It’s been almost a year since the St. Thomas University women’s rugby team fell short in the ACAA finals for a fifth consecutive season. All five losses came to the University of New Brunswick. It was the last game for the rookie head coach Mary-Kim Schriver, who stepped down from the team due to transportation struggles.
Familiar faces to the Fredericton rugby community have been brought in to fill in the coaching staff.
Nathan Bustard, another rookie head coach, from Woodstock, N.B., is getting the chance to lift the Tommies over the hump and take down his former team, UNB.
“I think there’s a real buyer in the [Tommies] this year, they want to do everything they can to come out and follow up last year,” Bustard said of the 2020-21 women’s rugby Tommies.
“[It was] a really close game that could have gone either way,” he said.
Bustard played for the UNB men’s team from 2014 to 2018, where he won a Maritime championship. But he is no stranger to STU. He was the men’s rugby student trainer in 2017, which forced him to sit out games where UNB and STU played. He then made the switch to the student trainer of the men’s volleyball team in 2018.
Bustard isn’t the only familiar face joining the coaching staff. Longtime Tommie scrumhalf Becca Baker will be there to assist Bustard for the season, along with Adrienne Wilson.
Baker, from Fredericton, played four seasons with the Tommies from the 2015-16 season to the 2019-20 one. She said her experience as a player will help her transition into a coach.
“Having experience with the team and how the team flows and how it’s previously been run, has really helped our coaching team this year,” Baker said.
Bustard said Baker knows the team well and it has helped him prepare for his new role.
“She’s been really helpful in giving the player information, which players are going to fit into roles, where they need development,” he said.
The Tommies won’t compete in the ACAA season this year, as the league had been put on hold due to COVID-19. But Bustard isn’t concerned, saying it’ll give the coaching staff and his players more time to get comfortable under a new coach.
“We don’t necessarily have that added pressure of ‘We have to come out and perform right away.’ We’ve got a year, or however long it is before we get back into playing games,” he said.
Bustard said he will use the year to start implementing training and new systems to prepare for another campaign and a shot at taking down the mighty UNB Reds.
“This year is a great opportunity to get things flowing in the right direction for 2021.”