They’re nothing but a bunch of Barbarians
When the local Merritt Barbarians Rugby Club takes to the field in Vernon this Sunday, for their very first official game in the B.C. Interior Third Division Rugby League, it will be with a sense of history in mind. Afterall, the Barbarians have been in existance in Merritt in one form or another since 1981 - a period of 30 years!
The most recent incarnation of the Barbarians came into existance last year, largely as a result of the hard work and energy of Ryan Reid, the son of one of the original club’s founding members, Dave Reid.
The younger Reid, who enjoyed club rugby in Penticton for a number of years, wanted to see the game continue to be played locally past high school - as it is in many communities throughout B.C., Canada and the world.
When Reid put the word out there last year about the possible re-formation of a men’s rugby club in Merritt, the response was overwhelming. A host of former Merritt Secondary School Panthers emerged out of the woodwork, along with other rugby enthusiasts who had found their way into the Nicola Valley over the years.
“We have 25-30 players listed with the club,” states Reid, “and hope to have as many as 20 available for our season opener in Vernon.”
Last year, the Barbarians contented themselves with a few exhibition games against Penticton, all of which they won. This year, the team is making the big step up to league play. It’s a progression that Reid is very excited about.
“We’re in it to win it,” Reid said boldly when asked how he thought his fledgling group might fare against the likes of Vernon, West Kelowna and Salmon Arm.
Reid likes the mix on his squad, with wily veterans such as Adam and Ernie Ware complementing the youthful energy of homeboys like Max Heppner and Eric Schmidt. The team will almost certainly benefit from the athleticism of Brian Walmsley from Ontario, who is currently in Merritt as a member of the local fire department’s W.E.P. (Work Experience Program).
The Barbarians’ first home game is on Saturday, April 16 versus Salmon Arm. All home games will be played at Voght Park starting at 1p.m.