Virden’s Taya Hayward had a huge impact on the first-year Brandon University women’s rugby club.
The daughter of Grant and Shannon Hayward was named the team’s MVP. She paced the club in scoring with nine tries and two converts.
“Taya Hayward was an easy pick for our team MVP,” BU head coach Brian Yon said. “She's a great athlete and she was very consistent on both sides of the ball. … She was always 100 per cent committed and had a very good season with our squad. Taya played in the centers for us and she always has a very positive attitude and a great work ethic. She leads by example both on and off the field. We'll be looking to her this fall to step up in a leadership role.”
Hayward said she was honoured to be selected as the BU rugby club’s MVP.
“It was special for me to receive. I feel happy knowing my hard work and dedication to rugby has paid off. I’m really looking forward to the next season and seeing what it has in store for our team.”
In the fall of 2019, the BU women’s rugby club debuted and went 2-2 while playing 15-aside. In a 70-10 victory over the visiting University of Regina Rage, Hayward and Elkhorn’s Mikayla Frattinger each scored four tries. Virden’s Brittany Pearn was also a member of the team. The squad was to host a seven-aside rugby tournament in Winnipeg in March, but that was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For several reasons, Hayward liked her first season at BU.
“I enjoyed the people I played with and the ability to play at a higher level,” she said. “I really enjoyed meeting all my teammates and bonding with them as a team this year. They made every game important. Playing rugby and training with all the girls made this season great.”
A talented multi-sport athlete, Hayward played high school rugby for the Souris Sabres. Her experience also includes suiting up for the provincial team and for the Brandon Barbarians women’s squad. Hayward noted that the intensity level during practice and the drive from her teammates made university rugby different from high school.
“We were a new team with new players who have never been in a game and the drive from everyone to learn everything they can and just be a better player was great,” said the BU student-athlete, who plans to pursue an environmental science degree. “It was the level of competition playing against a team like Wayne State College of Nebraska that showed me what it takes to play at the university level. It was the most intense and competitive game I have played but it was the best game I have ever played. The hard work from each player to do their best but also working as a whole team to play as best we could each game was the difference between the two. High school is great to play and learn skills and then in university you can take your playing up to the next level.”
Throughout her time playing rugby, Hayward has always been supported by her parents.
“They drove me to practice in Souris when I first learned about rugby,” she said. “They came to every tournament and game I played in. Even when I started, and they didn't know what was going on half the time, they were still there cheering me on. They are the reason I was able to play with so many teams and travel so much and experience so much.”