Coming off a gold medal performance at the Pan AM Games in Toronto and then competing in the Rugby World Cup in England, 2015 has been an unforgettable year for Pickering’s John Moonlight. Moonlight, who is a mainstay for Team Canada Rugby in both 7s and 15’s has emerged as one of Canada’s premier rugby players.
Rugby runs in the Moonlight family as it was his cousin, and former Team Canada player, David who convinced him to try out for the sport when he entered grade nine at Dunbarton. He was lucky to have some great coaches at Dunbarton who taught him the game and pushed him to go further in the sport. John also got involved with the Ajax Wanderers Rugby Club while in high school where he started to take his game to a higher level.
“John is a tireless worker who is always preparing to compete at the highest level, challenging himself to continue to get better making him a great leader and very respected by all his teammates” said Stewart Dobbs, Senior Men’s coach and Director of Ruby at Ajax Wanderers RFC.
When he was playing for Dunbarton and the Wanderers Moonlight caught the eye of Uxbridge Secondary coach Paul Connelly who encouraged him to try out for the Ontario provincial rugby program. After making the jump to the provincial team he realized that he had to commit to a strict fitness and weight training program in order to play rugby with the national program. The hard work paid off and John quickly became a regular selection for Canada in both 7’s and 15’s. John’s skills are well suited for both games and he has found tremendous success in both.
“It’s always a challenge when you first switch back and forth. In 15’s I play a role in more direct lines where in 7s I have a lot more to worry about and a lot more space,” said Moonlight. “I love both games though and always look to try and improve and be the best I can.”
In July he got the chance to play for Canada at the Pan Am Games in Toronto. Being a member of the 2011 Pan Am Rugby 7s gold medal team and getting the chance to defend that title at home was a feeling that John will never forget.
“It’s always an unreal feeling to represent your country. Every time I pull on the jersey I see it as a privilege to represent our great country and try and make everyone proud,” said Moonlight. “It was unreal the support and being able to do it in front of Canadian fans and family only made it better.”
Moonlight, who captained Canada at the games, helped the Maple Leafs win another gold medal in dramatic fashion with a last minute try in the final game against Argentina. There wasn’t much time to celebrate as John quickly resumed training with the 15s team in preparation for the 2015 World Cup. He went on to earn three caps for Canada against Ireland, Italy and Romania in a hard fought tournament. After the World Cup his focus has returned to the upcoming 7’s series where Canada will play host to one of the series tournaments in March in Vancouver.
“The tournament in Vancouver is another great opportunity for us to show our game in our country. The team is super excited about it” said Moonlight.
The World 7s Series will be a great tune up for John and his teammates as they will be looking to qualify for the 2016 Olympics in Rio. John Moonlight is playing rugby at the highest level in the world and is one of the top players on the national squad and he continues to give back to the rugby community in Durham Region.
“John is a local boy who has quickly become one of the most recognizable Canadian rugby players not only at home but also throughout the world rugby community. His rugby play speaks for itself, however, John is an even better quality person. He is a great role model for the youth within the Ajax Wanderers RFC and the Canadian rugby community. He never forgets his roots and always continues to give back where he can. A first rate class act, one all Canadians should be proud of,” said Dobbs.
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