Thunder Indigenous Rugby Overview

[ed. This was our first post in June 2013 as we planned for program launch in the spring of 2014.  The quote from this Aedelhard article gives an accurate description of how our program started: “John Lyall, Program Director of First Nations Rugby, reflects how he got involved with this program. “I was nearing the end of my playing career and I was talking to Mark Bryant and Phil Mack and it was something we discussed doing and it seemed to be the right time so we said let’s give it a shot.””]

The Vancouver Island Thunder aim to take off in the spring of 2014, looking to promote the great game of 7’s rugby to Indigenous communities on Vancouver Island.  Rugby Sevens is an exciting version of rugby, and is now recognized as an Olympic Sport.  Canada has had proven success in the International fields in youth, men and women rugby.

Background: Rugby is truly an international sport, popular throughout the world with Indigenous populations.  Traditionally, it hasn’t been a sport of focus for Indigenous populations throughout Canada.  For example, it is not one of the 7 sports identified by BC Aboriginal Sports and Recreation.  However, we feel its international flavor, its Olympic inclusion and by its nature, an exciting and physical game that empathizes teamwork, make it an ideal sport for our Indigenous athletes and communities.

Indigenous Culture:  The Vancouver Island Thunder believe simply in a holistic approach, that rugby while primarily a physical component also encompasses balance through an emotional, spiritual and intellectual involvement. We are interested in working with the communities and elders to guide us on our path.

Logo: The Thunderbird logo was designed by Curtis “Mulizdas’ Wilson.  The powerful supernatural bird that originates from the west is an ideal symbol for our burgeoning program.

Goals: The Vancouver Island Thunder aims to offer a structured vehicle to promote the game of rugby to Indigenous communities on Vancouver Island, specifically:

  • To promote the game of rugby to Indigenous communities
  • To identify potential high performance Indigenous athletes that could one day represent Canada, potentially at the Summer Olympics

Structure: The Vancouver Island Thunder aim to offer rugby camps in Indigenous communities on Vancouver Island in the spring of 2014.  Whereas these camps would be participation, skills and fun driven, it is anticipated that a Boys U16 and Girls U16 7-aside team would be selected to participate in the Victoria International Youth 7’s tournament, held at UVic traditionally in July. It is anticipated that this simple structure would be an annual sustainable program with considerable room for growth.

Our Team: Manager: John Lyall, of Kwakwaka’wakw descent, rugby player over 25 years, currently VP in SD 62, VP of VIRU Rugby

Boys Coach: Phil Mack, of Toquaht Nation, Canada International rugby player with over 40 international appearances in 7s rugby for Canada and 15 international appearances in XVs rugby

Girls Coach:Mandy Marchak, former Canadian international

Communications / Manager: Mark Bryant, editor of BC Rugby News

What can you do? We are looking for interested peoples and organizations to get on board with us and watch the Vancouver Island Thunder soar.  We are interested in partnering and developing relationships with Indigenous organizations, First Nations, Metis and Inuit communities, Rugby unions, Rugby clubs or any individuals or organizations willing to contribute to the development of Indigenous grassroots and high performance athlete rugby here on Vancouver Island!

Contact: you can contact John via email at or cell phone 250-217-9031

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