Pulamoo would like to see more students discover fun of rugby

Miramichi Leader
Wed May 6 2015
Page: B1
Section: Sports
Byline: Katie Smith

The game of rugby has had a bad reputation, likely since its beginnings in the 19th century. This might have to do with a match’s many tackles and hits – by players wearing little equipment.
The odd player might wear a scrum cap, but other than that, the often metal-studded cleats and a mouth guard are all that is required.
Rugby players rely on fitness and skill over padding and helmets, which is to say they not only learn how to tackle, but they also learn how to protect themselves.
And while the sport may seem barbaric to many, for those who play, it brings camaraderie, friendship, healthy competition and a constant striving for improvement. It becomes a lifestyle, an obsession.
One of the coaches of the Miramichi Valley High School Pulamoo boys rugby team said the stigma around the sport could account for the low numbers of players he sees coming into the high schools.
Tim Sullivan, who has been with the team for five years, said in the northern part of the province, support for rugby is fairly low, but said in Miramichi the support is decent.
“There’s a pretty good community, as you can see, a lot of people want to come back (to help),” he told the Miramichi Leader during an outdoor practice on Wednesday April 29. “We’ve got some players that have come back today just to be at practice, so there’s a strong culture with that and the school is excellent with us.”

Members of the Miramichi Valley High School boys rugby team prepare to engage in a scrum during a recent practice. Photo: Katie Smith/Miramichi Leader

Sullivan said in the past 10 to 15 years, the sport’s popularity has grown in the Miramichi, but in other areas of the northeast, it’s been in decline.
“Bathurst used to have two teams, nothing now. There used to be some other stuff up in Richibucto, there’s nothing anymore. So it’s unfortunate that way. We’d really like to see it grow.”
Having a program in the middle schools would help get numbers up when the students reach high school, but it’s more than that, Sullivan said.
“It’s a slow process trying to convince people it’s not some barbaric sport with a bunch of brutes punching each other, and for whatever reason, that’s what people think it is.”
Sullivan said he doesn’t like to put expectations on any season but he feels confident in how the boys will do this year.
“For us, our biggest goal every year is to make the crossovers, to make the provincial semifinals. We want to get ourselves into a position for that, so usually that means being the top two in the conference. This year I think there’s only three teams in the conference, so the odds of that are usually pretty good.”
In his years as coach, Sullivan said there was only one year when the team didn’t reach its goal.
“We’ve been pretty consistent.”
Last year, the MVHS boys rugby team lost in the semifinals to Fredericton High School.
“Last year was definitely a rebuilding year, that’s how we looked at it,” said Sullivan.
Oromocto beat Fredericton High School in last year’s finals, and Sullivan said Oromocto often wins, and with good reason.
“They have a strong program and a great coach. They’ve always got good numbers and have two teams going. As soon as one guy graduates, another moves up. That’s what we’d like to get here.”
The high school’s team is made up of a large contingent of Grade 11s and a few seniors who will play a pivotal role this year, Sullivan said.
“The last couple of years we haven’t been able to get the 9s and 10s we’d like to, so that’s kind of the issue we’re trying to address,” he said. “As it stands right now, we like our team. We have a nice mix of guys who have been involved in rugby and like rugby. We have three or four guys who have played at the provincial level. We have some talent in here and some guys who have really helped the culture.”
One of the players Sullivan referred to is Grade 11 student Patrick Hache.

MVHS boys rugby team captain Patrick Hache brings talent, skills and smarts to his game. Photo: Katie Smith/Miramichi Leader

