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UBC was the site for the inaugural tournament in the fall of 1971. Many changes have taken place over the past few decades, not the least of which is the staggering increase in the financial burden from the 1971 Donn Spence (Thunderbird rugby coach) "sponsorship" of the event. In 2006, a concern over player safety resulted in a longer period of rest between games, whereby game one was played four days before game 2 at various locations.

Anxious to expand its provincial championship program, the B.C. Federation of School Athletic Associations, as BC SCHOOL SPORTS was then called, appointed Bill Westcott commissioner. Only eight teams competed in this two-day event, but the competition was intense. In the championship final, Point Grey took advantage of a ten-man scrummage (which the laws then allowed) to force a Magee offside during extra time. David Whyte's successful penalty kick gave Point Grey an 11-8 victory. During the early years there was both a fall and spring championship. Vancouver and Victoria had traditionally competed during the early part of the school year, whilst the newer schools outside of these areas chose to play in the spring. Growth in the sport, coupled with the pressure to crown only one champion, led to the adoption in 1979 of a single championship. Continued growth led to the dual championships for AA and AAA schools.

The AAA champion receives the R.P. Woodward Shield, named after the man who had been an icon in British Columbia rugby since arriving from England in 1887 at the age of 18. Woodward played, coached, managed and administered the sport for the next fifty years before retiring to the role of spectator until his death in 1957. Donated in 1957 by the BC Rugby Union, the Shield was initially competed for in an informal way, with the coaches of the Vancouver and Victoria champions phoning each other to arrange the game. Some years produced no game because the coaches were unaware of the protocol. That was certainly the case in 1966 when David Thompson School was the Vancouver winner of the New Zealand Shield. The AA championship began in 1991.

The annual championships have not been without a few "glitches" since the beginning. A British Columbia Ferry strike in 1977 caused havoc as tournament organizer Derek Hyde-Lay attempted to hastily fill spaces vacated by schools that had qualified but withdrew reluctantly. Trophies have gone missing, some permanently. Two sportsmanship trophies (named after Bill Westcott and Alan Worsley) and the original second and third place shields have never been recovered since being placed in the care of the winning schools. A province-wide teachers strike in 1987 forced the cancellation of the tournament, and in 1993 a Vancouver schools? dispute resulted in that zone being unrepresented.

With the reduction in available field space being imminent in 2010, a decision was made to move the final three days of the tournament to the Exhibition Ground in Abbotsford where, for the first time, a full slate of referees was available for every game. Kamloops Rugby Club, Brentwood College and St. George’s were the sites for the previous Saturday’s Round One games. Two private schools met in the AAA final when Number 1 seed Shawnigan Lake lived up to its ranking by defeating Number 3 ranked St. George’s at Rotary Stadium. In the AA final, Number 1 ranked Rockridge retained its position but only after receiving a scare from Number 7 ranked Collingwood. 

In 2008, Britannia with only seventeen players, qualified for the tournament for the first time and placed sixteenth. On Day 1, they played with only fourteen against fifteen, because three were attending a funeral service. In the fifteen/sixteen game on Day 4, they played most of the game with only thirteen players against fifteen, except when one received a yellow card. In the seven/eight game on Day 4, when both Ladysmith and Rick Hansen had similar jerseys, one player tackled his own team member when he was about to score.

In 2010, first-time participants AAA Argyle and AA Smithers gave a good account of themselves in finishing twelfth in their respective tiers. In order to assist Smithers and L.V. Rogers, both of whom had to travel much farther than the other thirty teams, adjustments were made to the Day 1 schedule.

In the AAA 2011 quarter-finals, Carson Graham rebounded after trailing 19-0 at half-time to defeat Earl Marriott and then, after leading 19-10 at half-time in a semi-final, they lost to Oak Bay who was defeated by Shawnigan Lake in the final. For the second year in a row, rain prevented the Opening Ceremonies from taking place. The Closing Ceremonies on the last day were shortened to allow spectators and players to see the second game of the Vancouver Canucks vs. Boston Bruins Stanley Cup playoff game.

In 2012, Shawnigan Lake became the first team to win the Woodward Shield four successive times when they defeated a gritty Carson Graham side. Five other schools competed in the Championship for the first time and, in spite of the BCTF job action throughout the province, both AAA and AA divisions fielded a full complement of teams. Pete Tyler completed his ninth year as announcer of the semi-final and final games.

