A year ago, Dylan Benudiz was unfamiliar with the finer points of competitive rugby. He was a hockey guy who didn’t mind a little body contact, so when his buddy, Jake, suggested he might be suited for the rough and tumble aspects of rugby, Benudiz agreed to give it a try.
It turns out Jake was right: Benudiz, 14, was pretty good at the sport. He made the team at Bill Crothers Secondary School in Unionville, Ont., and helped the Colts win the York Region Athletic Association (YRAA) championship.
He played so well as a rookie that his coach suggested he try out for the provincial team. After surviving a number of tryouts, Benudiz was named one of 49 players selected to Ontario’s Under-15 team.
Forty members of that group were chosen to travel this week to Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, New Brunswick and Quebec for a series of exhibition games.
“It’s exciting,” he said last week. “I never dreamed of this.”
While in Quebec, the Under-15s will train with the Under-16 team, who are preparing to participate in the national championships. If Benudiz wants to play in a national event – and he does – it’s something that will have to wait until next summer when he’s older.
Though he’s been at it only a year, Benudiz has fallen in love with the game. “Rugby is one of my favourite sports now,” he said. “I enjoy how it’s played and organized. When you’re in the full game, you’re not by yourself. You’re with 14 other guys protecting you. They’ll never leave you alone – they’ll always try to support you.”
Benudiz plays “hooker,” the guy who wins the ball for his side during a scrum, when 16 bigger guys lock arms and push each other back and forth.
“I’m in the front row, where the main pushing is. I have to find the ball and hook it back to my teammates… You don’t get as crushed as you might think.”
At five foot eight, 150 pounds, mixing it up with the bigger guys might not be such a good idea. Better to stick with his own strengths, which are his quickness and his playmaking abilities.
“I’m sort of fast and can run to the ball faster and see the whole field,” he said. He also rates his passing as pretty good and “I have good judgment for the scrums… I enjoy all aspects of the game. It’s not all about contact – it’s more about the teammates helping you and you helping your teammates to score.”
Benudiz credits the coaching he received at Bill Crothers for helping his development, as well as training with the older boys at school.
He expects to continue to play for the school this year, but he’s already planning for next summer, when he hopes to be a part of the Under-16 team and compete for Ontario at the national championships.
And he hasn’t given up the hockey. He’ll be back with the Vaughan Rangers this winter as well.