Homecoming weekend is all about the energy, the connection to Brock, and the school spirit; for many former Varsity athletes, it’s also about coming back to Brock to support their teams!
This year, during Homecoming weekend (Sept. 21), the men’s rugby team will take on the Guelph Gryphons at 1 p.m. and will be cheered on, not only by throngs of students, but also by former players. The 1998 OUA Division II men’s rugby team, as well as Ray Barkwill (BSc ‘10) and some of his teammates from Brock’s 2007 OUA championship squad, will line up along the sidelines to cheer on their comrades. After all, as Brock Badgers Athletic director, Robert Hilson, noted in his Homecoming Q & A, the campus is buzzing, and we have great sports teams to cheer on.
We connected with former Badger rugby player, and current member of the National Rugby team, Ray Barkwill (BSc ‘10) to get some insight into his experience as a Badger.
Before coming to Brock, Ray had been a baseball player for Durham College, but was looking to get back into the sport he had played in the Niagara region - rugby.
“When enrolling to Brock University, I made the switch from baseball to rugby because I enjoyed rugby more at that particular point in my life,” Ray said.
It was a fateful decision.
Ray’s rugby career would include captaining his team to Brock’s first OUA Championship in 2007, an accomplishment that he found particularly special because he was a locally-based athlete.
In recognition of his accomplishments, he was nominated for Brock Athletics’ Male Athlete of the Year in a very competitive group.
“The class of other athletes all were quite good, with most going on to play professionally in their respective sports,” Ray said.
In the years since his graduation, rugby has taken Ray around the world and back home again. He travelled Down Under to play for the University of Western Australia while taking some education courses, and eventually toiled in a professional league in Perth.
Three years of strong play earned Ray the opportunity to play for the Canadian National team, an accomplishment he calls “the highest honour.” Ray has now returned to Niagara where he hopes to continue teaching while representing Canada on the world rugby stage at the same time.
Ray says the highlights of his life as a student at Brock didn’t only take place on the field, but across campus.
“The highlight was obviously graduating, and enjoying the time I had at Brock, and making amazing friends and relationships along the way.”
Ray keeps in close contact with a small group of teammates he now considers “very good friends of mine” while many former teammates send messages of support and often come to games when they are played on Canadian turf. Ray and his former teammates still try to make it to Brock’s Homecoming to as Ray put it, “share new stories and talk about old memories.”
This fall, many campus groups will be gathering to reconnect and reminisce, including members of the 1998 Badgers Rugby team. The team will join to celebrate and reconnect during the current squad’s game against the Guelph Gryphons.
For more information, or to find out how you can host a reunion of your own, please visit our Homecoming Reunions page.