Cushing heads to the land of kiwis
By John Dinner
Hard work, determination and dedication are all attributes of the top athletes in their respective sports. Dan Cushing, a Western rugby player, is all that and a bag of chips.
The product of Toronto's Leaside High School, Cushing, who stands six-foot-one and weighs 212 pounds, has shown tremendous commitment to excellence and the sport of rugby despite setbacks over the last two years.
Entering the Western rugby program, Cushing had to miss a year with the Mustangs as a result of knee surgery and with high expectations for this year, injury and illness kept him from making a larger contribution.
"Dan has had some unfortunate injuries here at Western," said Gerry Slattery, Western's rugby coach. "And despite that, he has worked very hard on his own, showing tremendous commitment."
After playing at the junior provincial level, Cushing moved last summer to the Irish Canadians Rugby Club in Toronto, a club in the senior Ontario Rugby Union 'A' Division.
In his first year with the club, Cushing was nominated for the Most Improved Player award which is indicative of his enthusiasm for the game. "Dan is a very focused sort of guy," said Mark Winocur, who coached Cushing with the Irish Canadians. "He came to us with the express goal of improvement. He shows a high level of commitment to the game and to his overall fitness."
An exceptional athlete and an outstanding student, Cushing is taking a one year sabbatical from school to go to New Zealand to further his rugby career, before returning to complete his honours in business administration. "I want to develop my game," Cushing said. "And my goal is to one day play for Canada."
Going to New Zealand represents an excellent opportunity for Cushing to take his game to the next level. "Dan is anxious to learn and he's really excited about the game," Slattery said. "With more exposure and better rugby he'll return a far better player."
Cushing is not the first Mustang to take his game overseas this year's captain Rob Wernstein also spent some time in New Zealand. "Rugby down there is like hockey here," Wernstein said. "If you want to learn hockey, come to Canada. And if you want to learn rugby go to New Zealand, it's part of their culture." Wernstein sees this as a tremendous opportunity for Cushing to increase his tactical knowledge of the game and learn what it takes to be successful in rugby.
Leaving in January 1999, Cushing will join the Hamilton Old Boys of the first division, in the province of Waikato, who boast Scott McLeod, a member of the world's best rugby team, the New Zealand All Blacks.
Keeping himself busy until then, Cushing will join the London St. George's rugby club for a four-day tour of St. Louis, Missouri and then onto the Irish Canadians until November. "I can't wait. I'm really excited," Cushing said. And so he should be.
©Gazette file photo