Volume 95, Issue 8

Thursday, September 13, 2001
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About the Gazette


Western ruggers off and running amok

A time to reflect, cheer and jeer

Men's Rugby Schedule

No longer lowly bottom feeders

Making a big splash

Western ruggers off and running amok

By Ryan Dixon
Gazette Staff

Ryan Dixon/Gazette
IF I DON'T SEE THEM, THEM THERE'RE NOT REALLY THERE. The men's rugby team is ready to plough through the OUA this season.

They may be a ship without its captain, but the Western men's rugby team is hoping to maintain their course and defend the Ontario University Athletics title they have won for the last two years.

"Losing Aaron Abrams wasn't a surprise, it was a shock," said Western head coach Gerry Slattery.

Abrams and three other Mustangs are off to hone their rugby skills at the Canadian Centre for Sport Development in British Columbia. For Abrams, the hope is to land on the National Team one day. For Slattery and the Mustangs, it's to stick together and find new leaders.

New captain and second row Dave Stratton said while he knows losing such key players will hurt, the team is ready to fill the hole.

"It always hurts to lose players like that, but we've got a solid team out there. I think we have our bases covered," he said.

Slattery said he is happy with what he has seen from his new captain so far, but added nothing is written in stone.

"[Stratton] did a good job in Montreal last weekend, so if he steps up and continues to do a good job, he'll keep that role. But I have no problems changing captaincy. Whatever it takes to win," he said.

Inside centre Dave DeJong said the Mustangs will have to rely on grit and solid game planning to succeed. "We're not going to be able to get by on pure, raw talent as we have in past years. I think this year we have to become a much more structured group and work together as a cohesive unit, in order to overcome the loss of those players," he said.

Slattery added the team will have to call on its depth this year, which has been nurtured by the trip the squad took this past spring to New Zealand and Australia.

"The tour to New Zealand and Australia was an opportunity to bring the younger players aboard and test them overseas [and] develop them overseas, so the tour has accelerated development. They absorb the rugby culture and they learn so much on and off the field," Slattery said.

Slattery was also quick to point out the team has not lowered its sights for the season, in light of losing some big guns. "Obviously, the ultimate goal is the OUA title and keeping our trophy in our trophy case and our title on this campus," he said.

The bench boss added this is a goal that is not achieved immediately. "You go from practice to practice and focus on performance. You go from game to game and focus on performance. It's step by step – it's a journey and the journey has to be fun and enjoyable for everyone."

Slattery said the confidence of this team will start at the top and filter down.

"I'm always confident – if I'm not, it shows," Slattery said. "I do feel confident and it rubs off on these guys. We're good enough and experienced enough [and] with some young blood and guys who have stepped up overnight to contend and keep our OUA title."

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Copyright The Gazette 2001