By Doug Kennedy
When the sport of rugby is mentioned around Kincardine, there is always one family name that pops into your mind; the Colley family. Keith Sr. and Jill have brought their love of the sport to their family members, and talking to Jill during our shuffleboard games at the Legion, you can see her passion for the sport as she describes her kids and grandkids and the success they have had.
The Colleys are big supporters of their grandkids in all sports, including soccer, baseball, figure skating, hockey, basketball and most of all, rugby.
The Colleys started following the Kincardine Barbarians in the late 70s and early 80s. They rarely missed a game that their kids, Ian and Keith Jr., played. I have been told that Jill is quite vocal at rugby games. Her favourite line is “get off my boy, you dirty_____.”
For five weeks over February and March, you will find Keith Sr. and Jill hosting the Six Nations (England, France, Italy, Ireland, Scotland and Wales) rugby championship at their home. All the countries are proudly displayed in their home.
To say the Colley family has a great love for the game of rugby would be an understatement. This love of rugby is a generational love for the sport. I have always admired the leadership role Keith Colley Jr. has taken in this area.
Keith Jr. started watching the sport when he was eight years old when his brother Stephen was playing for the Kincardine Barbarians. Stephen was a big influence to Keith Jr. from a young age. His parents were big supporters of the team and often hosted the” BEER-UP” post game party.
His older brother Ian started playing in high school and Keith Jr. joined him a couple of years later. Ron Duncan was the community coach who installed the traditions of the game while providing much needed experience. Mark Ozorio (the current principal at KDSS) started coaching Keith Jr. in Grade 11 and deserves a lot of credit for keeping the game alive at KDSS. At one point, Ozorio was coaching and managing five different teams, with some help from Tom Franklin and Judith Jones.
Keith Jr. played his first game with the Barbarians when he was 16-years-old. It was an over 30 versus under 30 exhibition game. Thanks to Keith’s two brothers playing in the game, he was a little more fearless. He separated his shoulder in Grade 12 so he had to take his exams verbally.
His biggest rugby regret is not playing for the University of Waterloo. He was asked but declined because of school. As a teacher and a coach, Keith Jr. encourages kids to play at the university level. Currently two KDSS graduates are playing university rugby. Kara Colhoun and Caitlyn McKay are heading into their third year at the University of Western.
Keith Jr. has made a commitment to coaching throughtout his adult life. He has been coaching both boys and girls rugby at KDSS since 2004. In 2006, with Watson Morris, the senior girls won the provincial 7s and 10s aside championship. In 2007, with John Betrand, the senior boys won consolation at OFSAA. Keith Jr. is proud of starting youth flag rugby in 2007 with the help of Cory Colhoun. When he handed over the reins to Bruce County Rugby, it had over 100 young athletes participating. Colhoun says “his biggest asset is how he connects with the kids.” Other words Colhoun uses to describe his leadership are “thoughtfull, well organized and selfless.”
In 2008 he was part of a group, including his brother Stephen, Steve Bell and Martin O’Connor, that formed the Bruce County Barbarians. Ron Duncan and president Bob Illman supported the group. O’Connor coached the team to a 2009 Niagara Rugby Union B Championship, where Keith Jr. was named the MVP. The club has since added a ladies program. Keith Jr. retired for a short time until a masters team was formed.
Last year Keith Jr. was an assistant coach with Fergus Highlanders and the Ontario U18 Ontario West. For the past two seasons he has also coached seven aside Rugby for Upright Rugby Canada and also runs a winter program at KDSS.
Keith’s two kids have been involved in rugby from a young age. Jake started playing when he was five and continued to play in high school. McKinna started playing at six. In Grade 8 she played a couple of exhibition games with KDSS. For the past two summers she has played for Ontario West. Last year they came second to Quebec in the Eastern Canadian Championships. Her play at this tournament earned her a chance to try out for Team Canada U18 . Because of Coved-19, this summer she will miss out on a chance to be with Team Canada this year. McKinna is going to MacMaster in the fall, which has a really strong rugby program.
One of Keith Jr.’s future goals is to team up with one of Canada’s top rugby coaches, Darrell Devine, who most recently moved to Kincardine. He says there are a lot of families that have deep involvement in the games from Kincardine. Some families like the Colhouns, Jones, Dyer and the Duncans have all been big contributers. Rugby requires athletes of all shapes and sizes to be successful. A tip of the cap to Keith Jr. for a job well done and being a great leader in this sport in our community.