Standout players complement each other, on and off field
For Ben Lesage and Brandon Waeyen, the last rugby game of their high school athletic careers was bittersweet.
After playing for the Henry Wise Wood High School team for the past three years, the pair was chosen to take part in the Calgary Senior High School Athletic Association’s Rugby Selects game — an end-of-season showcase of the best high school players in the city.
Their appearance in the Selects game capped off a season that saw Lesage and Waeyen lead the Wise Wood team to a gold medal in the city high school rugby championships, followed up with silver medal at the provincial championships.
Although both plan to continue playing rugby, the Selects game represented a turning point for the pair: as graduating Grade 12 students, they will both be leaving Calgary in the fall to attend university — Lesage at UBC and Waeyen at the University of Victoria.
“Without thinking about it, they make the perfect pair of leaders. Brandon makes everyone comfortable, and Ben makes everyone productive.”
— Brent Gough, Henry Wise Wood High School rugby coach
“It’s sad that it has come to an end, but I think we ended on a good note,” says Lesage, who was presented with the 2013 Joe Massey Award as the top male student-athlete in Calgary’s high school rugby league. “To be in the Selects game was a nice way to finish.”
Brent Gough, who has coached both players at Henry Wise Wood over the past three years, says Lesage and Waeyen are both dedicated and “natural athletes” who love the sport.
Lesage, who was introduced to the sport by his father — himself a former rugby player — served as the captain of the Wise Wood team this year. Gough says that Lesage is a “calm, quiet leader” who was a “natural” choice for team captain.
“Ben is very humble and not intimidating in the least. I’m sure that makes him very approachable to other student-athletes.”
Gough says Lesage brings “athletic consistency” to the rugby teams he plays on.
“In situations where we are down in points, Ben is the guy who will take responsibility for making breaks and ultimately setting up points.”
Waeyen began playing rugby at the age of 12 and says that he “instantly fell in love” with the sport. According to Gough, Waeyen has an athletic style that is well suited to the physical demands of rugby — which was often a large factor in the Wise Wood team coming out on the winning side of a game.
“Too often over the last three years I’ve heard myself say, ‘Don’t worry, Brandon will get ’em,’ when one of his teammates misses a tackle,” Gough says.
“He is masterful at sidestepping in attack. Opposition players find him extremely hard to tackle because he never stops moving.”
While Lesage leads by quiet example, Waeyen’s extroverted nature is something valued by his former coach and teammates.
Photo by Karry Taylor“Brandon is the more playful of the two, with an extremely outgoing character,” Gough says. “He is always laughing and smiling and creates an atmosphere of fun.”
Walker Rice, who has been a teammate of the pair over the past four years, says that he has thoroughly enjoyed playing with alongside Lesage and Waeyen and their generous natures.
“Ben is very good at taking the time to get to know individual players and with helping them to improve their own skills,” Rice says.
“Brandon’s just an all-around great team leader. If we are losing a game — or even if we are winning — he does what he can to keep our morale up.”
Lesage and Waeyen are good friends, having played rugby together for almost five years at both the high school and club level. Gough says that the pair “complements each other in a ‘business-casual’ sort of way.
“Without thinking about it, they make the perfect pair of leaders. Brandon makes everyone comfortable, and Ben makes everyone productive,” Gough says.
“What they have most in common is that when either of them give direction, their teammates listen.”
Both Lesage and Waeyen are appreciative of the opportunities that the sport has provided to them. Waeyen says that the sport “means a lot” to him.
“It’s given me a lot of opportunities to make new friends and to travel the world, and has provided educational opportunities too,” Waeyen says.
In addition to travelling and playing rugby across Canada, Lesage and Waeyen have had the opportunity to play in the US and Great Britain. Last summer, the pair selected as members of rugby team representing Alberta in Japan — an experience that both cherish.
“We played great rugby, but it was also amazing to experience another culture that we had never seen before,” Lesage says.
Gough, who served as the coach of South Calgary team in the Rugby Selects game, shares in the emotion that Lesage and Waeyen felt towards their final high school game.
“I am proud of what they’ve accomplished. To see them move on is bittersweet, but I know they have great futures ahead of them,” Gough says..
“They are awesome young men. I have been very lucky to coach them on the same team at the same time. Now that I am no longer their coach, I will have to settle for being one of their biggest fans.”