HANTS COUNTY, N.S. — One is a quiet leader who loves to tackle, the other is deceptively fast on her feet.
When playing on a team together, they make a dynamic duo — and that relationship will continue when they pursue post-secondary education.
Paige Parker and Haley Verge are 18-year-old Avon View High School rugby players who have both committed to playing at Saint Mary's University this coming year.
Both are looking to enter the business field; and both are looking to make some big plays for the Huskies when the next rugby season starts.
“These are dedicated student athletes who are doing everything for the right reasons. They're not going there to just play rugby. They're going there to get an education,” said Jim Bryan, Avon View's athletic director and head coach of the school's senior girls' rugby team.
Bryan has coached Parker and Verge for their three seasons with Avon View and knows that Saint Mary's will be adding valuable players to its starting line-up.
“They're getting kids who are coachable,” said Bryan. “They're good leaders, they're team players; and they're getting winners. They've won — consistently won.”
The Avon View senior girls' rugby team has won multiple provincial championships and, as of press time, were hoping to capture its fourth consecutive title on June 2.
Aggressive but fun
Both Parker and Verge are multi-sport athletes — they played high school hockey, rugby and soccer — but their love for rugby comes first.
“It's my new favourite sport,” said Verge, who hails from South Rawdon.
“It's a great way, if you're having a bad day, to come out and go to practice and see all of your best friends. Tackling people is such a good feeling.”
They both started playing rugby in Grade 10. Verge is a scrum half, Parker plays the 10 position.
“It's just so different from all of the other sports I've played. It's all the qualities I love in other sports put together,” said Parker, who calls Ellershouse home. “We get to be as aggressive as we want, which I never really got to do in soccer or hockey or sports like that.”
Both say being part of the rugby community in Nova Scotia is amazing and unlike any other group dynamic they've been involved in.
“The community environment of rugby is so tight-knit and amazing, it's like no other sport... I've never seen such good sportsmanship and bonds in other sports. It's not just bonds on your team but bonds between the teams you play and the whole rugby community,” said Parker.
Both Parker and Verge say their siblings had a role in inspiring them to try rugby. For Parker, it was her older sister, Sophie; for Verge, it was her older brother, Ashton.
“My older sister played and she was actually the captain of the team when I started. I was in the rugby community before I started playing and I always knew I wanted to play. When I got the chance to, I was right in,” said Parker.
Parker also plays for the Nova Scotia Keltics and the Hants County RFC Machine during the summer months.
“I wanted to do hockey because of him and I wanted to try rugby because of him,” said Verge of how she wound up playing the sport.
“When I first got here, I never thought I would be playing on the varsity team for all three years. I didn't think in Grade 10 that I'd be making it.”
Now, she can't imagine life without rugby in it.
“Honestly, rugby is life,” she said with a laugh. “Throughout the two months we have rugby season, it's rugby. I'm focused on rugby and school.”
Style on the pitch
Both high school students say rugby has given them more confidence — not just on the pitch, but also in their everyday lives.
“It's also taught me how to be a leader and be able to help people and support people and take care of your teammates,” said Parker.
Added Verge, “It's taught me to believe in myself more and have more confidence in a way that I'm able to enjoy life more.”
Bryan said the student athletes are both quality players and leaders.
“Paige has really developed into a really shifty runner. She's hard to tackle. She can really jute around people. She's not overly big but she plays big because she's tough,” he said.
“She's deceptively fast. It doesn't look like she's moving but she outruns people all the time on the field. She's a fiery competitor and she's a great leader.”
As for Verge, Bryan said her poise on and off the pitch makes her quite a threat to opposing teams.
“Haley is a quiet-type leader, one that would lead by example. She has a high degree of integrity. The bigger the game is, the more she shows up. She doesn't get afraid by the big game, the bright lights, and she just rises to the occasion; she's really good — she's very, consistently, good,” said Bryan.
“She's got a good pass, she tackles, she's tough, she loves to have the ball in her hands,” he said, adding she helped score some “really big tries at the opportune time” during the 2017 provincials.
Both Parker and Verge were selected to play on the all-star high school team on June 9 that would take on the Under-18 Keltics; however, they had to pass on the opportunity due to prom.