The story has been told before, but with Brittany Waters recently announcing her retirement, the tale of how she stumbled into a rugby-playing career that would feature appearances in five World Cups is worth retelling.
Already a veteran of the Canadian national netball team, Waters was in her first year at the University of Victoria and was looking to play some intramural ultimate frisbee. However, she went to the wrong field and instead of throwing around a disc, the women on the pitch were tossing a rugby ball and making tackles.
Waters talked to the rugby coach and in short order, seized an opportunity that entirely changed the course of her sporting career.
“I saw the women playing and asked the coach if I could sign up because it looked awesome,” Waters recalls. “I loved the contact and the pace of it. I liked all the elements. It had a combination of a lot of different skills.”
That was in the fall of 2001.
Sixteen years later and having most recently represented Canada at the Women’s Rugby World Cup 2017 in Ireland, Waters, who made 39 appearances with Canada’s fifteens side, hangs up her playing boots as one of the most capped women’s players in her country’s history.
Her career saw her don the Maple Leaf with the fifteens team at the World Cup in 2010, 2014 and 2017, while also competing with the national sevens side at the World Cup in 2009 and 2013.
As such, she was part of both of Canada’s silver-medal winning World Cup teams, in 2013 (sevens) and 2014 (fifteens) – the latter of which is arguably Canada’s most distinguished accomplishment ever in women’s rugby.
“Obviously I’ll never forget the feeling of that 2014 semifinal against France,” Waters says. “We weren’t expected to do that well and just beating France in that stadium was an incredible feeling.”
Beyond that, a most memorable summer series in 2016 with the fifteens side stands out amongst Waters favourite memories with the national program.
“Winning the (Women’s Rugby) Super Series in 2016 was one of the highlights of my career for sure,” she says. “We had such strong performances. I loved playing rugby down there. It felt so free and natural and probably one of the best performances I have been part of with Canada. Everything clicked.”
Now, three years after retiring from the sevens program, Waters, 34, is officially saying goodbye to her rugby-playing career. However, with her coaching career already in full swing, Waters daily rhythm will very much remain rugby-centric. In her third year as the head coach of the University of Victoria’s women’s rugby program, Waters and rugby will forever be connected.
“It felt like the right time to step away and I felt like I had accomplished a lot of the things that I had wanted to accomplish,” says Waters, who finished her fifteens career with seven tries on the international scene. “Coaching rugby is a great challenge. There’s so much to know and so much to learn and I love that.
Going back to her alma mater, having graduated from UVic in 2005 with a Bachelors of Social Science, the Vancouver-born Waters feels very much at home representing the Vikes.
“I loved going back to UVic and giving back to where I started,” says Waters, who also works as an occupational therapist. “I just saw so much potential there. And that drive to make the program one of the best in Canada kept me coming back.”
Since taking over as head coach, Waters has led UVic to three straight Canada West finals, which includes helping the Vikes capture their first-ever conference title in 2015 while being named the Canada West Coach of the Year. In 2017, she also helped the Vikes win the University Sevens Championship, which marked the first-ever national title for women’s rugby at UVic.
“It’s been a great experience,” she says. “I love rugby so much that being a part of trying to instill that passion into other athletes is very rewarding. The university is very supportive of women’s rugby, as is the community, so it’s a great place to be a coach. And the players make it so special because they’re so driven.”
For Waters, it’s been 16 years since she accidently walked into a rugby career and an adventure that took her around the globe and to the top of the rugby world and now back to where it all began.
“It’s been incredible to have had all of these experiences and to be part of such incredible teams with Rugby Canada,” she says. “The rugby community is basically a big extended family. To be part of such a special sport has been wonderful and I look forward to what comes next.”