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UBC was the site for the inaugural tournament in the fall of 1971. Many changes have taken place over the past few decades, not the least of which is the staggering increase in the financial burden from the 1971 Donn Spence (Thunderbird rugby coach) "sponsorship" of the event. In 2006, a concern over player safety resulted in a longer period of rest between games, whereby game one was played four days before game 2 at various locations.

Anxious to expand its provincial championship program, the B.C. Federation of School Athletic Associations, as BC SCHOOL SPORTS was then called, appointed Bill Westcott commissioner. Only eight teams competed in this two-day event, but the competition was intense. In the championship final, Point Grey took advantage of a ten-man scrummage (which the laws then allowed) to force a Magee offside during extra time. David Whyte's successful penalty kick gave Point Grey an 11-8 victory. During the early years there was both a fall and spring championship. Vancouver and Victoria had traditionally competed during the early part of the school year, whilst the newer schools outside of these areas chose to play in the spring. Growth in the sport, coupled with the pressure to crown only one champion, led to the adoption in 1979 of a single championship. Continued growth led to the dual championships for AA and AAA schools.

The AAA champion receives the R.P. Woodward Shield, named after the man who had been an icon in British Columbia rugby since arriving from England in 1887 at the age of 18. Woodward played, coached, managed and administered the sport for the next fifty years before retiring to the role of spectator until his death in 1957. Donated in 1957 by the BC Rugby Union, the Shield was initially competed for in an informal way, with the coaches of the Vancouver and Victoria champions phoning each other to arrange the game. Some years produced no game because the coaches were unaware of the protocol. That was certainly the case in 1966 when David Thompson School was the Vancouver winner of the New Zealand Shield. The AA championship began in 1991.

The annual championships have not been without a few "glitches" since the beginning. A British Columbia Ferry strike in 1977 caused havoc as tournament organizer Derek Hyde-Lay attempted to hastily fill spaces vacated by schools that had qualified but withdrew reluctantly. Trophies have gone missing, some permanently. Two sportsmanship trophies (named after Bill Westcott and Alan Worsley) and the original second and third place shields have never been recovered since being placed in the care of the winning schools. A province-wide teachers strike in 1987 forced the cancellation of the tournament, and in 1993 a Vancouver schools? dispute resulted in that zone being unrepresented.

With the reduction in available field space being imminent in 2010, a decision was made to move the final three days of the tournament to the Exhibition Ground in Abbotsford where, for the first time, a full slate of referees was available for every game. Kamloops Rugby Club, Brentwood College and St. George’s were the sites for the previous Saturday’s Round One games. Two private schools met in the AAA final when Number 1 seed Shawnigan Lake lived up to its ranking by defeating Number 3 ranked St. George’s at Rotary Stadium. In the AA final, Number 1 ranked Rockridge retained its position but only after receiving a scare from Number 7 ranked Collingwood. 

In 2008, Britannia with only seventeen players, qualified for the tournament for the first time and placed sixteenth. On Day 1, they played with only fourteen against fifteen, because three were attending a funeral service. In the fifteen/sixteen game on Day 4, they played most of the game with only thirteen players against fifteen, except when one received a yellow card. In the seven/eight game on Day 4, when both Ladysmith and Rick Hansen had similar jerseys, one player tackled his own team member when he was about to score.

In 2010, first-time participants AAA Argyle and AA Smithers gave a good account of themselves in finishing twelfth in their respective tiers. In order to assist Smithers and L.V. Rogers, both of whom had to travel much farther than the other thirty teams, adjustments were made to the Day 1 schedule.

In the AAA 2011 quarter-finals, Carson Graham rebounded after trailing 19-0 at half-time to defeat Earl Marriott and then, after leading 19-10 at half-time in a semi-final, they lost to Oak Bay who was defeated by Shawnigan Lake in the final. For the second year in a row, rain prevented the Opening Ceremonies from taking place. The Closing Ceremonies on the last day were shortened to allow spectators and players to see the second game of the Vancouver Canucks vs. Boston Bruins Stanley Cup playoff game.

In 2012, Shawnigan Lake became the first team to win the Woodward Shield four successive times when they defeated a gritty Carson Graham side. Five other schools competed in the Championship for the first time and, in spite of the BCTF job action throughout the province, both AAA and AA divisions fielded a full complement of teams. Pete Tyler completed his ninth year as announcer of the semi-final and final games.

