Submitted by Meghan Mutrie
A thrilling weekend of rugby saw a new champion claim the National Women’s League title and was also a chance for the third annual Colette McAuley Award to be presented.
The Colette McAuley Award was founded in 2009 with the aim of recognizing a female rugby player who gives back to the sport of rugby in the true spirit of the game. The Canadian Rugby Foundation got behind the award and it is now paired up with a $1000 personal cheque from the Colette McAuley Fund.
Marlene Donaldson of BC was the inaugural recipient, followed by Julie Foster of Saskatchewan in 2010 and the CMA committee is honoured to announce the 2011 winner: Julia Sugawara.
Sugawara’s consistent efforts to give back to the game normally slide under the radar as she is quite happy to operate humbly and discretely, but the BCRU nominated her for the CMA as she fits the criterion perfectly.
Born and bred in BC, she is Burnaby Lake’s scrumhalf and also a member of the BC and NSWT. After graduating from Trinity Western University, Sugawara worked as a teacher’s aide for special needs children and continues, teaching privately. In 2009/10, she travelled to the UK to further her rugby, playing for the Saracens but also taught special needs children one-on-one.
Back home in Canada now, Sugawara coaches a girls BC High School team out of Surrey/White Rock, leading them to solid performances at the Provincial Championships. If and when she has any free time, she can be found – still – on the rugby field, refereeing BC High School Games and Div 2 Women’s games.
Two other names were put forth by their provincial unions this year, Jocelyn Barrieau of Quebec and Claudine Tyrell of Ontario. Both women epitomize the spirit of the CMA and deserve full mention for their selfless contributions to rugby.
Barrieau is a two-time nominee, proving that giving back to the sport is second nature to her. She became impassioned in her coaching career, beginning with a high school girls team and eventually lead the Quebec U19 Caribou Women to the 2010 gold medal – a massive scalp for the normally underwritten province. She is also an IRB Level 2 referee, working with both men and women.
The nomination form put forth by the Quebec Union described her as, “…she is possessed by a rare intensity which one cannot appreciate unless you know and try to understand the lady in question. In the right measure with the right players and colleagues, Joce will always be a giant killer – and not just for one day.”
Tyrell’s name was put forth by a few players from the Ontario Rugby Union for which she is the Women’s Director, going far beyond her role. She oversaw more than four different women’s teams from her position, but also is involved with coaching high school and club levels. She is described as ‘selfless in a thankless job, always doing more than what is expected for the sport she loves.’
The CMA committee and the Canadian Rugby Foundation would like to congratulate and recognize all three women for their outstanding contributions to rugby in Canada.