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Volume 91, Issue 13
Thursday, September 18, 1997
Ruggers ready to maul Mac
LET'S PLAY NAKED TWISTER. The men's rugby team will get down and dirty this weekend when they head to Hamilton to do battle with the McMaster Maurauders.
By Jonathan Tafler
After a grueling eight-game week, the Western men's rugby team took the day off Sunday to rest and reflect on its stellar performance so far this year.
This week, however, it's been back to the fields to prepare for Saturday's big game at McMaster.
"It's going to be a tough one," admitted second-year coach Gerry Slattery, whose team is ranked third in Ontario behind Queen's and this Saturday's opponent, "but our guys are really focused."
This new-found focus is already showing on the field. After two league games (the other six were exhibition), the ruggers are undefeated, including a convincing 15-3 win against Guelph last Saturday. Their other victory was a squeaker over none other than McMaster, 15-10.
"It's always close when we play in Hamilton," said Slattery, who prepares to take his team on the road for the first time in league play this season.
Slattery's crew, led by new captain forward Rob Wernstein, presents a new attitude this year, an attitude brimming with confidence and composure.
Wernstein, who completed an honours BA at Queen's in 1995, has been playing overseas in Paris and New Zealand for the last two years and knows what it means to play for a contender.
"Western has always had great rugby players but has come up a bit short each year," Wernstein said, commenting on the fact that the team hasn't won a championship in 12 years. "The difference this year is we have the potential to be a championship club."
Slattery has great confidence in the team's ability to win games when it counts. "In past years, when our backs have been up against the wall with the clock winding down, we've given away games to lesser opponents we should have defeated," he said. "This year, I think the composure is there for us to win those games."
And with their improving team defense and tackling, Western will not only prove to be a difficult opponent this season, but a dangerous one as well.
Over and above Wernstein, players to look out for include animated veteran Jason MacArthur and new kid on the block Derek Gorgi, both Guelph recruits. Gorgi, who has performed far above expectations to this point, was voted team MVP in a recent exhibition match against Ulster.
"We've cut the team from 96 to 44, so what's left is really the cream of the crop," says Slattery. "We've come a long way and we hope to go even further in the next couple weeks. Everyone's confident that we're going to do very, very well."
Slattery describes his team as "quietly excited and seriously focused," a combination which could carry Western to the top of the league.
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