Spencer a key part of Rugby Ontario’s 2023 national championship run

Drew Spencer in action at the U16 Western Canadian Championships. (Adrian Brown/Rugby Ontario)



A standout rugby player who plied her trade for the PECI Panthers and the Belleville Jr. Bulldogs programs this season was key cog in Team Ontario’s national championship run earlier this month.

Drew Spencer was on the field when the referee’s three whistle blasts signaled the U16 Ontario Blues victory over the British Columbia Bears at the 2023 Western National Rugby Championships in Calgary, AB Aug. 6.

“Dynamic” Drew earned a starting position at the #2 spot (hooker) but her versatility allowed her to serve as flanker and eighth man. 

A combination of speed, strength and play reading had her in the good graces of provincial team coach Ian Fitzgerald who labeled Ms. Spencer’s efforts as “integral” to the success of the squad.

Ms. Spencer told the Gazette about the thrill of realizing a national championship effort.

Drew Spencer with the 2023 Western Canada U16 Championship trophy (Submitted Photo)

“When the game ended, I thought about the fact we were national champions and that all the hard work we have put in this summer had just paid off,” Ms. Spencer said.

The Ontario Blues went undefeated in the tournament, outscoring the opposition 113 to 17 and Coach Fitzgerald noted this collection of players from across Ontario were  “a special group.” 

“Their athleticism and rugby IQ was something I have never seen before in a full squad and it allowed us to challenge them with more than we anticipated leading into the summer,” Mr. Fitzgerald told the Gazette.

In terms of the local component of that special group, the coach said Ms. Spencer led by example through her high compete level and relentless determination on field.

“She is confrontational in attack and carries the ball with a “Go Forward” mentality, making defenders’ jobs difficult to bring her to ground. She pulls in multiple defenders when she carries the ball, which then opened up space out wide for our speedy backs,” the coach added.

The U16 league is generally the first opportunity for the province’s best rugby players to compete on the national stage. Mr. Fitzgerald said his starting #2 wasn’t fazed by the pressure situations that can come with playing against the very best ruggers from across Canada.

Ms. Spencer said she was thrilled to have the opportunity to test herself at national level and is looking forward to playing for Rugby Ontario entries in the coming years.  

“I am planning to play 7s with an eastern Ontario team in the fall to help expand my options,” she said.

In terms of Ms. Spencer’s rugby ceiling, the coach said predicting such things at the U16 level can be difficult. However, a spot on a collegiate team should be in the offing according to her provincial team coach. 

“While on her Collegiate journey I am certain she will have an opportunity to play National Age Grade either Canada U20 &/or U23,” Mr. Fitzgerald said. “She is certainly taking all the right steps to get there and has all the tools be be successful in our sport. I know I’m not alone when saying I’m excited to see what the future has in store for Drew Spencer.”