Upon first glance, Hache looks like he’s a coach rather than a player.
Standing almost six feet tall and weighing about 200 pounds, the 17-year-old played on last year’s provincial under-18 team in the front row of the scrum, as a prop.
The scrum is generally made up of bigger players, like Hache, but for his high school team, Hache plays with the backs at number 10.
For those unfamiliar with the sport, a rugby team consists of 15 players – eight in the scrum (forwards), a scrum-half who feeds the ball into and retrieves the ball from the scrum and passes the ball out to the six back players (backs).
When a scrum is won, the scrum-half throws the ball to the backs, and the first player who usually receives that pass is the number 10.
Having a strong build and speed is ideal for a number 10, but it also takes brains, and as Sullivan said of his team captain, Hache has it all.
“He’s the general out there. He can read the field and tell the guys where to go.” Hache said he’s happy in either position.
“I kind of like the backs because there are not a lot of backs who are closer to my size, but I do like the forward pack because I like being in close.”
To add to his playing advantage, Hache also wrestles (which helps with tackling) and does competitive powerlifting, which he said is, “just for fun”.
Powerlifting is good for rugby, he said.
“A lot of it’s explosive, compound lifts and squats.”
Hache also used to play basketball, but gave it up.
“I thought it would be better to train for rugby because it was the only sport that really meant a lot to me and that I did well at,” he said. “It’s definitely my favourite sport.”
Unlike many students who start high school, Hache was introduced to rugby at an early age because his sister, Jillian, used to play in high school.
“She was right into it, she’s not a very big girl, either, but she’s tough. She really got me into it. When we were younger she’d want to go outside and want to hit me.”
He said his friend’s involvement in the sport also piqued his interest.
“Me and my buddy, his older brother played and we’d kind of just practise in the yard and I got interested in it.”
Rugby has brought a lot to Hache over the years.
“A lot of good friends, I got really close with the team. It’s something to really look forward to and work hard for and train for.”
Hache said he would love to see more boys from the younger grades getting involved, and to convince them not to be afraid.
“A lot of the Grade 9s are convinced that if you’re not big then you can’t play, but I try to tell them there’s a position for every size. It doesn’t matter if you’re small; it doesn’t matter if you’re big. If you’re small, you’re probably quick and you’ll run the ball; if you’re big you’ll be taking on the little guys. I try to put them in a position where they feel confident.”
He said the decline in interest from Grade 9 students is disappointing.
“There was so much interest in my Grade 9 year, we had 25 guys out. Not all of them stuck with it, but we still got at least 10 guys who have kept up with it.”
As for this season, Hache is feeling good about lies ahead.
“I think this will be a really good season for us. We’ve had a pretty good group since Grade 9. I think if we’re going to do good or go anywhere, this is the year. We still have a good chance next year, but I think we’ll make an impact for sure this year.”
The team is also coached by Todd Beck, Jason Dedam and Rob Murphy, Sullivan said.
“They’re the ones bringing the majority of the knowledge and experience. They’ve got lots to share. And having Rob imported from Ireland helps too,” he said laughing.


Entrepreneur uses know-how to help improve people’s lives

Miramichi Leader
Wed Jul 1 2015
Page: B6
Section: Business
Byline: Katie Smith

A young entrepreneur from Miramichi is designing a bionic knee brace that could change the way people with an injury or permanent disability get around.
Bob Garrish and his business partner, Chris Cowper-Smith, co-founders of Spring Loaded Technology in Halifax, are working on making the world’s first knee brace that has an exoskeleton-level powered hinge built into it, which will store the user’s own kinetic energy and release it when it’s most needed.
The project has already received some noteworthy attention. Garrish, 33, and Cowper-Smith, 31, received the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) 2015 Young Entrepreneur Award on June 22 for the turning point project, Bionic Boost, winning the grand prize of $100,000.
The brace, similar to a carbon-fibre knee brace someone receives after receiving a knee injury, has a carbon-fibre frame that straps to the user’s leg and bends and straightens with the user’s knee, Garrish said in an interview with the Miramichi Leader.

Featured imageBob Garrish models the bionic knee brace he helped create and develop. Photo: Submitted

