Ottawa Rugby, Barrhaven Scottish Rugby Football Club Logo

I was tricked into becoming a member of the Barrhaven Scottish Rugby Football Club. I had always been athletic (or at least tried to be) but considered myself a baseball player first who dabbled in basketball, at 33 years of age I wasn’t really searching for a new sport to tackle literally or figuratively. Growing up in Nova Scotia, I can’t say I was particularly aware of rugby, other than seeing Aussie rules on TV, I thought you had to be insane to play that, add in the fact that I graduated high school the same height I am now, but at a whopping 118lbs (after lunch) I never paid much mind to it.

When I got a call from Gary Thomas to come out on a Saturday morning in the spring of 2012 to play touch rugby (and by the way bring your camera) I thought sure, break away from the cabin fever set in by the long winter just passed and work on my conditioning for the coming baseball season, and as a progressing professional photographer maybe grab some shots of a sport that doesn’t always grab headlines or attention.As it turns out, there weren’t enough bodies for touch, but over at South Nepean Park there was going to be an Old Boys Rugby game, do you mind photographing that? Sure I thought, I already booked the time. Now for the trick.

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As it turns out 29 players arrived that day with cleats in hand, check that 29 players and 1 photographer.
Phil, grab your cleats (baseball cleats for the record) the first Old Boys game thrown together by all comers including a few very young old boys and proved that the will was there. I didn’t embarrass myself in the game, despite any knowledge of the rules…er laws as I have been corrected on many times; what do you mean I can’t set a pick after I get rid of the ball, my feet were planted.
We Quickly threw together a training schedule and picked up fixtures where we could. More importantly as a core many old friendships were rekindled and new ones forged. I was also very impressed with the club structure, the fact that there were feeder programs from kids up to adults, complete with branding, a clothing deal and sponsorship from the local community. This community maybe just what I was looking for.In the spring of 2013, I looked to begin my second season as a Barrhaven Scottish Old Boy and slowly absorbed myself in the club culture. That spring tragedy hit our club and our community, the story of Rowan Stringer, a warrior of a young lady who played for our Junior Women and how she passed due to multiple concussions incurred during the High School Season has been well documented, and her legacy now lives on through her spirit and the actions of some passionate people that I have had the great fortune of getting to know and work with.

I didn’t know Rowan personally; this didn’t stop me from trying to help where I could, and the club truly rallied to show their support for her family, her teammates, club and the community as a whole.

I didn’t attend the funeral because I didn’t know if I would fit in, and wanted to show respect and let the people who knew her best have the room and respect they deserved. I realized soon after that this was a mistake. It resonated in the back of my mind, and also it started to become clear that as a club as many great things we did, for a new member such as myself, it was hard to find out about the actual history. Rowan forever will be a part of that history, and players and coaches and supporters that have helped to forge this club need to be recognized.

Ottawa Rugby, Barrhaven Scottish Rugby Football club

Fast Forward a few years, and largely propelled by the documentary piece I did on the Old Boys trip to the Bahamas, which shines a light on a great tour, but more so I hope shows the unique nature of rugby and it’s culture, I was nominated to become the VP of Marketing & Sponsorship. I accepted this role and set out to create engagement through social media channels and the revamping of this very website, but also wanted to re-engage the communities of Ottawa, Barrhaven and the Scottish who perhaps had lost touch with the club. I also knew we had to do something to commemorate Rowan Stringer.

I wasn’t sure how the best way to achieve this was, especially since I had no relationship with Gordon and Kathleen Stringer and wasn’t sure if this would be appropriate to suggest with no prior engagement with them. I first though, wanted to set out and gauge the will of the public. I was invited to the re-naming of South Nepean Park to Ken Ross Park. Ken was a great businessman and philanthropist in the Barrhaven community and in many ways sketched out the way to get involved in your local community. It was at this event that I had the good fortune to formally meet with Barrhaven Councillor Jan Harder, I knew I had a short window, so I proposed the idea that we rename our pitch after Rowan Stringer. She loved the idea, with the caveat that there could be some political red tape and procedure to navigate through. I left that meeting informing her that this was all contingent on the approval of Rowan’s parents, and that I wasn’t sure if I was the person who could garner their approval or support.

