Sisters Megan and Kaili Lukan, who played basketball together at the University of Wisconsinâ€“Green Bay, are on the verge of a sporting reunion â€” this time with the Canadian women’s rugby sevens team.
Coach John Tait included the sisters from Barrie, Ont., in a 14-player training squad ahead of next week’s Sydney Sevens. The final 12-woman team will be selected Sunday or Monday.
At 24, Megan is two years older than Kaili. She made the transition to rugby in April 2015 and was a member of the bronze medal team at the Rio Olympics.
Kaili finished at Wisconsin-Green Bay in May and came out to Victoria in September to join the rugby team. She hadn’t played the sport since high school.
Kaili faces some tough competition to get into the final sevens squad for Sydney. Captain Jen Kish, who missed the series-opening stop in Dubai because of a neck injury, is looking to make her return Down Under. And the other 12 players were all part of the Dubai squad.
The Canadian women were sixth in Dubai, as they were the previous season when they rebounded to finish third overall.
“I wouldn’t say that was our best performance but I’m hoping we can take that as a first step and keep building from there,” said Megan Lukan.
In Sydney, Canada has been drawn into Pool A with New Zealand, France and Papua New Guinea for the Feb. 3-4 tournament.
Megan, who at five foot seven is three inches shorter than her sister, says she had no doubts that Kaili could make the switch to rugby having made the jump herself.
“Our stories are every similar … We can kind of reminisce about it together because she’s going through exactly what I went through almost a year and a half ago.”
Said Kaili: “She’s definitely helped me out a lot.”
The transition to rugby was tougher mentally than physically, Kaili said. “Knowing what you have to do on the field, that was the biggest thing for me.”
Along with their older sister and mother, the Lukans travelled a lot growing up. And while they have always had each other’s back, the bond has deepened with their sporting ties.
“She’s now my best friend, by choice,” said Megan. “Not because she has to be but because I want her to be.”
Megan plays forward in sevens while Kaili is a centre or wing.
Megan’s transition to rugby has been helped by being billeted with Canadian assistant coach Morgan Williams and his family.
Williams is a former star scrum half for the Canadian 15s team. He and older brother Jeff, who is now head coach of Canada’s under-20 men’s team, are the only other siblings to have represented Canada in sevens.
Megan has done extra skill sessions with Williams and says she often picks his brain.
“If I’m watching video, I can just walk to the living room and ask Morgan some questions,” she said. “It’s been very helpful. I don’t think I would have made the Olympic team without him or his family. And I’m kind of forever thankful to them.”
“We do have that connection with the Williams. It would be cool to follow in their footsteps,” said Kaili, who lives two houses down with from them with another family.
In basketball, both sisters played for the Canadian junior national team. Megan was also part of the senior development squad.
Morgan Williams says basketball provided the sisters with a good base for rugby.
“You need to have vision. You need to be able to draw a defender in and release an attacker,” he said. “You need to be able to catch and pass.”
Williams says Megan, who helps look after his two daughters, has become part of the family.
“We’re trying to teach her how to cook,” he said with a chuckle. “That’s probably been the hardest thing.”
Britt Benn, Guelph Redcoats, Napanee, Ont.; Hannah Darling, Peterborough Pagans, Warsaw, Ont.; Bianca Farella, Town of Mont Royal, Montreal; Julia Greenshields, Sarnia Saints, Sarnia, Ont.; Sara Kaljuvee, Toronto Scottish, Ajax, Ont.; Jen Kish, Edmonton Rockers, Edmonton; Ghislaine Landry, Toronto Scottish, Toronto; Kaili Lukan, unattached, Barrie, Ont.; Megan Lukan, unattached, Barrie, Ont.; Kayla Moleschi, Williams Lake Rustlers, Williams Lake, B.C.; Breanne Nicholas, London St. Georges, Blenheim, Ont.; Ashley Steacy, Lethbridge Rugby Club, Lethbridge, Alta.; Natasha Watcham-Roy, Hull Volant, Gatineau, Que.; Charity Williams, Markham Irish, Toronto.
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Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press