Mustangs trample over lancers
Western rugby tradition continues
Conspiracy in sports
Episode three: return of the preview
By Chad Thompson
Twenty questions consists of questions asked to a different Western head coach each week and their responses. This week's victim, or rather... respondent, is Gerry Slattery, head coach of the Western Men's Rugby team.
Slattery was born in poetry hotbed Limerick, Ireland in 1964 and started playing rugby at a very young age. "I started playing it when I was 14," he said.
When asked about his greatest achievement in rugby, Slattery quickly points to his time playing rugby in Ireland. "As a player, it was playing with the senior men's team in Limerick. I played with my brothers and it was great to grace the field and make the first team. They were a good team and I was proud to play with them."
Slattery started coaching at Western as an assistant in 1992 and became head coach in 1996. For Slattery, his greatest moment as a Western coach came in 1997. "Winning the [Ontario University Athletics] championship in 1997 was my greatest moment. It was the first championship for Western in 20 years."
Slattery's voice beams with pride when he talks about his favourite moment from that win. "I remember one of the scores," he said. "It was a score by the wing which we had practiced. We had worked hard and it was exciting to see the results of our practice. It proved to be the winner and provided the gap to beat Queen's [university]."
When asked about his greatest personal achievement, Slattery states it was when he left home. "Leaving Ireland and making a success in Canada is a great personal achievement. I left a comfort zone and made a success of myself and got through school."
Slattery said he finds it tough to pick his favourite players, but points to 1992 Mustang hooker Dale Burlegh and 1994 fullback Barry O'Shea as being at the top of his list.
As far as this year's team is concerned, Slattery sees great prospects for the team. "I think we are going to contend big time. If we quickly mesh and come together as a team we could go all the way."
Slattery has difficulty describing how much the rugby program has changed, but points to the hard work of the people involved as the reason the program has begun to excel. "It has been a total turn around." As well, Slattery feels the program is moving along and does not need any drastic changes. "I think we created a dynasty. If we keep doing what we are doing we will be successful."
Slattery's coaching future, in his mind, rests with the players and his enjoyment of coaching. "As long as the players respond to me, I will continue to coach."
The biggest question about rugby is how to score a game and Slattery is able to give a quick run down. "A try is worth five points, a convert which is kicked from the place where the ball touched down is worth two points. A penalty kick and a drop kick is worth three points."
When Slattery talks about the rugby future and how to make it the biggest game in the country, he looks towards starting children in rugby at a young age. "I would establish the game at the elementary school level. Use a non-contact game and teach them early on."
The rugby team has made many trips and plans to tour New Zealand, Fiji and Australia, or a trip to Argentina.
But for now, Slattery's team has their sights set on three teams in particular this season. "We always want to beat Queen's, they are our biggest rival. Nationally we would like to play the University of Victoria and the University of British Columbia because the west conference see themselves as the elite teams and I think we could give them a good match."
For Slattery, the closest sport in skills and game play to rugby are basketball and hockey. "To be honest basketball players make good rugby players, they have good hands rugby is the same thing. Hockey is also pretty similar, it is a fast and furious game."
Rugby is easy for Slattery to put into a metaphor for life. "You have to work hard and be aware of what is going on. Both in life and rugby you have to take the knocks and get back up. You always have to head north and go forward."
Slattery found it difficult to name his favourite player but eventually chose one name which stood out. "Willy John McBride he played for Ireland and the British Lions. He was well respected in Britain and Ireland."