At this point, I also want to say that in no way was I solely responsible for this vision and how it eventually came to fruition. A great deal of happenstance which I believe is sewn together by perhaps Karma also saw a number of passionate people take the pass and advance the ball. Like rugby very seldom can you run the ball the entire length of the field and score.

Recognizing the sensitive nature of what I had hoped would occur, I put it slightly on the back burner, we were entering into the busy season for the club, and the day to day promotion of the club started consuming more of my time.

As a Club we had a terrific summer in regard to our players representing us in National and International competition, we held a great fund raising event to celebrate one of our players who would soon head to Seattle to play for Team Canada (I wish I had the space to give a shout to every player that represented us so well, and in the future we hope to employ more tools and events to help funding them in their journey). Unbeknownst to me local MPP Lisa Macleod would end up attending this event, as our player had volunteered for Lisa in the past, Lisa had also been working on Concussion protocol as recommended by the inquest into Rowan’s death, and planned to table a private member’s bill in the Ontario legislature.

A panel of local go to people of those who know how to get people engaged and things done in Barrhaven was created, and we as the Barrhaven Scottish including myself were invited.

Special thanks as well go to Joe & Linda Price, Gary Thomas, Jody Mitic, Darrel Bartraw,Frank Hall, Barb Gillie and Gordon & Kathleen Stringer.

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Rowans’ Law was proposed as an event to create awareness and support both for the bill and also to make sure that our young athletes realize the severity and threat of potential concussions and to change the attitude around sport to just suck it up, or keep going when you or another member of your team or coach might suspect there has been a concussion. You can still sign the petition www.rowanslaw.ca
This also gave me the opportunity to finally meet Gordon and Kathleen Stringer, within minutes I could tell the strength these people had, that they were definitely advocates for sport and the sport of rugby, and deserved to have their daughter’s name memorialized.
Unsure if I would be overbearing, or if it was too early, I took a chance and asked if we the Barrhaven Scottish had their approval to go ahead with our plan of renaming our rugby pitch Rowan’s pitch. They were ecstatic and I believe legitimately touched by this gesture.A huge thank you has to go out to Jan Harder and Jody Mitic the councillors who drafted and seconded this motion and worked diligently to get it fast tracked in the cities agenda.

It was announced that on October 14th, 2015 the motion would be tabled in Ottawa City Council Chambers. I knew I had to be present for this and flanked by Barb, Lisa, Gordon, Kathleen, Frank and so many others in spirit, witnessed the motion pass unanimously. We hope to have more concrete news for when the official ceremony will occur, likely at the start of the next rugby season in May 2016. We also hope to have good news this coming December 12th in that Rowans Law will make its ascent in the Ontario Legislature.

Barrhaven Councillor Jan Harder, Conservative MPP Lisa Macleod, Gordon Stringer, Kathleen Stringer, BSRFC President Barb Gillie, Ottawa City Councillor Jody Mitic, BSRFC VP Marketing Phil Selig

Barrhaven Councillor Jan Harder, Conservative MPP Lisa Macleod, Gordon Stringer, Kathleen Stringer, BSRFC President Barb Gillie, Ottawa City Councillor Jody Mitic, BSRFC VP Marketing Phil Selig

More importantly we hope that out of the tragedy of losing a terrific young lady way too young and to something that hopefully we can work to make avoidable, that her name lives on as inspiration for our entire club and community.
I know that is what will cross my mind every time I step on to Rowan’s Pitch.
The Rugby Pitch at Ken Ross Park in Barrhaven, Ontario will be known as "Rowan's Pitch" in honour of Rowan Stringer.

The Rugby Pitch at Ken Ross Park in Barrhaven, Ontario will be known as “Rowan’s Pitch” in honour of Rowan Stringer.

Special feature by
Phil Selig
VP Marketing & Sponsorship
Barrhaven Scottish Rugby Football Club

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