Gabriolan named to national rugby squad

Rachelle Stein-Wotten

Sounder News

Wednesday, February 12 2020

A Gabriolan will be playing his heart out on a rugby pitch in Portugal this month. 

Zephyr Melnyk was selected to the Canada Men’s Under-20 Rugby 15s squad, the top grade of rugby in the country for his age group, after showing he has what it takes at a selection camp held at Shawnigan Lake School in January. Of the 28 players selected for the squad, he was one of nine athletes who play for Vancouver Island clubs to make the cut.

Zephyr, who plays for the Nanaimo Hornets RFC, said the process was “friendly and taxing” both mentally and physically. His preparation for U20s has been all the more intensive, training at the gym fives days a week and rugby three days a week. 

“The work required to make it to this point feels like a full-time job,” he said. “This team has had lots of travel for training and tryouts as well all the extra work I’ve had to put in to make myself the rugby player they might consider. It’s been a six-year process.”

Zephyr began playing rugby his first year of high school. The camaraderie and personal relationships he’s developed have been some of the best aspects for him. “I’ve met some of my best friends on teams where I only see them for a week out of the year. Plus, everyone has each other’s back.”

While rugby isn’t as popular as hockey or football is in Canada, Zephyr said it’s growing fast. He recommends any interested spectators to check out the HSBC Sevens Series or Six Nations rugby, which is currently in season.

Canada Men’s U20 plays Portugal for exhibition games Feb. 17 and 20 in Lisbon. Last year, Portugal finished second in the World Rugby U20 Championship, three places ahead of Canada, but Zephyr feels optimistic about his squad’s chances.

“The U20 program is for birth years 2000/2001, so the potential for skill turnover is high. Some years traditionally good teams may be worse, or more underdog teams can rise to the challenge. So I think Canada’s got a foot in this race,” he said.

To help cover some of the costs for his trip to Portugal, Zephyr is raffling off a Nanaimo Hornets down jacket. He’s raised close to $1,000. To donate, visit the Hornet’s facebook page at facebook.com/nanaimohornets