Many highlights over the years are worth recalling, too many to document in this brief historical look at the history. Some of them are:

  • Prince George being reduced to fourteen players for their 1988 final game 
  • The goal-kicking "shoot-out" won by Princess Margaret in 1973  
  • Merritt's three return trips in 1992
  • D.W. Poppy's extra time drop goal in 1992
  • St. George's victory over favoured Oak Bay following a twenty-five minute injury delay in 1993
  • The first Players Banquet introduced by Commissioner John Narbett in 1983  
  • The 1975 entry fee of only $20  
  • Senior and age-grade players who have represented Canada, including Rugby World Cup Captain Mark Wyatt from Oak Bay, as well as Gary Johnston who was Canada's Head Coach from 1985-1989 and Assistant Coach from 2000-2003.
  • Norkam's 1983 triumph, after three second place finishes  
  • Prince of Wales "threepeat" 1984-1986  
  • Three officials for each game after 1998, and the revised tournament format in 2006, where other sites around the province were used for Day One games, and Friday was designated a 'day of rest'.  
  • More scholarships available to players
  • In AAA, Kitsilano made it to the final 4 for the first and only time in 2002, whereas Carson Graham has made it every year from 2000-2007, winning it twice
  • In AA, Rockridge has been the gold medal winner from 2004-2007

Since 1971, thousands of players, coaches and organizers have contributed to the ever-growing success of the annual tournament. Some players have gone on to represent their province and their country. All have participated in the true rugby tradition and have been worthy representatives of their school. May the tradition continue in years to come.

Doug Sturrock

Past Years of Provincial Championships

2018 - 2019 Shawnigan Lake Earl Marriott Lord Byng Collingwood Sir Charles Tupper
2017 - 2018 Oak Bay South Delta W.J. Mouat Collingwood L.V. Rogers
2016 - 2017 Shawnigan Lake Carson Graham Terry Fox St. Michaels University Glenlyon Norfolk
2015 - 2016 Shawnigan Lake Yale Elgin Park St. Michaels University L.V. Rogers

Since 1957 the RP Woodward Memorial Shield has been awarded to the top team in BC Boys High School Rugby. This team has been the winner of the AAAA Division since 2015-16. Prior to the creation of the AAAA Division to improve competitiveness, the Woodward Shield was awarded to the top team in AAA rugby from 1992 to 2015. Prior to 1992 when the BMO Shield was created for the AA Division, both AAA and AA teams competed for the Woodward Shield. In 2015-16 new Tier 2 championships were also created for both the AAA and AA Divisions, to improve the sport for all teams.

 Year AAA AA
2014 - 2015 Shawnigan Lake St. Michaels University
2013 - 2014 St. George's Rockridge
2012 - 2013 Shawnigan Lake Collingwood
2011 - 2012 Shawnigan Lake Brentwood College
2010 - 2011 Shawnigan Lake Collingwood
2009 - 2010 Shawnigan Lake Rockridge
2008 - 2009 Shawnigan Lake Brentwood College
2007 - 2008 Carson Graham Brentwood College
2006 - 2007 St. Michaels University Rockridge
2005 - 2006 Carson Graham Rockridge
2004 - 2005 St. George's Rockridge
2003 - 2004 St. George's Rockridge
2002 - 2003 Oak Bay Collingwood
2001 - 2002 Carson Graham Collingwood
2000 - 2001 Oak Bay Collingwood
1999 - 2000 Oak Bay Robert Bateman
1998 - 1999 Lord Byng Collingwood
1997 - 1998 Shawnigan Lake Collingwood
1996 - 1997 St. Michaels University Aldergrove
1995 - 1996 Carson Graham Highland
1994 - 1995 Semiahmoo Glenlyon Norfolk
1993 - 1994 St. George's Langley
1992 - 1993 Oak Bay Aldergrove
1991 - 1992 St. Michaels University D.W. Poppy

Prior to the 1991-92 season, both AAA and AA schools competed for the RP Woodward Memorial Shield. From 1992 onwards, the top teams in AA rugby have competed for the BMO Shield.

 Year AAA  
1990 - 1991 St. Michaels University  
1989 - 1990 Oak Bay  
1988 - 1989 Abbotsford  
1987 - 1988 Semiahmoo  
1986 - 1987 School Strike  No Competition  
1985 - 1986 Prince of Wales  
1984 - 1985 Prince of Wales  
1983 - 1984 Prince of Wales  
1982 - 1983 Norkam  
1981 - 1982 Magee  
1980 - 1981 R.E. Mountain  
1979 - 1980 Oak Bay  
1978 - 1979 Magee  

In the 1971-72 school year, the BC Federation of School Athletic Associations (now BC School Sports) organized one provincial championship for the Fall of 1971 which was won by Point Grey. However, because different zones played rugby during different seasons of play, from the 1972-73 to the 1978-79 school years, there were two championships awarded each year, with one in the Fall and one in the Spring. From the 1978-79 school year onward, only one championship has been awarded and that has been in the Spring now for over 40 years.

