Harlequins in provincial women's rugby final

The Brantford Harlequins will play for Rugby Ontario's Ontario Women's League Cup on Saturday against Guelph in Markham at Fletcher's Fields. Ryan / Submitted

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The Brantford Harlequins women’s rugby team will make history this weekend.

Playing its first year in Rugby Ontario’s top league, Brantford will take on the Guelph Redcoats on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. at Fletcher’s Fields in Markham for the Ontario Women’s League Cup.

Back in April, when co-coaches Kailyn Jones and Ken Courser got a first look at the team, both wondered whether a championship was possible. Now after an excellent first season, their question has been answered.

“I’m really excited for the girls,” said Jones.

“For the athletes, from a club perspective, they get to be in an OWL Cup final for the first time in history. You can’t help but be proud for them and of them.”

Lea Milosevic of the Brantford Harlequins is about to be lifted by her teammates during a lineout. Brantford will play for Rugby Ontario’s Ontario Women’s League Cup on Saturday against Guelph in Markham at Fletcher’s Fields. Submitted jpg, BR

The Harlequins have had women’s teams in the past but this season things were ramped up when Jones and Courser brought together girls from several clubs and cities to form one strong organization in Brantford.

“Our goal was to really just build up our team culture and work together on amalgamating all the clubs and getting the girls familiar with each other,” said Jones.

“After a couple of weeks it looked pretty promising that we were going to be able to compete…. It’s not that I’m surprised we got here, (but) it just took a lot of hard work and dedication from our athletes.”

Brantford went 8-2 during the regular season to finish atop the west division standings. In its 10 games, the Harlequins scored a whopping 538 points, while only allowing 170.

After a quarter-final playoff bye, the Harlequins beat the Aurora Barbarians, second in the east division, 73-32 in the semifinal.

“Our team is very offensive driven,” Jones explained. “We’ve done a lot of work so that we can retain the ball and gain ground every time we have the ball in our hands.

“Defensively, we’re strong as well. It’s just that, with the athletes we have and the work they can do — they’re so skilled on offence, it lets us sit pretty when we’re on defence.”

The team has been led all season by captains Brooke Newsome and Scarlett Jarquin, as well as Meagan Wilson, Veronica Harrigan, Maddi Cohoon, Selena Seguin, Gaylin Kincaid and the Svoboda sisters – Katie, Sara and Tia.

Because the season is long, not all players can make every practice or game.

“You’re always expecting to rotate people in and give everyone a shot,” said Jones.

“We had a great opportunity to do that with having a seconds team. We had a lot of seconds players come up and step up to the big stage and play some ones games.”

The coach said the changing roster was not an issue.

“It’s pretty interesting to hear comments from our opponents on how strong they think we are in certain areas,” said Jones.

“All the comments come back to cohesiveness. That’s a compliment in itself.”

The coach said the Harlequins will have most of their top players in the lineup Saturday.

Guelph finished the regular season right behind Brantford at 7-3. The Redcoats scored 473 points and allowed 223. The teams split their two regular-season games.

Guelph beat Toronto Nomads 69-10 in the quarter-finals and then beat Toronto Saracens 31-17 in the semifinals, avenging the Redcoats 46-36 loss to the Saracens in last year’s OWL final.

Jones said she is excited to face Guelph.

“I think we’re the underdogs in this story but everyone loves an underdog story.”

Jones praised her players for a successful season.

“The athletes have bought in,” she said. “It’s the athletes who are committed that make it happen.”

Jone said she thinks the team’s success can continue.

“We have some committed athletes. I’d like to think this is something we’ll be able to put together next season and the season after.”