As Canadians, our European heritage has provided us with many cultural and sporting legacies. Hockey is all our own, but football is traced directly back to rugby – one of the toughest games on the planet. Unlike like Europe’s other sports gift to us – soccer, which features more diving than the Olympic Summer Games – rugby is not a game for the faint of heart.
Here in NDG, there is a local club just getting its feet off the ground that is hoping to grow the game in our community.
Off-Sidel caught up with Montreal Exiles exec Murdoch Fitzgerald:
Off-Sidel: What was the motivation for starting this club?
Fitzgerald: We’ve all been playing rugby in Quebec for many years now with success, and all of us have very strong roots in NDG. We all knew that we’d want to eventually give back to the sport that we love and expand the game in Quebec, so we established the club. NDG has a growing young population and a strong sense of community – the primary ingredients for a successful club of any type.
Off-Sidel: What is the main goal of bringing this club to NDG?
Fitzgerald: Aside from a desire to succeed on the playing field, we would love to have a club with strong links to the community. We’d love to have a level of support that brings people together on sunny Saturday afternoons for some barbecue and great sports entertainment.
Our vision is that this is something that families enjoy together and for Montreal Exiles to become the club where mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters and friends will all celebrate each other’s successes.
Off-Sidel: Why are people so passionate about rugby?
Fitzgerald: Rugby is to sport is Facebook to social media. Many of us have lived in different countries and cities, and the first thing we’ve all found ourselves asking in any new town or city is “where’s the local rugby team?”
There’s an automatic camaraderie and bond that is formed when you play a contact sport, especially one like ours that is for all shapes and sizes, men and women, young and old. The best friends you can make and often the best connections professionally are made through this sport. The moment you join a rugby club, you instantly have a community of new friends that you can count on.
Rugby can change a person for the better and as a new club with a large collective rugby background, we’d like to pass on all of these traditions. Rugby is truly the best sport invented and we just want more people to enjoy it.
Off-Sidel: What is the calibre of players coming out to your club?
Fitzgerald: Coached by John Lydiat, a former international player from England and NDG resident, the Exiles are already represented by people of varying nationalities who have at the Quebec provincial level. Three of them were privileged to be in the only Quebec team in the past 15 years to beat Newfoundland in Newfoundland, and some have played at the national and provincial levels in their native countries.
There is quite a bit of combined experience on our club, however in accordance with our reasoning for starting a new club in NDG, we also have many new players to the game and welcome more every day.
We also have a fledgling junior team that pulls from local schools and has talent at every level, from absolute beginners to Quebec representatives.
The goal however isn’t to just have some flagship, “franchise” players, it’s to have an all-inclusive club that offers a means for everyone aged one to 100 to enjoy the game.