To start the new year here at Gilbert Rugby Canada we hear from 2022 Gilbert Champion Sofia Brussoni as she recounts her experience travelling to Nicaragua in May of 2022 to play rugby and participate in a social outreach program with the Dog River Howlers. Our goal with #GilbertChampions is to highlight folks in Canada helping to #GrowTheGame and Sofia is a shining example of this right here in Canada, and abroad. To learn more about The Dog River Howlers and their outreach trip, click on the links at the bottom.
“It’s more than a game, it’s a way of life” - Dog River Howlers Motto
This was my second time touring to the beautiful country of Nicaragua with the Dog River Howlers, a rugby club based in Saskatchewan with an emphasis in growing the game around the world. We are each asked to bring as many donations as we can on tour, including medical supplies, school supplies, and rugby equipment.
Starting the first few days of the tour in the beautiful San Juan del Sur at the magnificent Rock Resort, we spent our days beside the ocean. Having rugby practices on the beach, getting to know our awesome group of players and support staff, and spending time in paradise!
We got the opportunity to go to local villages and see their way of living. It is truly an eye-opening experience and makes me thankful for all the little things in my life. The local medical clinic we visited to was incredibly small, and very far away from the nearest hospital. Since the huge hurricane that hit Nicaragua last year, they have been very short on important supplies, and have had to build back up for entire communities. We visited two local schools in our time there, and brought them tons of school supplies, games, and sporting equipment. The kids were so excited to get brand new supplies and we got the chance to show them a few fun parts about rugby – their favourite was being lifted in lineouts!
Later in the week, we hosted a training session for local children to try rugby, and then after, any men and women who wanted to try training with us. The next day we were hosted by the local Tola Rugby Club, who our men’s and women’s team each played an Ultra 7’s game against, followed by a great barbecue where we spent time with the teams! The Tola teams were gifted brand new Gilbert rugby balls and drawstring bags and were so thankful to be able to share this with their club.
We spent the next day travelling and sightseeing all the way to the beautiful city of Granada, where the tournament would be hosted later in the week. We had the opportunity to represent Canada in this tournament, and played against the national teams of Guatemala, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua. The Granada 7s tournament was an incredibly lively event, with live music, fields filled with rugby games, and lots of other entertainment! The other teams were competitive, especially Costa Rica who narrowly placed second to both of our men’s and women’s teams in exciting matches.
This trip was truly a one-of-a-kind experience. Being able to immerse in the Nicaraguan culture, support their local schools, hospitals, and communities, and of course play lots of rugby all in one! An opportunity to get to go to a country where rugby is still in development stages and get to share experiences and grow this beautiful game! This is exactly the reason for the Dog River Howlers motto, “It’s more than a game, it’s a way of life”.
Sofia Brussoni was a true all star Gilbert Champion in 2022 not only bringing outreach (and Gilbert rugby balls!) to young people in Nicaragua, but also doing multiple instagram takeovers to share her adventures playing rugby across North America including a very exciting stint playing with the Loonies in the Premier Rugby Sevens
To learn more about The Dog River Howlers visit their site here
If you or someone you know is a true rugby champion - we are looking for 2023 Gilbert Champions