“But the difference is that if you were to crouch, our brace would actually help you get back up, or if you go down a staircase it would support your weight,” he said. “It’s actually tuned to the user’s weight. It’s extremely strong.”
The mechanism is strong enough that a 250-pound person wearing one could have one non-working quadricep and still be able to crouch down, tie their shoes and stand back up.
It is entirely mechanical, so there are no batteries or power sources required for the brace to operate, and it’s lightweight and small enough to be worn under clothing, said Garrish, who is a graduate of James M. Hill Memorial High School and the son of Barry and Ginette Garrish of Napan.
“The strapping it on was one of the trickiest parts of development because to lift you back up, this essentially has to put your entire body weight on the back of your leg,” he said. “So figuring out how to do that in a way that didn’t hurt the user and that it was still comfortable was huge.”
Garrish and Cowper-Smith met in a course at Dalhousie University in Halifax aimed at teaching people how to make startup companies, a course which included students from all different backgrounds and areas of study.
During the course, they were partnered up with another student, a hockey player, who wanted a powered knee brace because he thought it could make him skate faster.
“And so that’s how it got started. We started looking into it and there’s like 110 years of people trying to patent the same thing and trying to do it different ways and it never worked. I thought, ‘Oh sure, I can fix that,’?” he said, laughing.
Garrish said the thing he and his business partner are most excited about is how this device is going to change people’s lives.
“Recovery is one area where it certainly can help, but the one we’re really excited about is people with a permanent quadricep weakness from injury or other disease, or people who have neurological disorders that cause loss of muscle control, like multiple sclerosis or muscular dystrophy.”
For many of those people, who have lost the ability to crouch down, their world starts at their waist, Garrish said.
“You can’t even bend down and tie your shoes. If you can’t tie your shoes, you can’t go to the grocery store, you can’t leave the house without anyone else’s help. You instantly lose the outside world and need a caretaker for something as simple as losing the ability to crouch and stand back up.”
Garrish, who underwent knee surgery himself six months into starting the company, said he learned a lot during his recovery.
“As soon as you have one of those injuries, you learn stuff that’s really not obvious,” he said, adding going down the stairs with a knee injury is “terrifying.”
“If someone has a knee that can fail, one, this can support their weight, but two, if they have a knee that’s unstable, this will also catch them when they start to fall.”
Thanks to the BDC Award, Spring Loaded Technology will be able to go to market this fall with the brace, something Garrish said wouldn’t have happened until at least early 2016 without the funding.
The money will be used for new rapid carbon-fibre and composites manufacturing equipment to boost production and keep costs down, so the brace will be affordable and accessible to users.
Nearly all of the parts are made in the Halifax facility, Garrish said.
A lot of this stuff, we actually designed the manufacturing process and built the machines we used to make the parts,” he said. “We’re not only doing it here, but we’re doing it at a cost where we can still make money and hit the price point we want to so that people can afford this.”
Affordability has got to be part of it, Garrish said.
“Initially, we’ll probably be doing a crowd-funding campaign like Kickstarter or Indiegogo, just because we’ve had so many individual users contact us,” he said. “We’re confident we can sell directly to consumers to start without going through distributors and that lets us control the price point.”
Garrish said the cost they are aiming for will be more expensive than an off-the-shelf knee brace, but cheaper than buying a custom knee brace.
“We’re essentially selling you an automobile for less than the price of a new bicycle,” he said. “We have to make a nice knee brace to put this on, so we’re effectively selling you a nice knee brace that happens to make you twice as strong for less than the price of a nice knee brace.”
In the end, Garrish said he isn’t in it for the money.
“I could be making a whole lot of more money designing weapons. Man, I could design a great missile,” he said, laughing. “This will pay off, but the business you choose, we’re definitely in this one because we think it’s something that really matters.”


Filipino man says sacrifices worth effort

Miramichi Leader
Fri May 15 2015
Page: A1
Section: Main
Byline: Katie Smith

Nothing worth having in life comes easy, as the saying goes, and for one immigrant living in Miramichi, the act of sacrifice is all too familiar.
Joel Ligad landed in New Brunswick from the Philippines in 2010, looking for work and a better life for himself and his family.
With little work in his native land, Ligad often travelled to Taiwan for months at a time, working various contract jobs. But because of Taiwanese laws, migrant workers can only work there for a maximum of nine years.
Wanting a more sustainable way to earn money, Ligad knew he needed to head west.
“Here, there’s a good life. From our perception, Canada is a great country,” Ligad told the Miramichi Leader in a recent interview. “That why we were aiming to go to Canada.”