Many highlights over the years are worth recalling, too many to document in this brief historical look at the history. Some of them are:

  • Prince George being reduced to fourteen players for their 1988 final game 
  • The goal-kicking "shoot-out" won by Princess Margaret in 1973  
  • Merritt's three return trips in 1992
  • D.W. Poppy's extra time drop goal in 1992
  • St. George's victory over favoured Oak Bay following a twenty-five minute injury delay in 1993
  • The first Players Banquet introduced by Commissioner John Narbett in 1983  
  • The 1975 entry fee of only $20  
  • Senior and age-grade players who have represented Canada, including Rugby World Cup Captain Mark Wyatt from Oak Bay, as well as Gary Johnston who was Canada's Head Coach (1997-1990) and Assistant Coach (1997-2003)  
  • Norkam's 1983 triumph, after three second place finishes  
  • Prince of Wales "threepeat" 1984-1986  
  • Three officials for each game after 1998, and the revised tournament format in 2006, where other sites around the province were used for Day One games, and Friday was designated a 'day of rest'.  
  • More scholarships available to players
  • In AAA, Kitsilano made it to the final 4 for the first and only time in 2002, whereas Carson Graham has made it every year from 2000-2007, winning it twice
  • In AA, Rockridge has been the gold medal winner from 2004-2007

Since 1971, thousands of players, coaches and organizers have contributed to the ever-growing success of the annual tournament. Some players have gone on to represent their province and their country. All have participated in the true rugby tradition and have been worthy representatives of their school. May the tradition continue in years to come.

Doug Sturrock


Forty-One years of Provincial Championships

Year AAAA Champions AAA Champions  AA Champions
2016 - 2017 Shawnigan Lake Carson Graham St. Michael's University
2015 - 2016 Shawnigan Lake Yale St. Michael's University
2014 - 2015   Shawnigan Lake St. Michael's University
2013 - 2014   St. George's Rockridge
2012 - 2013   Shawnigan Lake Collingwood
2011 - 2012   Shawnigan Lake Brentwood College
2010 - 2011   Shawnigan Lake Collingwood
2009 - 2010   Shawnigan Lake Rockridge
2008 - 2009   Shawnigan Lake Brentwood College
2007 - 2008   Carson Graham Brentwood Colege
2006 - 2007   St. Michael's University Rockridge
2005 - 2006   Carson Graham Rockridge
2004 - 2005   St. George's Rockridge
2003 - 2004   St. George's Rockridge
2002 - 2003   Oak Bay Collingwood
2001 - 2002   Carson Graham Collingwood
2000 - 2001   Oak Bay Collingwood
1999 - 2000   Oak Bay Robert Bateman
1998 - 1999   Lord Byng Collingwood
1997 - 1998   Shawnigan Lake Collingwood
1996 - 1997   St. Michael's University Aldergrove
1995 - 1996   Carson Graham Highland
1994 - 1995   Semiahmoo Glenlyon-Norfolk
1993 - 1994   St. George's Langley
1992 - 1993   Oak Bay Aldergrove
1991 - 1992   St. Michael's University D.W. Poppy
1990 - 1991   St. Michael's University  
1989 - 1990   Oak Bay  
1988 - 1989   Abbotsford Senior  
1987 - 1988   Semiahmoo  
1986 - 1987   No Competition  
1985 - 1986   Prince of Wales  
1984 - 1985   Prince of Wales  
1983 -1984   Prince of Wales  
1982 - 1983   Norkam  
1981 - 1982   Magee  
1980 - 1981   Mountain  
1979 - 1980   Oak Bay  
1978 -1979   Magee  
1977 - 1978   Victoria (May)  
1977 -1978   Magee (Oct)  
1976 - 1977   Victoria (May)  
1976 - 1977   Magee (Oct)  
1975 - 1976   Lord Tweedsmuir (May)  
1975 - 1976   Magee (Oct)  
1974 - 1975   Oak Bay (May)  
1974 - 1975   St. George's (Oct)  
1973 - 1974   Oak Bay (Apr)  
1973 - 1974   St. George's (Nov)  
1972 - 1973   Princess Margaret Senior  
1971 - 1972   Point Grey  

 


BCSSRU Presidents

 2013 - Present  Walter van Halst
 2013 - 2015  Stephen Rowell
 1990 - 2013  Brian Lynch
 1987 - 1990  Douglas Sturrock
 1986 - 1987  Greg Ponsart
 1980 - 1986  John Narbett
 1978 - 1980  Claude Marsden
 1977 - 1978  Tony Whitham*
 1974 - 1977  Bill Turpin
 1971 - 1974  Bill Westcott*

* Deceased


BCSSRU Commissioners

 2015 - Present  Walter van Halst
 2005 - 2015  Stephen Rowell
 1990 - 2005  Brian Lynch
 1987 - 1990  Douglas Sturrock
 1986 - 1987  Greg Ponsart
 1980 - 1986  John Narbett
 1978 - 1980  Claude Marsden
 1977 - 1978  Tony Whitham*
 1974 - 1977  Bill Turpin
 1971 - 1974  Bill Westcott*

* Deceased


Honorary Life Members

  • Don Burgess
  • Ian Busfield
  • Paul Carnes
  • Ken Erikson
  • Marty Godsmark
  • Garth Henrikson
  • Ian Hyde-Lay
  • Blake Lewis
  • Brian Lynch
  • Ian MacKay
  • Claude Marsden
  • Ryan McWhinney
  • David Milne*
  • John Narbett
  • Patrick Palmer
  • Stephen Rowell
  • Owen Schutz
  • Michael Smith
  • David Speirs
  • Douglas Sturrock
  • Bill Turpin
  • Tony Whitham*
  • Henry's BBQ Chicken Company
  • Gary Johnston
  • Dennis Quigley

* Deceased