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New Inclusive Rugby Club, Rainbow Griffins RFC, set to debut in Toronto in 2022 to make Rugby more accessible to 2SLGBTQ+ and BIPOC Communities

·5-min read

“Inaugural winter season kicks off on January 22, 2022, with Mixed Ability Flag and Contact training, open to anyone 18 years and older interested in learning more about rugby.

Shoshauna Gauvin

Rainbow Griffins RFC Coach
Rainbow Griffins RFC Coach
Rainbow Griffins RFC Coach

Ian Royer & Lori McCluskey

Rainbow Griffins RFC President, Ian Royer (left) and Director of Game Lori McCluskey (right)
Rainbow Griffins RFC President, Ian Royer (left) and Director of Game Lori McCluskey (right)
Rainbow Griffins RFC President, Ian Royer (left) and Director of Game Lori McCluskey (right)

Toronto, Ontario, Dec. 06, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The Rainbow Griffins RFC is the newest inclusive rugby club to join Rugby in Canada. Founded by the Director-at-Large of Toronto Rugby Ian Royer, rugby coach Lori McCluskey, attorney and rugby player Steven Lewis, and Television & Film producer Richard Yearwood in November 2021, the founders have big dreams for the club's inaugural season. It has a two-fold mission: to make rugby accessible for anyone to learn, especially those from the 2SLGBTQ+ and BIPOC communities who are underrepresented in the sport, and to provide Diversity, Equity and Inclusion training for clubs and officials in the province, so they are better equipped to work with diverse communities.

The driving force behind the club's development was Royer, a Marketing & Public Relations maven, and former president of Toronto's Muddy York, who serves as the International Gay Rugby Public Relations Officer. Royer recognized the transformative potential of the sport for minorities based on his own experience. He says, "I only played one season pre-pandemic, but I fell in love with the sport, and I knew that more people like me, 2LGBTQ+ people, and minorities, could also benefit from having access to this sport and the community. But I saw that accessibility and affordability were barriers but I knew there was a will from the leadership of all the clubs and unions I interacted with to become more inclusive. They just needed the help to do that authentically – so I pulled together a fantastic team, and we pulled the club together in less than a month, and now we hope to remove those barriers."

In addition to the founders, the Rainbow Griffins will be run by an interim board comprising Financial Planner Jamie Lourenco, Information Technology Development specialist Troy Hector, International Gay Rugby Chief Marketing Officer David Donnachie, strategic planning consultant Marc Apduhan. The club will be working in partnership with the Abilities Centre to ensure their programming will be fully accessible and inclusive, as well as with the Toronto Arrows, Oshawa Vikings and Toronto Lions to build the capacity of their coaching and players as the season progresses.

The Rainbow Griffins intend to invest heavily in training new players, regardless of gender, age, skill, financial situation and experience. The club will filter players into the wider Rugby Ontario/ Toronto Union teams based on their skill level and preference at the end of their first year of training, with a comprehensive Mixed Ability Rugby program and exhibition matches during the season. Players can then develop their talent beyond casual rugby if they desire to compete. There will also be Diversity, Equity and Inclusion training and support available for other Ontario clubs and officials so they are better equipped to satisfy the unique needs minority players may require.

The team will be coached by Shoshauna Gauvin, who has over 19 years of experience in the sport. Gauvin began her rugby career in Nova Scotia before moving to Ontario, where she played with the Kingston Panthers, Queens Gaels and the Guelph Gryphons, winning the 2021 OUA Championship. Shoshauna has also coached high school rugby and a military rugby team and is the first openly transgender woman to coach a rugby team in Canada.

The Director of Game Lori McCluskey is developing a comprehensive rugby program with Coach Gauvin, which will be delivered in a Winter Program from February 9th, 2022, to March 30th, 2022 and a Summer Program from April to August 2022. Commenting on the club's inaugural year, McCluskey said, "Sport provides an excellent opportunity for community and inclusion, but we know that there is much room for improvement in these fields across all sports. The Rainbow Griffins RFC provides an opportunity to be a safe space for all individuals and a learning platform to extend diversity and inclusion across the wider sport of rugby. We are carefully planning an exciting season where members will learn how to play contact rugby through our Mixed Ability programming, as well as offering a flag rugby program while making rugby accessible to all, regardless of identity."

Myles Spencer, Rugby Ontario Chief Executive Officer, said, "Rugby Ontario is thrilled to welcome the Rainbow Griffins Rugby Club to our membership on the club's formation. The club will play as a Rugby Ontario and Toronto Rugby Union member. Rugby Ontario is committed to making rugby a more inclusive and diverse sporting community, and we are very excited to have the Rainbow Griffins play a role in making our sport more accessible to people of all backgrounds."

The year's co-ed program will offer both contact and non-contact rugby training that is fully accessible. They also plan to enter the 2022 Bingham Cup in Ottawa in August of 2022. The team will kick off their season with two free "Drop-In Rugby: Learn to Play" rugby clinics on January 22nd, 2022, from 1-2 pm and February 5th, 2022, from 1-3 pm at Ballsports Polson Pier at 176, Cherry Street, Toronto, ON, M5A 3L2 and encourages anyone 18 years and older to attend, no prior experience is necessary.

For more information on the Rainbow Griffins RFC and to sign up for the "Drop-In Rugby: Learn to Play" clinics, visit


Boiler Plate

Rainbow Griffins Rugby Football Club

Rainbow Griffins Rugby Football Club develops the Sport of rugby for Torontonians regardless of their age, gender, sexuality, or any other obstacles they may face, by providing mixed-ability rugby programs and serving diversity, inclusion, and equity programs to the broader rugby community to reduce barriers and create a safer, inclusive sport for all. Their vision is to transform the sport of rugby in Canada to be fully inclusive, barrier-free, and safe for all Torontonians, especially for 2SLGBTQ+, BIPOC, and mixed ability players.


CONTACT: Ian Royer Rainbow Griffins RFC 6479998013

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