YORKTON - Sisters from Waldheim, Sask. are heading to Premier Rugby 7s championship weekend.
Christina and Carissa Norsten are both members of the women’s edition of the Loonies, a team with a definite Canadian flavour with several Canucks on the roster.
Christina Norsten was actually the rugby trailblazer for the family.
“I was still in Waldheim at the time,” she explained, adding her introduction to rugby was sort of a case of luck.
There was a session to intro the sport of wrestling and Christina said a coach saw something in her, and invited her to a a rugby session in Saskatoon. She accepted, and her path was set.
“It got me into rugby,” she said.
Christina said as it turned out skills from wrestling weren’t so different from some that were required in rugby.
“They (wrestling skills) transferred over to rugby pretty well,” she said, adding a big part of rugby is foot positioning for good tackling techniques not so unlike wrestling.
It was more a case of follow-the-leader for Carissa in terms of becoming a rugby player.
“She (Christina), started a year before. I sort of watched her play,” said Carissa, adding it was natural to follow her sister onto the pitch.
Carissa said she quickly found the physicality of rugby to her liking.
“I’d never really played a contact sport until I started sevens,” she said.
The need to be physical and still require speed was a good fit. She said in rugby what you learn in other sports can be helpful too.
“So much stuff transfers over from other sports really well,” said Carissa.
Fate played a hand again when Christina attended a sevens rugby tournament in Edmonton. She had planned a course in university, but again a rugby coach convinced her to make sure the school offered rugby too.
“It wasn’t my first pick, but I definitely ended up going to university with rugby in mind,” she said.
Initially that was a stint in Canada West USport at the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns where she played 15s and 7s in 2019/20, and then it was a scholarship to Lindenwood University Rugby Program in St. Charles, Missouri.
Carissa would head west for university rugby playing 15s and 7s with Canada West USport University of Victoria, where is 2022 she was part of Canada West 7s Champions, and was the 15s USPORTS Rookie of the Year.
While Christina played both styles of rugby, it’s the sevens game she prefers.
“I like the speed of the game. If you want to get the ball and run and pass, I think sevens is it,” she said.
So it was an obvious decision to sign with the Premier Rugby 7s Loonies franchise for the 2023 season when a deal was offered after attending a couple of identification camps.
That the team is largely Canadian is a bonus, and it has helped the team jell into a winner.
“I sure think so (makes a difference). I really find the team has an energy and are easy to get along with. This group is pretty close,” said Christina.
That her sister is on the Loonies – Carissa played there in 2022 and is back this summer – is a bonus.
“It’s awesome,” said Christina. “We haven’t played together in four, or so years. It’s pretty much like a dream come true. . . I’m pretty thankful for the opportunity.”
Carissa said the Canadian content of the Loonies has meant the team came together well.
“There were a lot of girls I already knew,” she said, and familiarity builds teamwork.
Now the Loonies will look to win it all, as PR7s holds its championship tournament Aug. 6, in Washington, D.C..
“It’s just getting rid of our smaller mistakes, and ball procession,” said Christina, adding in sevens with only 14-minutes to a game a team has to hold onto the ball. “Lose the ball a couple of times can maybe get you.”
Carissa added the team just needs to play consistently.
“When we play good we play so good. We just need to play a full 14 minutes,” she offered.
From the PR7s experience Carissa hopes to build a foundation to get her onto Canada’s national 7s team, calling this the “goal”.
Her sister has a different vision.
“I’m pretty good at the PR7s level,” said Christina, adding she has an eye on returning to school, but would welcome summer in the league.
“I didn’t know what to expect . . . But it’s been very exciting.”