 Year AAA
1977 - 1978 Fall 1977: Magee   |   Spring 1978: Victoria High School   
1976 - 1977 Fall 1976: Magee   |   Spring 1977: Victoria High School  
1975 - 1976 Fall 1975: Magee   |   Spring 1976: Lord Tweedsmuir
1974 - 1975 Fall 1974: St. George's    |   Spring 1975: Oak Bay
1973 - 1974 Fall 1973: St. George's   |   Spring 1974: Oak Bay 
1972 - 1973 Fall 1972: Not played for   |   Spring 1973: Princess Margaret Sr  
1971 - 1972 Fall 1971: Point Grey   |   Spring 1972: Not played for 

From 1957 to 1970 the Victoria representative (Howard Russell winner) played the Vancouver representative (New Zealand Shield winner) in a game arranged by the coaches with the winner capturing the R.P. Woodward Memorial Shield, which has been awarded to the top team in BC Boys High School Rugby ever since.

R.P. Woodward Memorial Shield
for the Senior High School Rugby Championship of British Columbia
In Deed and in Spirit
He Personified
True Sportsmanship

 Year AAA
1970 Shawnigan Lake
1969 Not played for
1968 Point Grey
1967 Brentwood College
1966 Not played for
1965 Sir Charles Tupper
1964 Not played for
1963 Not played for
1962 Not played for
1961 Not played for
1960 David Thompson
1959 David Thompson
1958 Lord Byng
1957 Lord Byng

Early History

Prior to the donation of the R.P. Woodward Shield in 1957, there was neither a formal nor an informal championship for BC Boys High School Rugby. This meant two other long-standing competitions, one in Vancouver and one in Victoria were every bit as important, have enormous history and in fact, they still take place to this day. These competitions (in the Lower Mainland) are for the New Zealand Shield and (in Victoria) are for the Howard Russell Trophy.

The New Zealand Shield was donated by the New Zealand Rugby Union during an All Blacks tour in 1925. It was originally given to the Vancouver Rugby Union and then turned over to the Vancouver and District Inter-High School Athletic Association (V and D) for schools belonging to that Association ie. Vancouver, Burnaby, New Westminster, North Vancouver and Richmond. These school districts eventually formed their own athletic associations. In 1979 the Vancouver Secondary Schools Athletic Association withdrew from the Vancouver and District Inter-High School Association, thereby losing the chance for their schools to play for the Shield. When the Lower Mainland League for rugby was formed in the mid 1990s, the V & D turned the Shield over to the Lower Mainland League for competition. For Vancouver schools between 1971 and 1980, it was often considered more important to win the New Zealand Shield than to win the R.P. Woodward Shield, such was its significance. The Shield is now contested for by the Vancouver Sea to Sky Zone.

New Zealand Shield Champions
Aotearoa Shield
Presented by
The New Zealand Rugby Football Union
The Vancouver Rugby Union
The Senior Mainland High School Rugby Championship

1925  King George 1926  Magee 1927  Magee 1928  Magee
1929  King George 1930  King Edward 1931  Magee 1932  King George
1933 Lord Byng 1934  Lord Byng 1935  Magee 1936  King George
1937  Lord Byng 1938  Lord Byng 1939  Lord Byng 1940  Lord Byng
1941  Lord Byng 1942  Lord Byng 1943  Lord Byng 1944  Lord Byng
1945  Lord Byng 1946  King Edward 1947  King Edward 1948  Britannia
1949  Vancouver Technical 1950  Vancouver Technical 1951  King Edward 1952  King Edward
1953  Kitsilano 1954  Kitsilano 1955  Vancouver Technical 1956  Gladstone/Kitsilano
1957  Lord Byng 1958  Lord Byng 1959  David Thompson 1960  David Thompson
1961  Prince of Wales 1962  David Thompson/Lord Byng 1963  Magee 1964  Magee
1965  Sir Charles Tupper 1966  David Thompson 1967  Sir Charles Tupper 1968  Point Grey
1969  Sir Charles Tupper 1970  Point Grey 1971  Magee 1972  Point Grey
1973  Prince of Wales 1974  Point Grey  1975  Sir Charles Tupper 1976  Magee/Prince of Wales
1977  Magee 1978  Magee 1979  Magee 1980  Hillside
1981  New Westminster 1982  Burnaby South 1983  Burnaby South 1984  Burnaby South
1985  Carson Graham 1986  Burnaby North 1987  No competition 1988  Burnaby North
1989  West Vancouver 1990  Carson Graham 1991  Carson Graham 1992  Carson Graham
1993  Carson Graham 1994  Carson Graham 1995  Carson Graham 1996  Carson Graham
1997  Lord Byng 1998  Carson Graham 1999  Lord Byng 2000  Carson Graham
2001  Carson Graham 2002  Carson Graham 2003  Carson Graham 2004  St. George's
2005  St. George's 2006  Carson Graham 2007  St. George's 2008  Carson Graham
2009  St. George's 2010  Carson Graham 2011  Carson Graham 2012  Carson Graham
2013  St. George's 2014  St. George's 2014  St. George's 2016  St. George's
2017  St. George's 2018  St. George's 2019  St. George's  

