By Mariana Echeverri Alvarez, Communications Coordinator

The world of rugby is buzzing with excitement as the sport prepares to make its debut at the Manitoba Games and to return to the grand stage of the Canada Summer Games in 2025. 

For the rugby community, these events mark significant milestones, promising thrilling matches, new opportunities for athletes, and a chance to showcase the sport.. 

We had the pleasure of speaking with the Team Toba Female Head Coaches Joanne Fraser and Kathleen Muirhead, who are leading their teams at these multi-sport events. Their insights offer a glimpse into the dedication, passion, and community spirit that defines rugby.


From Player to Coach: Joanne Fraser’s Journey

Joanne Fraser, one of the head coaches for the women’s rugby team, started her rugby journey later than most.

“I started playing when I was 21,” Joanne recalls. “My cousin was a member of the rugby team, and after watching her play, I decided to give it a try.” 

This decision sparked a lifelong love for the sport.

Joanne’s coaching career began with high school teams, gradually expanding to youth rugby as her own children took up the sport. 

“This year, my daughter is eligible for the Manitoba Games,” Joanne shares with excitement. “It’s thrilling that this is the first time rugby will be at the Manitoba Games. It’s a big stepping stone for the sport.”

The focus for the Manitoba Games is on inclusivity and development. 

“We want to get as many girls out there trying the sport and having a great time,” Joanne explains. 

The Canada Games, however, will see a competitive edge, with only 12 athletes making the final team. 

“Our coaching staff will start identifying players who could be good candidates for the Canada Games during the Manitoba Games,” Joanne adds. 

“We don’t want to close any doors. Even if they don’t make the Canada Games team, they’re still developing their skills.”


Kathleen Muirhead: A Life of Rugby

Kathleen Muirhead’s rugby journey began in 1987 when she was introduced by a friend of her sister-in-law. 

“I went out to a practice and was hooked,” she says. 

Her transition from player to coach was a natural one, driven by a desire to give back to the sport that had given her so much.

“I’m a big fan of paying it forward,” Kathleen emphasizes.

Coaching presents its own set of challenges, particularly in a geographically dispersed region like Manitoba. 

“We have players from all over, from Swan River to Steinbach,” Kathleen notes. 

However, she sees the upcoming Manitoba Games as a perfect opportunity to see the talent.

“It’s a nice transition because we can see all these athletes playing sevens,” she says.



Dispelling Myths: Rugby’s True Nature

Both coaches address common misconceptions about rugby, particularly the perception of it being a violent sport. 

“If you understand the rules and how we teach athletes to tackle safely, it’s really not violent,” Joanne clarifies. 

“It’s a well-controlled physicality,” Kathleen agrees, noting that once players give rugby a try, they’re often hooked. 

“Rugby has so many facets to it—strength, speed, endurance, mental toughness, and teamwork,” she explains. “For the most part, kids love the contact and the challenge.”


The Rugby Community: A Second Family

One of the most compelling aspects of rugby is its strong sense of community. 

“The rugby community is so close-knit and welcoming,” Joanne says. “It’s almost like a little family.” 

This sentiment is echoed by Kathleen, who highlights the camaraderie that extends beyond the field. 

“Rugby has a lot of camaraderie that I haven’t seen in other sports,” she notes. “You build an environment that’s fun, engaging, and challenging.”

Both coaches emphasize the importance of making practices enjoyable and mentally stimulating.

“I like making practices engaging and challenging,” Kathleen says. “I ask players a lot of questions to keep their brains engaged.”


Looking Ahead: The Future of Rugby in Manitoba

As the countdown to the Manitoba Games and the 2025 Canada Summer Games begins, the excitement is palpable. Joanne and Kathleen are ready to lead the team, foster new talent, and promote the sport they love. 

“We’re really looking forward to the Manitoba Games coming up in just six weeks,” Joanne says. “It’s amazing to see the sport growing.”


Join the Rugby Revolution

Rugby is more than just a sport; it’s a community, a challenge, and a source of lifelong friendships. 

As Joanne and Kathleen prepare the team for the upcoming games, they invite everyone to experience the joy and camaraderie of rugby. Whether you’re a seasoned player or new to the sport, there’s a place for you in the rugby family. 

As the Manitoba Games and the 2025 Canada Summer Games approach, let’s celebrate this exciting new chapter for rugby and the incredible athletes who make it all possible.