Joel Ligad is excited to be reunited with his wife and daughter. Photo: Katie Smith/Miramichi Leader

After looking into making the move, Ligad discovered there was a need for caregivers in Canada, so he returned to school and enrolled in a caregiver program. It wasn’t until after that he learned the jobs for men in that field were few and far between.
“But then my friend told me that even if you’re not a caregiver, Canada still needs employees.”
With this in mind, Ligad applied to come to Canada via Taiwan because there are fewer applicants who apply from there, so he would have a better chance of getting to Canada.
“So I said, ‘OK, I’ll just go for any job, as long as I’m here in Canada,’ and I just submitted my resumé to the agency, and it’s up to them (to place me somewhere).”
It was soon time to head to his chosen new country, which was a mix of emotions for Ligad because, while on the one hand he was leaving to find a better life, he also had to leave his wife and unborn child behind.
“When I left, she was pregnant,” he said, adding he has never had the chance to hold his baby in his arms.
Ligad’s first job in Canada was in Richiboucto at a fish plant, but because it was only contract/seasonal employment, and because immigrants are required to work for a full year in a full-time position before they apply for their residency, he wasn’t able to apply for his.
Eventually he landed a job in Miramichi as a Subway employee, and after a year of full-time employment, he was eligible to apply for his residency.
In April, the 36-year-old Ligad was finally granted permission to live in Miramichi, a permission extended to his wife and daughter.
It’s been five years since he’s seen his wife, Conchita, and has never once met his daughter, Summer, who turns four in June.
He is able to communicate with his family via computer over Skype, but Ligad said his situation has been challenging.
“It’s hard. A lot of people don’t know. You work at Subway, you face different kinds of people, you smile. And sometimes people don’t know what your life (is about),” he said. “It’s hard, wondering if (my family) are OK and how things with the baby are going. It’s very difficult.”
But things are about to look up for the family because Ligad is heading to the Philippines this month to visit with his family and friends and will bring his wife and daughter back to Canada with him.
“I’m so happy that finally all of the sacrifices are worth it. You finally get what you want if you keep on pursuing it.”
Apart for five years, Ligad will soon have his wife and daughter under one roof, something he says is worth more than anything else in the world.
As Ligad started talking about his daughter, he paused and looked away as his eyes filled with tears.
“I can just remember the first time she said, ‘I love you, Daddy,’?” he said, his voice cracking. “I’m just happy.”
Ligad say he draws strength from his family, and they keep him going.
“My family motivates me. I’m doing this for them, so that’s why you can’t stop. Even though you are here alone, there can be problems with work or personal, but you can get through it.”
Ligad said his wife has been strong through this whole process.
“She’s OK. I owe her a lot for taking care of my baby. It’s really hard. She’s just alone. I’m not there for her every time the baby got sick. I owe her a lot for my baby.”
And once he has her back in his life permanently, Ligad said he won’t leave them again.
“I told my wife, ‘I can’t promise you an easy life, but the most important thing is that we have each other.’ I told her, ‘I’m not going to leave you anymore. Whatever happens, I don’t care, as long as we have each other.’?”
Ligad is not only going to see his wife and daughter when he goes home, but he is also planning on surprising his mother and two brothers with a visit because it has also been five years since he’s seen them.
“I didn’t tell them I’m coming. I just told them I got the residency and I told them that before my wife and my daughter will come here, they will visit. So they are expecting my wife and my daughter to visit them, but not me.”
Ligad said he has joined the Point Church and has met a lot of wonderful, supportive people through that, which has helped curb the loneliness of living here without his family.
“The church helped. I (met) people in the community, and some of them have helped me. They are really nice people,” he said. “If there’s a Thanksgiving, I’ll go to their house with their family. That helps a lot.”
The Philippines, which is made up of more than seven thousand small islands, is a country that enjoys a tropical climate, so the idea of snow is foreign to Ligad’s family.
“My daughter, every time we talk on the Internet, she will ask me, ‘Can you show me the snow?’ The good thing is, they will come here in the summer for an easier transition because where we come from, it’s so warm there.”
Snow or not, Ligad said in the end, all that matters is that he and his family will again be reunited.

“I am so happy.”