The Howard Russell Trophy

Since 1930, the top Boys High School rugby teams in Victoria have competed for the highly coveted Howard Russell Trophy, which is named after Ernest Howard Russell. Affectionately known as “The Howie,” much like the New Zealand Shield in the Vancouver/Lower Mainland zone, it was the highest competition possible for teams based on Southern Vancouver Island until the R.P. Woodard Shield was dedicated in 1957 and the first Provincial Championship was held in a challenge format between these two zones.

Howard Russell was born in Douglastown, New Brunswick and was an accomplished rugby player at the half-back position in Queen’s University and was part of a Canadian Rugby Championship team in the 130 pounds weight division. He was a “Renaissance Man” with many talents who taught both Math and Choir at UBC where he also played rugby before teaching at Victoria College. While in Victoria he promoted rugby in the Victoria area and was a key “rugby pioneer” for high school rugby on Vancouver Island. In the early years “The Howie” was primarily a competition between Victoria High School and Oak Bay High School, which have won it 13 times and 45 times by 2019 respectively. In more recent years, a total of 9 different schools have won the Howard Russell Trophy, including St. Michaels University School, which has won it 16 times.

1930  Vic. High 1931  Oak Bay 1932  Vic. High 1933  Oak Bay
1934  Oak Bay 1935  Vic. High 1936  Vic. High 1937  Not played
1938  Oak Bay 1939  Oak Bay 1940  Oak Bay 1941  Oak Bay
1942  Vic. High 1943  Vic. High 1944  Oak Bay 1945  Oak Bay
1946  Oak Bay 1947  Oak Bay 1948  Oak Bay 1949  Oak Bay
1950  Oak Bay 1951  Oak Bay 1952  Vic. High 1953  Oak Bay
1954  Vic. High 1955  Oak Bay 1956  Vic. High 1957  Vic. High
1958  Oak Bay 1959  Oak Bay 1960  Oak Bay 1961  Oak Bay
1962  Vic. High 1963  Mount View 1964  Vic. High 1965  Mount View
1966  Mount View 1967  Mount Douglas 1968  Mount Douglas 1969  Claremont
1970  Claremont 1971  Claremont 1972  Claremont 1973  Claremont
1974  Oak Bay 1975  St. Michaels 1976  St. Michaels 1977  St. Michaels
1978  Vic. High 1979  St. Michaels 1980  Oak Bay 1981  Oak Bay
1982  Oak Bay 1983  Oak Bay 1984  Parklands 1985  Claremont
1986  Stelly's 1987  Mt. Doug/Stelly's 1988  Spectrum 1989  Oak Bay
1990  Oak Bay 1991  St. Michaels 1992  St. Michaels 1993  St. Michaels
1994  St. Michaels 1995  Oak Bay 1996  St. Michaels 1997  St. Michaels
1998  Oak Bay 1999  Oak Bay 2000  Oak Bay 2001  Oak Bay
2002  Oak Bay 2003  St. Michaels 2004  Oak Bay 2005  Oak Bay
2006  Oak Bay 2007  St. Michaels 2008  St. Michaels 2009  St. Michaels
2010  Oak Bay 2011  Oak Bay 2012  Oak Bay 2013  Oak Bay
2014  Oak Bay 2015  Oak Bay 2016  St. Michaels 2017  St. Michaels
2018  Oak Bay 2019  Oak Bay    

AAA Most Sportsmanlike Team Award

The BCSSRU Most Sportsmanlike Team Award was first presented in 1991 and until 1993 there was only one winner selected. In 1993 both the AA and AAA Division winners were selected for the first time. From 2014 to 2018 the AAA Most Sportsmanlike Team Award was missing so it was not awarded and we are fortunate to have recovered it to help keep our history alive.

