Written by Stuart McLennan
When former Sydney resident Blake Stewart was staying in the resort municipality of Whistler, British Columbia, on a working holiday, he vowed that if he returned permanently he would start a rugby league club in the town.
“A Whistler rugby league team has been something I wanted to do since I lived here on a working holiday visa back in 2012-14,” Stewart told Everything Rugby League.
“There was a league team here that was based in the Sea to Sky region called the Sea to Sky Eagles which I went down and trained a couple of times with.
“I followed the team closely whilst living in England, and once I saw that they had folded, I said that if I was ever to move back to Whistler I want to start a team in the town.”
After relocating back to Whistler permanently in 2018, Stewart, whose rugby league background includes the Colyton Colts in Sydney and the London Chargers, teamed up with fellow Aussies Joel Leighton (formerly Burleigh Bears) and farmer Tommy Butt (Harden Hawks juniors) to form the Whistler Wolves.
“We are the only rugby team, league or union, solely based in Whistler. There is a rugby (union) team that is based 40mins south of us in Squamish called the Axemen with Whistler based players travelling down.
“We have a great relationship with the Axemen especially with the two codes playing at different times of year. So players can play both if they choose.”
As with all sports across the globe Whistler has had to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, putting the brakes on their plans to debut this season in a six team British Columbia Rugby League (BCRL) competition. Stewart sees it as a temporary setback.
“Pre COVID we had 25 players in our books wanting to play, with a few more just wanting to train and see what the game was about. We have a big mix of players’ skill levels. Some have played at semi-pro level in Australia and England while others have never played rugby in either code.
“I can’t speak for the BCRL or other clubs but we will be doing everything we can to help the league have some sort of a season or exhibition games (in 2020).”
Long term the club has ambitions to establish juniors, a women’s team and a second grade social squad but will settle on consolidating the club within the community for the time being.
“They are all achievable but for this season we are focusing on building our club within the Whistler community and the exposure of our game.”
“If you are thinking of getting involved as a player, coach or volunteer whether with us at the Wolves or any of the BCRL clubs, get in contact.
“Rugby league is a great game and once you are exposed you’ll wish you joined sooner.”