A Tribute To Two Canadian Rugby Players Lost In Car Accident

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Chantal and Cody: a tribute

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Canada Rugby has suffered a terrible loss this week. On Monday, two of the sport’s most promising young players, Cody Kelher and Chantal MacLean, were killed in a car accident. Both aged 17, as well as being avid and talented rugby players, they were two of my son’s closest friends. Each of them had represented BC; Chantal in both 7s and 15s. They had huge potential to go further in the sport, and it is likely that they would have both done so, had their young lives not been robbed from them in this cruel and unimaginable tragedy.

My husband had coached both of these exceptional young people, and followed their rugby playing paths closely. He and I had just sponsored Chantal in the Canadian National Rugby festival in Calgary. In her letter of thanks, she wrote: “In the final, we played Team Ontario, only to win the gold medal by 3 points, with a final score of 10-7. We were tied 7-7, but I made a penalty kick from outside the 22 meter line, putting my team ahead the 3 points that we won by. I finished as the tournament’s highest point scorer in the U18 Women’s Division.” I never personally congratulated her on her achievement, and I will forever regret that. I am honouring her now by writing this. I want people to know how talented she was. And, of course, she was more than that. She was the friend who brought soup and kindness to my son Liam, after he suffered a small injury in a game last week. She was the smiling, positive face who would greet us as Liam’s biggest supporter at his games. She was a lovely, caring person who will be missed and mourned by many, as will her high school sweetheart, Cody.

I knew Cody as not just a star athlete – I watched many of his famous and unbeatable runs in countless games – but also as a well-balanced, well-rounded and giving human being, with a kind word and cheerful smile for everyone he met. In 2013, I was lucky enough to be at the Sports Banquet at Clayton Heights High School, as Cody Kelher was awarded Male Athlete of the Year alongside that year’s Female Athlete of the Year – Chantal Maclean.

Not just promising and talented athletes, these were two incredible young people: positive, fun, friendly and genuine. I am grateful to have known them both and grateful that they had an influence and impact on my son’s life.

There is a fear around rugby, mostly from people who don’t understand the game or have never been involved in it. Over the years, I have had many non-rugby parents express shock to me that my son plays a “dangerous”, “unprotected” or even “barbaric” sport. But it was not rugby that took these beautiful young people. Rugby played no part in it. This couple, however, played a huge part in the rugby community, and were a credit to the game. As a result, the sport itself has suffered a grave loss. Of course, more than that, Cody and Chantal’s families have suffered a loss so immense that it is impossible to fully comprehend. May they take some small solace from knowing how loved, respected, and appreciated these two were, and are.

I don’t doubt that Cody and Chantal knew how proud everyone around them was of their accomplishments. But I personally never told them – it never occurred to me that I should. I have learned a lesson from that.

Cody and Chantal did not die on the field. But they will be forever remembered – on it, and off.

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