Culligan tries rugby
It was love at first tackle for Katherine Culligan.
The 18-year-old Halifax native had been surrounded by rugby growing up with several members of her family heavily into the sport, but it wasn’t until she enrolled at Ridley College in Grade 10 that she gave it a try.
“Rugby has been very important to my family for a long time, pretty much everyone in my family has played,” Culligan said. “I was looking forward to trying new sports and instantly loved it so much. It kind of became a passion of mine at Ridley.”
Culligan loves everything about rugby.
“I think it’s the perfect sport for someone who likes contact,” she said. “It combines pretty much anything you could want — contact, speed, skill — and there are so many different positions you can play and try and master. I think it’s a sport you can spend a long on trying to perfect. It’s cool to me there are so many aspects to the sport.”
Culligan played rugby and hockey in her three years at Ridley and had opportunities to continue to play both sports at the next level.
Culligan ultimately chose rugby and will continue to play at St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia this fall.
“The possibility of playing rugby at the next level was always in my mind. I didn’t really think about it too seriously until the last year when some opportunities started to open up for me,” she said.
Culligan doesn’t regret having to hang up her skates.
“I didn’t feel like I lost too much,” she said. “I didn’t feel I was really giving up hockey, I felt I was deciding to start a new journey. I’d still love to keep hockey in my life and play it recreationally. I did have to make a decision because I did have some options where I could have played hockey at the next level in university as well.
“It was a weighing game of what was the best fit for me academically and athletically and what I want to do with my life. I’ve played hockey for 11 years and felt I had given so much of myself to that sport.”
Culligan, who is studying health and sciences and may pursue a career in dentistry, felt St. Francis Xavier was the perfect fit — the school is only about a two-hour drive from her home and features an outstanding women’s rugby program.
“Growing up, I had been to the school quite a few times and I was fairly familiar with it,” she said. “It was almost overlooked in my mind. I didn’t give too much thought to it in my university search process because I didn’t realize how amazing a school we had so close to home. I had visited the campus before so I knew what it was all about.”
She also came away impressed with head coach Mike Cavanagh and his staff.
“They have won six national championships since 2006 and I think that is very much because of their amazing coaching staff. I’m just very excited to get down there and get started with them in September,” she said.
Culligan will be able to attend classes in person, but there will be no organized games this fall due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I’m so excited,” she said. “We are planning on practising and working out and maybe in the spring schedule some exhibition games. It’s a good way to ease into it. I will get used to the team and the school.”
She will miss her time at Ridley.
“I was searching for a higher level of hockey and Ridley just offered the best academics for me at that point too so it was really the best of both worlds,” she said.
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