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Volume 91, Issue 35

Friday, October 31, 1997

flesh and bones


Tackling the Golden ruggers

©Geoff Robins/Gazette
ALRIGHT, NO MORE RUCKING AROUND! Western's ruggers hope they can manhandle Queen's this weekend as they shoot for their first rugby championship in 20 years.

By Alex Chiang
Gazette Staff

The last time Western won a provincial rugby title, Pierre Trudeau was Prime Minister, Star Wars was debuting in movie theatres and The Gazette was a weekly newspaper.

On a frigid November weekend in 1977, Mustang head coach Doc Anderson led the 'Stangs to a 6-6 tie against Waterloo. Both teams shared the title that season, but while the Warriors have gone on to win the championship twice since then (1983 and 1985), Western has been shut-out.

Starting in 1986, Queen's emerged as a perennial powerhouse, winning 10 of the last 11 provincial titles. This year, however, the Mustangs helped dispel the infallible legend which the Golden Gaels had built – beating Queen's 20-14 on Homecoming weekend.

"We've pushed the monkey off our back, but now it's hanging on the hips and we want to kick it right off," Mustang head coach Gerry Slattery said. "Since Homecoming, we've removed a large part of Queen's reputation and by beating them Saturday, we would destroy it."

While Queen's faltered to a third-place finish this season, the Mustang rugby program appears to be on the upswing with Western placing first with an undefeated 7-0 record. Slattery, however, is insistent that ending the school's two-decade long drought is not at the forefront of his and the players' minds.

"It was a mistake in the past to bring up the fact we haven't won it in so long," he said. "Players started wondering why we haven't won in so long and why we're in the doghouse, but the real problem is we haven't been focused on the right things."

Slattery believes Queen's success has been built on their confidence in winning and Western will need to do the same in order to succeed on Saturday.

"At Queen's I've seen weak teams destroy other teams because tradition makes them think they can win," he said. "I was hoping we would play them because beating them would be more of a pleasurable win and they've been so dominant the past decade.

Yet Golden Gael head coach Al Ferguson believes Slattery's words would be different depending on tomorrow's outcome.

"I don't think he would rather play us at all," he said. "If he loses he will say that he would've rather played Mac."

Ferguson has certainly been instrumental in constructing the Golden Gael rugby dynasty. In his nine years as head coach, the team has won the championship in every season but 1992, when he took a one-year sabbatical.

"We've had a lot of good players over that time, but we've never been a good team because of one or two players," Ferguson said. "We've always had 15 good players."

As for not finishing first in the division, Ferguson said, "It doesn't matter where we finish in the regular season, all that matters is we're playing in the first weekend of November.

"We've had our share of losses, but we've always come through in the playoffs."

As far as Queen's is concerned, the Golden Gaels are determined not to lose to Western twice in one season and especially not in a match that holds so much importance.

"We weren't happy to lose to them the first time," Ferguson said. "Western has always had a good program and they've become more team-oriented which has helped them become more successful, but we're just as confident that if we play our best game we should come out on top."

Tomorrow's rugby championship will take place on the Western rugby pitch at noon.

To Contact The Sports Department: gazsport@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright © The Gazette 1997