Thunder Rugby 2022 California Tour Review

Thunder Rugby California Tour Update

The Thunder Indigenous Rugby program has just returned from its first international tour and its first international rugby tournament. The tour covered 14 days and included 39 players organized into two Under 18 boys teams, one Under 18 girls team and one Under 16 girls team. Accompanying the players were 11 support staff including coaches, managers, and parent chaperones. The teams played in two tournaments, competing in over 36 games of Rugby 7s, the olympic version of the sport, during that time. They racked up over 5000 kilometres of highway travel with their caravan of two small buses and six cars, leaving Vancouver Island and travelling down the west coast to Los Angeles to participate in the LA 7s Invitational tournament which was held in conjuction with the men’s World Rugby Series tournament.

Players came from across BC and Western Canada. Vancouver Island communities of Comox, Cowichan, Victoria, Saanich, Colwood, Langford, Shawnigan, and Nanaimo were represented. On the Lower Mainland players came from Abbotsford, Surrey, North Vancouver, Burnaby, Langley, and Squamish. Further afield players came from Kamloops, Fort St. John, Calgary and Winnipeg. Indigenous representation on tour included Gitga’at First Nation, Kwakwaka’wakw, Haida, Nuu-Chah-Nulth, Gitxsan First Nation, Rolling River First Nation, Cree Metis, Sto Lo First Nation, Squamish First Nation, Sumas First Nation, Saanich First Nation, Inuvialuit, Cowichan First Nation, Lilwat First Nation, and Tl’etinqox First Nation.

The players first assembled on August 18th for a 2 day camp at Shawnigan Lake School. They then participated in the Westshore 7s tournament in Colwood on  Saturday the 20th, the Girls U18 team winning their division. They hit the road on Sunday with stops along the Oregon coast, San Francisco and made it to LA to prepare for the tournament. The teams were all competitive with one of the Boys Under 18 teams winning the Plate competition in their division. The team also featured in the main stadium putting on a touch rugby demonstration for the World Rugby Series fans in attendance.

The tour created many fine memories for the players, one of the key components of the tour was to make it culturally relevant as an important means to strengthen Indigenous identity and cultural pride. Raymond Jones Peter Jr. a member of Cowichan Tribes, who is known as Brother Rick, was the tour leader in this role. He taught the teams songs like Hy’chka Siem, which translated from the Coast Salish language Hul’q’umi’num’, means “Thank you.” He also led ceremonies when they were required, such as the inaugural launching ceremony of the Thunder 28′ canoe at Shawnigan Lake during camp.

The focus of this tour and future tours is to strengthen Indigenous identity and cultural pride through sports, teaching youth the values of teammork and respect while all the time having fun and making new friends. The feedback from parents and players indicated that the program is going in the right direction.

Player feedback
– Thanks @thunder_rugby for inviting me to go play in California it’s was a fun trip.
– Got to play some good rugby with some good people thanks @thunder_rugby for the experience.
– I’m absolutely ecstatic to have been given the opportunity to play in the LA sevens thanks to @thunder_rugby and all of the coaching staff, as well as the friends I made along the way.
– I enjoyed making new relationships with so many people and learning the songs (Hych’ka Siem, etc).

Parent feedback
– THANK YOU for giving these kids the time of their lives!!!
– Well, my kiddo is home. He had an amazing time! So many memories and so many new friends (or family as he calls them). We are extremely grateful. Much love.
– Thank you again for having M join you on this amazing trip. So many incredible memories were made that will never be forgotten.

The Thunder coaches are already planning their 2023 activities which will include another international tour. The process will begin in January/February with an identification camp at a central location on the lower mainland. If you’re a parent or youth interested in being part of the Thunder program, follow our facebook page at and direct any question to Thunder Director John Lyall at Although the Thunder program is focused on Indigenous athletes and culture, they do include Indigenist (a person who supports Indigenous people) youth to experience the culture and programs.

The online registration form to express interest in the 2023 programs is on their website at

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