Amanda Thornborough is hoping for a dream ending to her university rugby career in November.
The 22-year-old Brandonite is in her fifth and final year of eligibility with the St. Francis Xavier X-Women and desperately wants to win the Canadian Interuniversity Sport title that has eluded her. Last year, they made it to the final, but fell 28-0 to the Guelph Gryphons.
That loss caused head coach Mike Cavanagh to change his philosophy a bit and has given Thornborough and all the returning players a lot of motivation. They already had plenty since St. FX is hosting nationals at Antigonish, N.S., from Nov. 1-4.
“We definitely have to redeem ourselves from our final performance last year, which was a little bit embarrassing,” said Thornborough, a 5-foot-6 wing and national team member. “But I think we’re on the right track. Our coach definitely has a different mind set and the players want some revenge. I think it’s a good quality.”
If revenge has been the X-Women’s motivation this season, it has served them well so far. They are a perfect 5-0 and have only allowed three points in AUS play this season. Their smallest margin of victory has been 69 points. They also blew out all the other university teams they played in pre-season, which is why they’ve been the top-ranked team in the country since the first CIS rankings came out on Sept. 4.
Thornborough, who is one of the team captains and has scored six tries, believes a lot of the team’s success comes from its depth. She claims the new recruits are so good they are only sitting on the bench because they don’t have the same experience as the veterans.
The Vincent Massey High School graduate has also told her St. FX teammates a secret to success that she learned during her summer with the national sevens team.
“I feel if you play with confidence, that’s the biggest separator from a good player to an elite player,” she said. “Even if you can fake confidence, then it gets you a long way. That’s something I’ve learned in the last year.”
While Thornborough is focused on winning a national championship this year, she admits she doesn’t have a lot of free time. She’s in her final semester of school and hopes to graduate after this semester with a bachelor of arts degree in political science.
She’s also preparing to join the national women’s sevens team on Nov. 11 for a tournament in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. She’ll return to Canada on Dec. 3 to finish her schooling before going to Victoria in January to train full-time with Team Canada.
While Thornborough is looking forward to her future, she knows it will be hard to say goodbye to St. FX and all her friends. She’s just hoping one of her final memories will be celebrating a national title.
“I’m a bit sad, but I’m happy I actually get to participate at nationals this year on home turf,” she said. “This is one of my favourite teams to play on in my whole life and I’m definitely going to be sad when it’s over.”
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition October 2, 2012