Bracebridge native traveling to Guelph to play for u21 Canadian rugby team

Bracebridge’s Ethan Jurgeneit is continuing his quest to become a professional rugby player.

He is preparing to travel to Guelph to play a series of exhibition matches. On the 13th, he and his under 21 Team Canada teammates will play Zimbabwe on Aug. 18, Chile on 18, and Uraguay on 23. All the games will be played at the University of Guelph.

“There will probably be a lot of coaches there,” Jurgeneit says, adding some may be from Major League Rugby (MLR), which is a recently established professional North American rugby league. “I want to make a good impression.”

MLR is based out of Dallas, Texas, with 12 American teams and one Canadian team in Toronto. Jurgeneit explains he hopes to break into the league as a way to advance his blossoming career. His goal is to get enough experience and be skilled enough to be able to play in his “second home” of New Zealand, but he’s also open to the possibility of playing somewhere in Europe or Japan.

As for the team, Jurgeneit says it’s an opportunity for the Canadians to boost their standing ahead of a potential return of the World Rugby Under 20 Championship. The tournament was canceled in 2020, ’21, and ’22 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, a decision has yet to be made on whether or not to forget the 2023 tournament, which is traditionally held at the beginning of summer. Canada currently plays in the second division of the tournament and placed fifth the last time it was held in 2019.

“It’s to get us some exposure as players and see what the up-and-coming u21 team looks like this year,” Jurgeneit says of the upcoming games.

Jurgeneit got his start playing rugby when he was six years old and living with his family in Hawaii. He moved to New Zealand a couple of years later and continued his training. “New Zealand at the time was the best in the world [for rugby],” he says. Jurgeneit and his family moved to Muskoka when he was 12. The next year he began playing provincially for Rugby Ontario. He also played for the Bracebridge and Muskoka Lakes Secondary School during his grade nine and 10 years before the program was canceled when he was in grade 11 because they weren’t able to find a coach.

This won’t be the first time Jurgeneit has played internationally. He’s previously been part of Canada’s u18 team and has played in multiple tournaments under the Canadian banner since moving to Muskoka a decade ago.

Despite his burgeoning rugby career, Jurgeneit is just as focused on his school work as he is on training. He is currently studying at Trinity Western University and wants to finish that program before taking the next step in his sporting career. “There needs to be something there other than just rugby,” he says.

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