At five foot eight and 170 lbs, Crosby Stewart is one of the newer and smallest additions to the Vikes rugby team. Having joined rugby halfway through grade 11, and getting more serious nearing the end of high school, Stewart has developed a focus on rugby as a sport and a passion.
His beginnings in rugby began from joining track in high school. “I found the practices kinda boring,” he said, yearning for something more. Now in his second year at UVic, and part of the Vikes men’s rugby team, Stewart is able to use his track background and training for endurance during his games. “Conditioning wise, it helped. At the end of the game, I can still go hard, whereas everyone else is kinda gassed,” he said.
“Everyone comes out hard for the first 10-20 minutes or so, then they slowly start to wear down. It’s a long game; 80 minutes out there is so long,” he said.
Having played on many different teams, Crosby admits his first game with the Vikes was an unexpected challenge. “I’ve done decently well. My first game was a rough transition.” He’s often charged on the field once the opposition notices his height, but Stewart remains determined. “Everyone is much faster and bigger, whereas I’m not a very big guy,” he said. “I don’t always make the tackles, but I try to.”
What he lacks in height, he makes up for in speed. “I’m fast compared to many people,” he said. When Stewart was playing for Oak Bay, the assistant coach Gary Johnson compared him to Phil Mack, who Johnson coached in his younger days. “He’s aboriginal like me, [and] short.” They were compared in terms of speed and size, which boosted his confidence for continuing with the sport. Stewart hopes to follow in his footsteps.
Stewart worked closely with Mack as an assistant to Vancouver Island Thunder, a program created to introduce and train aboriginal youth in rugby on Vancouver Island. They were able to coach a U-18 girls and a U-16 boys team to compete in the Victoria International Youth 7s tournament. The program ran for its first year over the summer of 2014, and found success, Stewart said.
The University 7s finals in Las Vegas last year provided Stewart’s biggest bump in the road so far. Teams from countries around the world were invited, including South Africa and New Zealand, but the Vikes ended up playing their rival UBC in the final game. The odds of playing a team from the same province was not surprising, according to Stewart. “U.S. teams aren’t super strong, a lot of their athletic guys go into football,” he said.
They lost to the Thunderbirds, but just barely. The loss took a major toll on their team. “We worked really hard to get to the finals. We played really well going up to the game; I don’t think we let in a point in defense. It sucked,” he said.
When asked about hobbies, Stewart struggles to find an answer that does not relate to rugby, track, or conditioning. On his very rare days off, he visits his friends on the track where he spent six days per week training with them over the summer. “It’s kinda sad. I’m at school, at rugby, and the days when I have rugby off, I go to track.” Rugby has become a seamless part of who he is as a person, especially as he continues to grow as a player.
Stewart is looking forward to traveling to Western Washington at the end of September with the Vikes team, and a possible European trip in the spring, instead of their usual Vegas travels. “I enjoy playing [rugby], and I want to play [at] a higher level,” he said. “There are a lot of steps in between that you have to do.”