With the Fireminds Rugby Americas North Sevens 2021 just around the corner, 31-year-old Engineering student Corey Boyce had his sights set on returning to the pitch and representing Bermuda at the tournament in the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) for the very first time since injury sidelined him in 2019.
As a self-confessed natural athlete, amateur boxer, and Muay Thai Champion, not even a fully ruptured patellar tendon, two left knee surgeries, and 14 weeks with his leg in a cast can stop Corey’s goal to play at this year’s Fireminds RAN 7s, however the speedster was not selected.
Over his 10-year rugby career, Boyce has competed at both RAN 15s and RAN 7s in places like the USA, Mexico, Barbados, Trinidad, and the Cayman Islands, and with sheer determination he was focusing on coming back from his injury and taking home a win with team Bermuda in the TCI this month.
Boyce was first introduced to rugby after getting himself into a few scuffles at a local bar in Bermuda.
“One of the owners of the bar’s security company suggested I try rugby as an outlet to channel my excess energy,” he says. “I ended up being invited to train with a club called Teachers Rugby and I just fell in love with the sport.”
Boyce’s natural talent did not go unnoticed, and it was not long until he was introduced to the National 15s team, then the National 7s team, where he played right wing. Boyce was also privileged to be coached and mentored by Fijian 7s legend Waisale Serevi, who Boyce says was pivotal in teaching him about all facets of the game.
As time passed, Boyce realized that he favored 7s rugby and so he gradually began to step away from rugby 15s. Despite this, he still went on the play both 15s and 7s at an international level throughout the Caribbean and the USA.
“The last tournament I played was in 2018 in Barbados and it was really a memorable one,” he says. “Even though we finished third, this was the highest we had placed during my entire playing career. We also beat Mexico for the first time in 13 years so that was a pretty big deal for me and the team.”
Aside from being an enthusiastic and committed player for team Bermuda, Boyce also helps with mentoring and coaching the Bermuda Rugby youth where he can. “I like to give back because rugby has positively affected my life, and I know it can impact these kids in an inspiring way,” he says. “I am always willing to lend a hand because I know how lifechanging this sport can be.”
One of the key players in Boyce’s comeback journey is Bermuda Coach Jamie Barnwell, who says despite Boyce’s impressive progress so far and his goal to play at RAN, he will not rush him back onto the pitch until he is 100% ready.
“Boyce is on a steady road to recovery,” he says. “However, we have to look after him first and foremost. We want to bring him back properly and make sure we are not putting him in jeopardy. We’ve had lots of big wins recently with Boyce as he builds his confidence and agility, but we will all make that call together with Boyce about whether he plays at RAN closer to the time.”
Barnwell says in the lead up to the tournament, team Bermuda have been working hard to get their players back to match fitness after over two, and in some instances five, years out of the sport.
“To get the players up to the required level of fitness to play what is quite a brutal and physically demanding game has been challenging,” he says. “We have thankfully been granted an exemption from the Bermuda Government so we are now allowed to train however one of the things we struggle with since COVID is playing any opposition as part of our preparation for RAN. But, we will put our best foot forward and strive for a positive outcome.”