End of an era: Velox says goodbye to Gordon Head

Velox Rugby Club holds successful final day (May 2) at Gordon Head, will embark on new Westshore era

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It’s been a long road for the Velox Rugby Club, which  started on the swampy fields of Lambrick Park farm in 1969. That pitch was so dangerous a player near drowned.

Last weekend, Velox ended its chapter of Saanich history on the front foot, as the Valkyries premier women and Div. 3 men each booked a spot in the B.C. Rugby Union championship final, which takes place tomorrow in the Lower Mainland.

Velox will continue on at the Juan de Fuca Rec Centre in Colwood, but it marks the end of a storied chapter for the 46-year-old club. Velox moved to Gordon Head in 1987, and in 1988 an influx of national-team calibre players graduating from the UVic Vikes brought new life to the side. In the past decade, Velox has remained strong, with multiple premier women’s B.C. championships, and a healthy youth program.

At last week’s games, the women ran in a flurry of second-half tries, finishing with a 72-14 win over Capilano. It was just as the founding members had wanted, with the Valkyries exemplified the team’s original motto, Velox Omnia Vincit, or Speed Conquers All. The Div. 3 men topped visiting Capilano 39-17. The men’s over-40 Ebb Tide – long affiliated through Velox – also partook in the final day of competitive rugby at the 3957 Gordon Head Rd. facility. The score from that match was past press time, as they players insisted they’d return to the pitch following the chili buffet.

For the Valkyries, it’s a fifth-straight B.C. final versus Burnaby Lake RFC.

In the Beginning

It started with a soccer playing dad, Jim Hume, becoming a rugby president for a group of young players, “nearly enough to field a team.”

Forty-six years later, the Velox Rugby Club is one of the healthiest in the province. Its move to Colwood’s Juan de Fuca Recreation Centre for September is one of opportunity, and it doesn’t come without a few tears. The club held its last day of competitive rugby on May 2.

“We’ve been at Gordon Head a long time, there’s a lot of great memories left behind here,” said Bob Iverson, a club volunteer who’s seen the ups and downs.

Velox ends its 46-year tenancy in Saanich with a banquet May 30, hopefully celebrating the 2015 Premier women’s and Div. 3 men’s B.C. Rugby Championships, as the respective teams kickoff in their provincial finals at Klahanie Park in North Vancouver tomorrow (May 9).

“The premise behind the move is to provide us with an opportunity to tap into the West Shore market which has no club rugby presence, but is home to Rugby Canada,” said club president Mark Wyatt, who played in the 1987 Rugby World Cup and joined Velox in 1988.

“We hope to retain the juniors and club members that have been with us (at Gordon Head) and have already established a youth program out there.”

Velox has widely been recognized for having the biggest, or one of the biggest, youth programs on Vancouver Island. Retaining and attracting talent at the premier men’s level has been a challenge, however. The club’s Div. 1 men have been unable to earn promotion to the CDI Premier League.

That spot will likely go to the powerhouse Seattle Saracens this year.

On the other hand, Velox’s premier women’s side has grown to become the predominant program in B.C. though that may change too, as the club relocates to the Westshore, and the Castaway Wanderers start a premier side of its own. It will split the town geographically, giving national players a second option. It’s no secret Velox has benefitted from cross-country transplants hoping to make their way into the women’s national program. The men’s Div. 1 program is currently at about 30 players, while the women’s program has more than 50, including a Div. 2 women’s side.

UVic owns the Gordon Head facility and Velox are grateful for the way director Clint Hamilton and the athletics and recreation department have handled the exit.

“Athletics and rec will use the Velox field as programming space, there’s a big demand for intramural and recreation use,” Hamilton said. The club house facility becomes inventory for UVic, out of athletics and recreation’s heads.

Tickets to the May 30 banquet will be available at the door. Watch Veloxrugby.org  for details.

reporter@saanichnews.com

 

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