Brinten Comeau: UPEI Panthers

Brinten Comeau: UPEI Panthers

The veteran player is focused on leading her team to its first AUS banner, a feat five years in the making

By Corey LeBlanc

Brinten Comeau reached an athletic crossroads, of sorts, a few years ago.

Already a provincial-level ringette player, the Hammonds Plains, Nova Scotia, native discovered a new sport, one that caught her attention instantly.

“It wasn’t an easy decision, but it was something that I needed to do,” she remembers of her decision to focus on rugby. Comeau explains that she decided to hang up her skates in order to focus on becoming the best she could be on the pitch. “I immediately fell in love,” she says of her initial contact with the sport, which came in the summer before her grade 11 year at Charles P. Allen (CPA) High School in Bedford, Nova Scotia.

That start came with the Nova Scotia Keltics, a highly regarded rugby program that has helped with the development of players across the province.

“There was something a little different,” Comeau explains of what attracted her to rugby, noting that she experienced a feeling that she never had before while playing a team sport. Along with the inviting atmosphere, she admits, with a laugh, that she “loved the contact,” which was something new to her.

After turning her attention to rugby for more than a year or so, Comeau really ramped up her commitment, including finding friends who were equally as committed to “working hard and improving,”—like Maddie Harroun, now a standout with the STFX X-Women, and Ritaj Abdoulla, who takes the pitch with the Ottawa Gee-Gees. “It is something that I value so much,” Comeau says of having a strong work ethic, a characteristic that trio shares.

Along with helping deepen her knowledge, she credits her high school coaches at CPA for stoking her passion for rugby. She praises Keltics’ head coach Jack Hanratty for contributing to her development: “He knew that I wanted to learn."

Although her progress continued, she recalls that by the midway point of her grade 12 year, playing university rugby was still not on the radar. But, because of ongoing encouragement from Hanratty and others, Comeau says she decided to explore her options.

“I took a random trip,” she remembers of her initial visit to UPEI, where a couple of her Keltics’ teammates were on the Panthers roster. Comeau had reached out to the university and women’s rugby program. She says she fell in love with the Charlottetown campus and the rest, as they say, is history.

Now in her fourth season of eligibility, Comeau made an instant impact on the Panthers, winning the Atlantic University Sport (AUS) rookie of the year award in 2018. Her stellar career as a back-row flanker, to date, has also included conference all-star and U SPORTS All-Canadian recognition.

Her time in Panther green has coincided with the ongoing improvement of a team that is now a contender for an AUS banner.

“The impact that Brinten has had on our program has been incredible,” UPEI head coach James Voye says. Since her first day on campus, he adds that Comeau brought a “high-performance mindset—on and off the pitch—as well as a hard-working attitude.”

Voye describes her “high” rugby IQ as “unmatched.” Not to mention her “intensity” on defense.

“Our team feeds off it,” he says. Voye adds that Comeau is “always making countless dominant tackles or showing her ability to be a strong ball carrier on offense.” Both offensively and defensively, he offers that his All-Canadian has a “tremendous ability to dictate the pace.”

“Brinten makes an impact wherever she is on the field,” Voye says.

The veteran student-athlete describes her Panther experience—both athletically and academically—has been “amazing.”

“I have gotten so may opportunities here,” Comeau adds. When it comes to the Panthers developing into an AUS contender, she says, “I am over the moon.”

Comeau explains that the key to success has been having “everyone on board,” including in working hard to reach team goals. Speaking of goals, she offers—with ever-increasing confidence—the focus has turned to securing UPEI’s first AUS banner in women’s rugby.

“Everyone believes in themselves—and each other,” Comeau says.

She takes pride in being a part of building a culture that fosters a family-like atmosphere, one where student-athletes are supportive of one another. “We are best friends,” she says, noting that togetherness positively effects their on-field performance.

With that “high-level camaraderie and team spirit,” Comeau says it makes it “super easy” to be one of the leaders for the Panthers.

Looking ahead, the 2022 UPEI sociology graduate says “something sport-related” is on her radar, possibly in the area of management, when it comes to her career path. The RCMP is also on the table. Whatever road she follows, Comeau says she plans to continue playing rugby, once her varsity career ends.

“It is going to be an exciting time for the sport around the world over the next couple of years, and I would like to be part of it,” she adds.

Voye says it has been an “absolute pleasure” to watch Comeau develop as a player and person during her time at UPEI, adding she is the “epitome” of a student-athlete.

“Brinten is a perfect example of the type of player and person that we want to bring into our program.”