On a snowy, blustery Sunday in late January, locals and visitors alike filled the Tillsonburg Community Centre in South-Western Ontario to watch an NRL game between the Waterloo Wildfire and the Cambridge Turbos.
The game capped off the annual Tillsonburg TwisterFest Tournament weekend that featured U8 to U14 teams and was a great opportunity to bring the NRL to a new audience.
The Turbos’ Taylor Campbell is a Tillsonburg native and was certainly a big fan draw. Good pre-game coverage in the local paper also helped bring in the crowd, estimated at about 500 people. It was Taylor’s first playing appearance in her hometown since joining the Turbos last season. And what a homecoming it was. “Go Taylor” signs were spotted around the arena and the place was rocking with plenty of cheers for Taylor and the Turbos.
Not to be outdone by Campbell, Turbos’ Sydney Granger had her own exceptionally vocal fan club from the Dorchester Dragons in attendance. Syd helps coach the U12 Dragons in her hometown of Dorchester, which is about an hour’s drive from Tillsonburg. As a reward for their boisterous support, the Dragons were invited into the Turbos dressing room for a chat after the game. Long lines of young players also waited patiently to get autographs and hear encouraging words from some of their favourite NRL players from both teams.
The excitement during the game and the large cheering crowd made the score of the game irrelevant. It was just a wonderful demonstration of how fast and beautiful the game can be at this level. And it might have had many young players heading home with a dream about how some day they may be able to play in the National Ringette League.