The significance of being inducted into the Abbotsford Sports Hall of Fame didn’t hit Ryan Banks until he walked into the facility at the Legacy Building recently to drop off some memorabilia for his cabinet.
“I was really blown away by the whole experience,” marveled Banks, a former captain of the Canadian national rugby team who was inducted into the local sports shrine this past Saturday, along with rope skipping coach Deirdre DeGagné.
“I’ve got my jerseys, my cap, clippings, posters on display. To be able to stand in front of that and to have generations be able to see it, it was really emotional.”
For Banks, his induction sparked a trip down memory lane. He emerged with a particular gratitude for Jack Hendry and George Keys, his coaches at Abbotsford Senior who he said “dragged me out and got me interested in rugby.”
Banks, as a high schooler, was more interested in football and dreamed of a career in the CFL. Hendry and Keys found ways to keep him involved in rugby, even though he had a scholarship lined up to play football at Simon Fraser University.
“The moment that kind of solidified everything was in Grade 11, in 1988,” he said. “We toured England and Wales, won all our games, and then we came back from that tour and won the provincial championship. Just to have such a great first experience with rugby and getting that chance to travel, that’s one of the things that really stood out.”
After graduating from Abby Senior and playing linebacker for four years with the SFU football team, Banks returned to rugby and quickly caught on with the national program.
“Rugby players, in the early ’90s, didn’t lift weights or go to the gym, or do any of those things that are expected of them now,” he said. “Those four years of training for football, when I came back onto the rugby scene, within a few years I was touring with the national sevens team.”
Banks would go on to play one season professionally in England with the Bedford Blues, and he represented Canada at two World Cups – in 1999 in the United Kingdom/France, and in 2003 in Australia.
Banks tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee prior to the 2003 World Cup, but played through the injury, captaining the team. He lists suiting up vs. the storied All Blacks of New Zealand as the pinnacle of his career.
The ’03 World Cup marked the end of his run with the national team – he underwent knee surgery afterward, and the squad moved on with a new coaching staff and a younger crew.
Banks would play 14 seasons with the Burnaby Lake Rugby Club, and he’s also a member of that city’s sports hall of fame.
But being welcomed into his hometown hall is very special to him.
“Abby has always had a great sports legacy, and a very supportive community around it,” said Banks, 41, who currently lives in Coquitlam and works in software development. “There was always an opportunity to be involved in sports.”
GALA DINNER WELL-ATTENDED
• DeGagné, in her speech on Saturday, called her induction a humbling experience.
“They say it takes a village to raise a child,” she noted. “Well, it takes a community to make something like this happen.”
• Additionally, six teams and eight individuals were recognized for their exploits in 2012 with a plaque on the Wall of Fame, which will be displayed for one year.
The Wall of Fame teams include the Abbotsford Panthers senior girls rugby, the Rick Hansen senior boys wrestling, the Abbotsford Pilots junior B hockey, the MEI junior boys volleyball, and the UFV men’s golf and women’s volleyball.
Individual honourees include Maleek Irons (football), Chelsea Jenner (softball), Mandeep Gill (wrestling), Shaun Dhillon (karate), Tyler Miller (figure skating), Tyler Koslowsky (volleyball), Gagandeep Dosanjh (soccer) and Tiffany Matteazzi (javelin).
• Joban Phulka, a wrestler with the Rick Hansen Hurricanes, took home a $1,000 scholarship from Imperial Paving. Phulka, a Wall of Fame inductee in 2012, is a three-time provincial high school champion and also boasts a 94 per cent academic average.