Mustangs down under
Ruggers battle it out in Australia
By Ryan Dixon
They may have had a losing record in their six games in Australia and
New Zealand, but Western men's rugby coach Gerry Slattery felt his team
came out on top down under.
"I don't see any negatives. Of course it costs [money], but what doesn't?
It's a fantastic experience and it's good for the program," Slattery said,
despite the fact his team had a losing 2-4 record in six, tightly contested
games. The games consisted of playing five universities and one club team.
Slattery said the competition was very stiff, which is not surprising
considering the Mustangs were deep in the heart of rugby country. Slattery
added the losing record could also be attributed to some Mustang rust.
"It's the off-season, we didn't execute well. We got a lot better as
the tour went on. I feel we have far better athletes [than the competition],"
Western captain Aaron Abrams said tough opponents were precisely what
the defending Ontario University Athletics champs were looking for.
"We played some very skillful teams which is exactly what we had hoped.
These kinds of teams are the ones we learn the most from. [The Australians
and New Zealanders] do things to us that we would never see a Canadian
team do and [that] is the best lesson," Abrams said.
The captain went on to say teams in the OUA can expect to get a taste
of Aussie style rugby this fall from the Mustangs. "We began to implement
a lot of what they were doing to us into our own game plan," he said.
The Mustangs trip was three weeks in total, with the majority of the
time spent in Australia. The ruggers also stayed in New Zealand for a total
of ten days. This is the third trip of it's kind for the Western rugby
team and it has paid big dividends in the past.
After visiting Ireland in 1995, they went on to claim the OUA crown
the following season and pulled the same trick in 1998, winning the OUA's
after a spring visit to South Africa.
Clearly, the chance to play rugby on the other side of the world is
not just a sporting experience. Slattery said trips like this are aimed
at much more than just expanding an athletes sporting skill, listing several
goals of a voyage of this nature.
"To reload the team, to rebuild, to reward the graduating students,
to forge relations with universities overseas and to see other cultures,"
Obviously, the Mustang players were quite taken with their surroundings.
Nineteen of the team's members stayed beyond the three-week playing period,
with some of them continuing to travel while others acquired work visas
to earn a summer income in Australia.
Abrams is one of the players who stayed behind, but traveling was not
his primary priority. He has landed a spot with a club team named Gordon
and is staying in Sydney while perfecting his craft.
"My rugby has been going quite well and I hope to develop and learn
as much as I can over the next two months. I hope to bring back much of
the things I learn to Mustang camp in August," Abrams said.