Kitsilano/West Vancouver
1992 Magee
1993 St. Michaels University
1994 Shawnigan Lake
1995 St. George’s
1996 St. Michaels University
1997 Lord Byng
1998 Penticton
1999 Carson Graham
2000 GP Vanier
2001 West Vancouver
2002 Rutland
2003 St. Michaels University
2004 Lord Byng
2005 Fleetwood Park
2006 Magee
2007 Earl Marriott
2008 Lord Byng
2009 WJ Mouat
2010 Handsworth
2011 Robert Bateman
2012 Handsworth
2013 Semiahmoo
2019 West Vancouver

AA Most Sportsmanlike Team Award

1993 Pleasant Valley
1994 Ladysmith
1995 Ladysmith
1996 Merritt
1997 South Okanagan
1998 A.L. Fortune
1999 A.L. Fortune
2000 Prince George
2001 Vanderhoof
2002 Selkirk
2003 A.L. Fortune
2004 Sir Charles Tupper
2005 Kelowna Christian
2006 Sir Charles Tupper
2007 Kelowna Christian/Heritage Park
2008 Kalamalka
2009 Collingwood
2010 Norkam
2011 Sentinel
2012 Collingwood
2013 Not Awarded
2014 Not Awarded
2015 St. Michaels University School
2016 LV Rogers
2017 DW Poppy
2018 DW Poppy
2019 Byrne Creek

Past Years of Provincial Championships (Junior Boys)

2019 St. George's
2018 Earl Marriott
2017 Shawnigan Lake
2016 Shawnigan Lake

BCSSRU Commissioners

2015 - Present Walter van Halst
2005 - 2015 Stephen Rowell
1990 - 2005 Brian Lynch
1987 - 1990 Douglas Sturrock
1986 - 1987 Greg Ponsart
1980 - 1986 John Narbett
1978 - 1980 Claude Marsden
1977 - 1978 Tony Whitham*
1974 - 1977 William "Bill" Turpin
1971 - 1974 Bill Westcott*

* Deceased

BCSSRU Presidents

2015 - Present Stephen Rowell
2014 - 2015 Walter van Halst
2013 - 2014 Stephen Rowell
1990 - 2013 Brian Lynch
1987 - 1990 Douglas Sturrock
1986 - 1987 Greg Ponsart
1980 - 1986 John Narbett
1978 - 1980 Claude Marsden
1977 - 1978 Tony Whitham*
1974 - 1977 William "Bill" Turpin
1971 - 1974 Bill Westcott*

* Deceased

BCSSRU Honourary Members

The BCSSRU Constitution and Bylaws state: Directors may admit to membership as an Honourary Member any individual who has given outstanding service to the Union.

In order to be considered the individual must satisfy two criteria:

  1. Be of good standing in the community at large
  2. Have made a long-standing contribution to secondary school rugby as a coach, referee, executive, tournament committee member, supporter, convenor or zone representative.

Past winners are:

1995 Derek Hyde-Lay*
  Peter Horn
  Claude Marsden
  John Marbett
  Mike Smith
  Doug Sturrock
  Tony Whitham*
1996 William "Bill" Turpin
1997 David Milne*
1998 Don Burgess*
1999 Marty Godsmark
2000 Brian Lynch
  Garth Henrikson
2002 Buzz Moore*
2003 Ian Hyde-Lay
2004 Paul Carnes
2008 Ken Erikson
2009 Blake Lewis
2010 Ian MacKay
  Stephen Rowell
  Dave Speirs
2013 Ian Busfield
  Pat Palmer
2014 Owen Schutz
2015 Al Hudson
  Ryan McWhinney
2017 Gary Johnston
  Dennis Quigley
  Henry’s Outdoor BBQ
2019 Kevin Ballard

* Deceased

BCSSRU Distinguished Coach Award

Presented for longstanding service and excellence in coaching rugby union.

2019 Barry Burnham
  Ron Burton
  Roger Hatch
  Paul Horne
  Spence McTavish


Tony Whitham Coaches Choice Award for Referee Excellence

Following the passing of Tony Whitham the BCSSRU membership voted to create an annual award for referee excellence which is chosen by the coaches at the conclusion of the Provincial Championships in the same way the referees select the Most Sportsmanlike team awards. The award is presented at the Coaches Dinner the following year to celebrate the recipient.

2018 Kevin Smith