Magali Harvey – Rugby’s Number 1

Magali Harvey – Rugby’s Number 1

Make no mistake – Magali Harvey is hot property – crowned IRB Women’s Player of the Year for 2014 (the 1st Canadian to be honoured in this fashion) and now in possession of a silver medal from the women’s rugby world cup held in France in August of this year.

The Canadian national women’s rugby team finished runners up to England in the final.

Hailing from Quebec City, Magali is away with the Canadian women’s team for most of the year and doesn’t get home all that often due to her sporting commitments.

So when we were invited to Ste-Foy Elementary School to listen to her talk to (and be grilled by) some eager, inquisitive young students we jumped at the chance.

We witnessed a warm, engaging, extremely confident young woman clearly at the top of her game.

Totally at ease with the kids and in her element, she told those in attendance that ‘she was just like them.’

Magali, now 24 years of age, was schooled in Quebec – a pupil at St Vincent Elementary, St Patrick’s High School, and then CEGEP St. Lawrence.

Although always sporty, and with bags of energy, she was by her own admission ‘an interesting kid’, dressed ‘a bit weird’ and not that popular with the ‘in crowd’. She tells us she was teased and bullied a little in the early days and really didn’t like going to school.

And then something happened.

All of a sudden, and for no apparent reason, one of the popular kids started being nice to her and the bullying stopped.

It was, she says, ‘a turning point and was as if people began to care.’

In her eyes caring is one of the most important things you can do. It goes a long way to making school life that bit easier. And we all need all the help we can get, don’t we.

Throughout her school years Magali tried every sport – track, basketball, everything – her parents insisted she do so as she had so much energy.

She didn’t actually start playing rugby until she was 16 years old. The sport was a relatively new thing then and she went along to one of the try-outs for the school team with her friend.

This happened to be 3 days before the first game.

Harvey freely admits she didn’t know what to expect nor what she was doing, but from that moment on she fell in love with the sport that she now excels at.

So how does someone interested in rugby get from that first try out to the national team?

‘Lots and lots of hard work, belief, and a willingness to not give up’, she says.

She continued ‘Everyone can have a dream, and it’s important to have them. It’s OK to fail, but to fail you have to try. Don’t be afraid to go for it. My dream was to one day play for Canada.’

After that first game that dream seemed a long way off. ‘We were useless’, she says ‘Nobody knew what they were doing. I vowed, from that moment on, to do everything I could to give myself the best chance possible of representing my country in this cool sport.’

In between finally getting there, to playing rugby for Canada, Magali Harvey embarked on a business degree at St Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, Nova Scotia.

This, for Magali, was a daunting prospect – fluent in English and French, this was the first time she would spend a prolonged period of time in a completely English environment.

She soon settled into academic life and began playing rugby for the university.

It was here that the Rugby Canada coach saw her play. He asked her to try out for the Canadian national team.

Buttterflies – yes, millions of them.

In 2010 seventy hopefuls gathered in Las Vegas for the Canadian trials (it was necessary to go somewhere hot, somewhere accessible and of course Canada being Canada, is not always accommodating in that respect).

Seventy would be whittled down to fifty, to twenty four and finally to twelve.

Initially overawed, Magali was up against some proven team members, but she soon realised they had no idea who she was, nor what she was capable of. This gave her the confidence to go for it (there it is, that phrase again – there’s a pattern forming isn’t there).

She kept ploughing on and after every cut-off point she was still there. She had made the cut. She made it into the final twelve. Cue wild celebrations.

And now the hard work began.

There’s not a huge amount of money in Canadian women’s rugby. They travel economy, and are funded by the government. Sponsors are on the scene if they’re lucky.

This needs to happen as they train 6 days a week. With little time to relax.

Magali does however, find the time to relax, and what does she do? She reads. A lot.

Says Harvey ‘Reading is magical,  it allows you to live your life through someone else. I really enjoy reading as it leaves room for your imagination to get to work.’

So what’s Magali ‘Mags’ Harvey up to now.

She’s in between tournaments, enjoying a couple of weeks off, and then it’s back to full time training.

There’s the world series every year. This tournament will see the world’s current number 1 women’s rugby player represent Team Canada in Brazil, The Netherlands, USA, and Great Britain.

As for the future, Magali is firmly focused on the 2016 Olympics in Rio. She’s working with the team to help them qualify.

She hinted that she may call it a day after that tournament.

She finishes ‘I need to complete my business degree and then embark on a career. I’d like to eventually work in marketing, communications & advertising.’

But right now that can wait a while as she’s fully occupied with rugby.

With the way she carried herself and the message she rammed home, I can envisage a career in motivational and public speaking for this most amiable of people.

Here’s looking to Rio 2016.

Go Magali and Go Team Canada!

NB – This visit formed part of the Ste-Foy Elementary School ABAM (Active Body Active Mind) programme. ABAM is a programme aimed at integrating sports directly into classroom work. This increases motivation, perseverance and sustained work habits in students. The programme also fosters alertness in class, promotes well-being, and instills a healthy lifestyle in participants. 

Canadian women's rugby star Magali Harvey with kids from Ste-Foy Elementary School, Quebec City, 15 December 2014

Canadian women’s rugby star Magali Harvey with kids from Ste-Foy Elementary School, Quebec City, 15 December 2014

This article is kindly supported by Livres Trois Canons.

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Categories: Opinion, Sports

About Author

Andrew Greenfield

Andrew Greenfield moved to Quebec in 2009. He is part of the team responsible for the publishing company behind LifeinQuebec.com and Life in Québec Magazine. He has been involved with online and print media since 2001. He is passionate about cricket, is a qualified coach, and his real ambition is to start a cricket team in Quebec City – something he freely admits is probably beyond him. Follow him on Twitter @GreenfieldAndy

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