Kyle Drinnan, Sports Reporter
History was made when the captain of the Humber Hawks rugby 7s team became the first woman’s rugby player from the college to win the Player of the Year Award.
The personal accolade for Christina Branch comes after a season that began with an eight-game winning streak, losing the semi-final match to Algonquin Thunder and then again in the bronze medal match against Seneca Sting.
“It didn’t click at first but when they started describing me before announcing the award my heart dropped,” said Branch, who scored 163 points with 19 tries and 34 converts in 14 regular season matches.
The veteran was in her fifth and final year in the OCAA and for the rest of the team, the award was a long time coming.
“It was no surprise really,” said head coach Dale Essue. “She is a coach’s dream. She is intelligent, a natural leader, and well disciplined.”
Essue said the award should have her name on it two years ago when she had her best season to date.
“She really should have got the award two years ago,” he said. “She was the top of her game and the best in the league.”
Branch said she doesn’t want the honour to be just about her.
“It will be a free-for-all. After me I think anyone can get it, but I don’t think it should be a single goal for the team,” Branch said.
She wasn’t the only award winner at the Trenton, Ont., rugby 7s awards ceremony on Nov. 1. Cheyenne De Luca, a fifth-year wing, is the OCAA League Scoring Champion. She scored a league-leading 31 tries, contributed to four converts and a penalty kick, the first in OCAA women’s rugby 7s history.
Branch said she is confident that her teammates will be a strong force in the coming years but she’ll be missed.
“She is unreplaceable, but she will succeed in what she does. She is the ideal athlete,” Essue said.
She still has a long year ahead in her studies, but she knows she wants to remain in the sport in some way.
“I don’t know what I will do after the season,” she said. “I want to keep doing something with rugby whether it is playing or other ways. I played for Team Ontario and other select clubs.
“I may return to something like that,” Branch said.