RyanVancouver, BC: BC Rugby is proud to recognize Ryan McWhinney of Abbotsford RFC through the First XV Volunteer Appreciation Program.

A former Canadian national team member, McWhinney is now a PE/AD with W.A. Fraser Middle School and still suits up for Abbotsford RFC's Premier roster. McWhinney began volunteering over a decade ago and continues to dedicate himself to Fraser Valley rugby both on and off the pitch.

In recent years McWhinney has served on the Abbotsford RFC board as President, Past President, coached the Abbotsford Under-19 men's program and coached the Fraser Valley U19 team. When winter weather hits and wreaks havoc on the Valley rugby schedule, McWhinney is often working the phones to find clubs a suitable playing surface and out scanning the fields for standing water and frozen pitches.

"I have had the pleasure of coaching Ryan in high school, club and representative rugby and he has been a great leader by the way he plays and the example he sets," said Abbotsford RFC men's head coach Jason Young. "He is very dedicated and has great passion when it comes to the game. On or off the field Ryan is the guy every single club wants. He does everything and I want to truly thank him for what he does. Abbotsford RFC, the Fraser Valley Rugby Union and BC Rugby Union should be thankful they have someone like this in [the community]."

We caught up with our February First XV Volunteer and this is what he had to say…

1. How long have you been involved as a volunteer with rugby?
I can barely remember last week, but I think I started getting more involved as a volunteer once I finished university in 2000.

2. Why is volunteering important to you and why have you dedicated so many hours to the FVRU and Abbotsford RFC?
It may be that I have trouble saying no, but I've always been appreciative of those who helped coach me growing up. Hopefully by continuing this cycle we can help today's youth excel in sport and also in life. At the very least, we're hoping we keep a few kids out of trouble.

3. What is the secret to balancing so many hours of rugby with your professional life?
If someone knows that secret I would pay to hear it! It certainly helps having a patient wife.

4. Can you tell us a bit about your playing career? How did you first get involved with Abbotsford?
My playing career feels like it's been an awkward wrestling match with the injury bug, but that is probably par for the course for many. I started playing rugby in grade 8 at Abby Jr. I had some great coaching and was fortunate enough to be chosen for various rep teams in high school. I went on to play football and rugby at UBC and was honoured to be chosen for the Canada U-19 rugby team. I was then recruited to the Pacific Pride (Canada U-23ish team) and made the tough decision to leave football and move to the island to join this team.

One of the messages that Clarky (David Clark) and Johnny Mac (John MacMillan) promoted at the Pride was to acquire rugby skills and knowledge from the program and head back to our home clubs to help build those organizations. I had always planned on going back to Abbotsford, but this message stuck with me and I think I've had more trouble saying no since this point. While playing in Abbotsford, stints with the Valley in the McKechnie Cup helped me get an invite to a Canada trial where I was selected for a couple of tours with the national side.

5. What positions have you played and which one is your strongest?
I think I've played every position in the backs and a couple of games at flank, but have spent most of my time knocking heads in the centres.

6. Have you ever played/coached/volunteered at another rugby club other than Abby?
I spent half a season with James Bay before officially joining the Pride and played on two separate occasions at UBC, once as a young guy and the second as an older guy working on a teaching degree. Spike's (Spence McTavish) quotes were even more classic the second time around.

7. Who is your favourite Canadian rugby player (ever)?
You have to give credit to Gareth Rees for playing in four world cups and being Canada's leading scorer, but I'd probably say Winston Stanley. He's had some amazing accomplishments on the field - I believe he is still Canada's top try scorer in 15's and has over 60 caps. I had the pleasure of playing with him at UBC in my first couple of years. He taught me a lot about the game both on and off the field and helped to make sure that I survived as a 17 year old rookie.

8. As a player, who has been your biggest inspiration?
I would probably have to say Mike Schmid. He is one of the most successful rugby players to come out of Abbotsford and made an impact on us when he'd come back into town and run sessions with us in high school. He is an outstanding player, coach, and individual. He emanates a strong sense of club community and has always given back to our club, even from overseas with shipments of gear and tackle shields. He's a great all-round rugby dude.

9. Who is your current favourite rugby player and why?
There are a number of talented players that have been impressive recently, but I would say that after watching this past World Cup, it would be Kleebs (Adam Kleeberger). For a smaller back row player, he plays like a heavyweight. He embodies the work rate and tenacity that we hope to instil in young rugby players we coach. He's a great guy off the field, not to mention that he had the courage to rock that grizzly beard for the whole tournament and had the fearlessness to knock out Tony Woodcock with his head. He's a beast.

10. Do you see yourself leaving the game of rugby any time soon?
I'm hoping that I'll have the opportunity to stay involved for as long as possible in some capacity, but we'll see how much longer the guys can endure my long-winded emails.

11. What is your greatest rugby memory either as a player or as a volunteer?
My memory is like a sieve, but stepping on the field for Canada in front of 35,000 fans in France was certainly a memorable experience that I hope I don't forget any time soon.

Thanks Ryan for taking the time!

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