, or they will not be able to compete.
Another challenge is becoming a “team” in such a short period of time.
“That’s going to be our biggest struggle is coming together as a cohesive unit and performing,” said Cassie, who will play scrum half or fly half for Alberta.
Ruby and Cassie are hopeful the experience will help them develop leadership skills, build teamwork skills and develop other components necessary to compete at a high level.
Both players would like a shot at playing for Canada in future. Former F.P. Walshe players such as Paige Burdett and Brittany Orr have shown them it is possible.
“You see the girls from Fort Macleod who went to play for Canada,” Ruby said. “That makes you want to be like them, to achieve what they achieved.”

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