Veteran Mandy Marchak ready for another rugby World Cup, this time rugby league

By The Canadian Press
October 11, 2017 - 2:00pm

Mandy Marchak, a hard-nosed runner who left a trail of would-be tacklers in her path playing for the Canadian rugby union team, is looking to do a bit more damage for her country — this time at the Rugby League World Cup.

The 32-year-old from Winnipeg, who now calls Victoria home, has been named to the Canada Ravens' final 24-woman squad for the tournament.

This will be Marchak’s sixth World Cup, and first in rugby league. She also competed at the 2006, 2010 and 2014 15s tournaments and the 2009 and '13 sevens versions of the World Cup.

Fourteen men's and six women's teams are taking part in the rugby league showcase.

The men's tournament runs Oct. 27 to Dec. 2 in Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea. The women's event goes Nov. 16 to Dec. 2 with the final serving as a curtain-raiser to the men's championship game in Brisbane.

The Canadian women, taking part in the tournament for the first time, open Nov. 16 against New Zealand before facing Papua New Guinea on Nov. 19 and defending champion Australia on Nov. 22.

For the fledgling Canada squad, it promises to be an adventure.

"I think that's what's going to be the best part about it, that it is unknown," said Marchak.

"We're fit, we're strong, we're fast," she added. "And we're adaptable. So learning this new game, I think that we're going to go in and we're going to fight. I don't think it's going to be easy by any means but we're definitely not going to go in light-hearted."

Other Canada rugby union veterans on the Ravens squad include Andrea Burk, Gillian Hoag, Stevi Schnoor and Natasha Smith.

Marchak and Burk both started for Canada in the final of the 2014 rugby union World Cup. Burk was also a member of the Canadian team at this summer's World Cup.

"It's a completely different experience," Marchak said of rugby league. "I'm really enjoying the challenge of learning something new. Every time we get together we're all learning and making it work."

A rugby league team is made up of 13 players with four on the bench. Each team is only allowed six tackles (plays) before the ball changes hands. A try is worth four points and a conversion two.

Rugby union teams are made up of 15 starters with eight substitutes. Play is more continuous and a try is worth five points and a conversion two.

Rugby league features gang tackling and often violent collisions. But while big forwards bash heads, there are also speedy, skilful backs who attack in free-flowing patterns.

Marchak announced her retirement from rugby in May 2016, citing injuries. She took 13 months off to let her body recover. 

"I started to feel pretty good and this (rugby league) opportunity came up. I thought I'd play my hand at it and give it a try," she said.

Canada coach Mike Castle initially announced a 32-woman roster, cutting it down after his team split a pair of weekend matches with the Corrimal Cougars, a touring Australian side.

"I get the feeling that this is the start of something very special," Castle said in a statement. "The squad of 32 all made our job extremely difficult in selecting this team which is testament to their enthusiasm, and performances over the entire weekend against the Corrimal Cougars."

Barbara Waddell is one of the Ravens players with rugby league experience. Born in Quebec, she spent time in Canada, Fiji and Australia and now makes her home in Sydney.

She has played rugby in both codes, including three years with rugby league's Forestville Ferrets.

The Canadian women leave Nov. 6 for Australia. They will play a warmup match against the Queensland NGA Hau e Wha Maori side on Nov. 10 in Southport, Queensland.

Canada and the U.S. are hosting the 2025 Rugby League World Cup.

 

Canada Ravens

Maira Acevedo (B.C.), Gillian Boag (B.C.), Nina Bui (Ontario), Andrea Burk (B.C.), Christina Burnham (B.C.), Mackenzie Fane (Ontario), Kathleen Grudzinski (B.C.), Janai Haupapa (Alberta), Michelle Helmeczi (Alberta), Natalie King (B.C.), Kelcey Leavitt (Alberta), Mandy Marchak (B.C.), Sabrina McDaid (Ontario), Wealtha Jade Menin Naglis (Alberta), Fedelia Omoghan (Ontario), Megan Pakulis (Ontario), Irene Patrinos (Ontario), Stevi Schnoor (B.C.), Natasha Smith (B.C.), Elizabeth Steele (Alberta), Natalie Tam (Ontario), Tiera Thomas-Reynolds (Ontario), Barbara Waddell (Quebec), Petra Woods (Ontario).

 

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Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press

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