The collector of more than 20 caps with the national team got his start with the St. Albert Rugby Football Club.
“It’s been instrumental to my career to where it is now,” said Kyle Baillie, the Rugby Canada’s 2018 Canadian Shield Award recipient. “I joined the club when I was 19. I came from the east coast and everyone was so welcoming here. It was such a great experience because it was my first kind of real taste of men’s rugby. A lot of the guys kind of looked out for me and had my back when I was kind of learning the ropes and teaching me a few things along the way so it was fantastic.”
Baillie, 28, contributed to the first Labatt’s Cup provincial premier men’s championship in SARFC history in his 2010 debut.
“St. Albert would probably be my first official club because on the east coast I played rugby through high school (at Three Oaks in Summerside, P.E.I.) and then a little bit at university before I moved out to Alberta and that’s where my club career started,” said the six-foot-five, 245-pound forward who played three seasons at SARFC. “The culture was a big part of playing in St. Albert, too. The guys would always go hard on the field and we would always be around each other on the weekends and that environment and that bonding was really unique. It was something I hadn’t experienced before. It was really cool. I made a lot of really good friendships and I still keep in touch with quite a few of the guys today.”
Baillie was receiving congratulatory messages from former teammates as the Canadian Shield Award winner. The announcement was made at Rugby Canada’s annual awards banquet April 27.
“I’m really honoured. It’s an award that’s voted on by the players so to get that recognition from your peers really means a lot for me,” said Baillie, who was also one of four nominees for the 2018 Canadian Men’s 15s Player of the Year Award. “I like to think of myself as a guy’s guy. You get out there and do some work for the boys and they recognize that so it’s truly humbling.”
Baillie’s rise to national team status kicked off in 2016 and his first cap (“It’s somewhere now in that mid-20 range”) was against the United States at the Americas Rugby Championship in Round Rock, Texas.
“Representing Canada was something I wanted to do since I started playing rugby and achieving that goal was such a big thing for me so I was beside myself when we were up there singing the national anthem. I was really excited,” said Baillie, who lined up in the lock position. “It was unfortunately a loss (30-22), but for the first one it was definitely a great experience. I came off the bench and I got 15 to 20 minutes on the field and it was great.”
Baillie went on to gain six caps that year while scoring his first try for Canada in the 64-13 victory against Chile in Santiago during the ARC tournament.
“Since the last World Cup (in 2015) they’ve brought in the new cycle of guys through and I was fortunate to be one of them. I’ve stuck around and I’ve been going hard. I’ve gone on a few tours and it’s been great. It’s been a really good experience. I’m learning a lot,” Baillie said. “My next big goal is to play in the World Cup at the end of this year in Japan so I want to just keep playing and keep improving and hopefully make that World Cup squad and experience my first World Cup.”
Leading up to the World Cup in September is the Pacific Nations Cup this summer with matches against the United States in Colorado and Fiji and Tonga in Fiji, plus the Aug. 24 match against the Heineken Cup champion Leinster in Hamilton.
Baillie, who has also played professional since 2015, is current honing his skills with the New Orleans Gold in Major League Rugby.
The Eastern Suburbs in Sydney, Australia, Ohio Aviators of the PRO North American Rugby League and London Scottish are among some of the teams Baillie has rucked and mauled with since SARFC.
Baillie is also a proud Maritimer with rugby roots with the Atlantic Rock in the Canadian Rugby Championship and back in the day he helped the Newfoundland Junior Rock defeat the Vancouver Wave 13-10 in the Rugby Canada U20 national final in St. John’s. It was the first Newfoundland win against a B.C. team at any level in rugby.
Along the way, “I’ve bounced around the back five (forwards), four through eight,” said Baillie, who now calls Victoria home. “But it doesn't matter what position I'm playing, I just love the sport and I’m proud to play for Canada every time I get the opportunity.”