Rugby Belize is taking growing rugby in their country to a whole new level, thanks to newly-appointed Director of Rugby and President of Rugby Belize, Dan Nicolle.
This past spring, Rugby Belize rolled out the ‘100 World Legends Tour’, which included hosting retired international players Darren Morris (Wales and British and Irish Lions) and Lee Mears (England and British and Irish Lions), as well as rugby Coach Angus Thompson.
Dan Nicolle says the goal of the weeklong Legends Tour, which was a collaboration with the 100 World Legends Initiative, was to increase awareness of rugby in Belize (particularly with youth) through introducing basic skills and exemplifying the core values of the sport – teamwork, respect, enjoyment, discipline, and sportsmanship.
“When 100 World Legends approached Rugby Belize to assist with growing the sport here, I was all in,” he says. “This was the first time they visited Belize and we are hoping it will now be an annual event, which will greatly help with our development efforts.”
Dan says the recent World Legends Tour incorporated Union representatives, paired with visiting legends of the game – Morris, Mears, and Thompson – going into local schools to introduce students, teachers, and administrators to the sport of rugby.
“We additionally held various social events which were also aimed at increasing awareness and promoting rugby in Belize – a social ‘Introduction to Rugby’ of sorts,” he says. “These combined activities have generated enough interest to start the ball rolling for some potential new grassroots programs in the near future.”
Dan says that during the Legends Tour week, they also worked with the national prison and the Belize Defense Force to bring rugby to the widest audience possible.
“We want to create awareness of the sport within all walks of life in our community,” he says. “Even if some are not able to play per say, to simply introduce these individuals even to the core values of rugby can be pivotal in changing the course and direction of their lives.”
Say G’day to Dan
Dan Nicolle, a 44-year-old Australian, is no stranger to rugby – both on and off the field.
He started his rugby journey playing rugby league in Australia, before transitioning to rugby union at 17-years-old when he joined the Australian Army.
“I played for my Unit, ‘A’ Field Battery, Royal Australian Artillery,” he says. “In 2004, I then moved to the UK, where I played for clubs such as Merton RFC, Chiswick RFC, Bracknell RFC, Ripon RFC, and Cirencester RFC.”
From 2016-2018, Dan played and coached in Kenya – the Nanyuki Jackals – where he was also the Director of Rugby, and from 2020-2022, he was the Director of Rugby and a player for Abuja RFC in Nigeria.
“In 2022, my wife was posted to Belize as part of the British Army,” he says. “Being appointed last year as the Director of Rugby for Rugby Belize, and then voted in as President last month, is an absolute honor and privilege and I will do whatever I can, with the skills and experience I have, to develop the sport here to reach its greatest potential. And, this includes connecting with international charity projects such as the 100 World Legends to give us a helping hand.”
Legends Highlights and Moving Forward
Dan says the 100 World Legends Tour in Belize provided many highlights, and for a variety of reasons.
“Having said that, there were two key moments for me,” he says. “The first was when we went into a local school for children with physical and mental disabilities – the enjoyment and smiles that rugby brought to those kids’ faces was priceless.”
Dan says the second pivotal moment from the Legends Tour was the prison visits.
“That time has inspired me to restart a rugby program at the prison itself,” he says. “Rugby is a lifechanging sport – it is more than just a game. I really believe introducing it into the prisons could have long-lasting positive effects.”
When asked what’s in store for Rugby in Belize, Dan says:
“We are in the process of arranging with RAN and Darren Morris to have a super training week in June, where players will receive Level 1 and 2 in coaching and referee training, and management will receive administrative training. This will enable us to continue to build our capacity, from the ground up.”
He says the aim is to create a more sustainable future for Rugby Belize.
“We also want to increase the number of players and teams that Rugby Belize has,” he says. “We currently have three active local teams (approximately 50 players) – the Belize City Vikings, Orange Walk Lions, and Cayo Baymen – however, in June we are having a beach rugby tournament, which will see the return of the Hopkins Panthers and boost the number of teams to four. We are also looking at starting a women’s touch rugby competition to hopefully one day have a women’s 7s National team to compete alongside the men in international tournaments.”
Dan says the Union have now also restarted a monthly inter-district tournament in various locations around Belize in order to build up the local player base and skill set.
“This year, it’s about solid growth for us,” he says. “We are focusing on putting things in place to give our players more game experience against international teams including hosting the Rugby Belize 7s Festival in August withGuatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador already interested in making the trip over. We are also talking with teams from the US and Mexico, so we are making steady progress towards realizing that goal.”
“My ultimate vision is to one day see Rugby Belize at the Commonwealth and Olympic games, but also to be more competitive within regional tournaments closer to home.”
Want to get Involved?
Teams interested in participating in the upcoming Rugby Belize 7s Festival in August 2023 can contact Dan Nicolle via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.