Men's rugby going for gold

New head coach focused on keeping successful team level-headed

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Western men's rugby

Jonas Hrebeniuk

BANGING AND SMASHING THEIR WAY BACK TO THE TOP. After missing out on the gold medal last year, the men’s rugby squad has been playing with renewed determination this year, winning their first two games by a combined score of 102-3.

After settling for silver in last year’s Ontario University Athletics playoffs, the men’s rugby squad is hoping they will be as good as gold this season.

Already, their 2007 campaign is off to a strong start; the team is currently 2-0 after defeating the Windsor Lancers 59-3 in their home opener and thumping the Guelph Gryphons 43-0 on the road this past weekend.

The players were quick to attribute the team’s early success to new head coach Tony Roes, who captained the 2005 OUA champion Western team.

“Our new coach is very involved and has set a lot of important goals for us,” second row Cory Appleton said. “He is very focused on taking our team from just a provincially respected program to a nationally respected program.”

Western men's rugby

Winger Josh Campbell, who is in his fifth year with the squad, credited Roes with keeping the team focused and energized so far this season.

“[He] is really organized and on the ball,” Campbell said. “He’s keeping us motivated. Especially with such a short season, you’ve really got to get started early and I think Tony has helped us do that.”

“Being one of two players on the team who have actually played with Tony at Western, it’s amazing to have him as a coach,” Campbell added.

“Tony is one of the best players I’ve ever played with and, so far, one of the best coaches I’ve had. He’s going to take us places.”

For his part, Roes stressed the importance of keeping the team humble, especially after starting their season with two blowout wins.

“We’ve just got to take them down a few notches and really stress the little things,” he said.

“Guys can kind of get carried away with big wins like that. Come Monday, it’s back to work and we’ve got to forget about what happened last week.”

Campbell agreed it is important for the team to stay focused during games, regardless of the score.

Western men's rugby

“When you are winning by a lot of points, the key is to play the game that you would be playing if it was a tight match,” he said. “You don’t want to let it get to your head that every time you touch the ball you are going to score a try.

“You want to play as if you’re down by a try and every tackle you make is a game saver and every try you score is a game winner.”

As for his biggest challenge in his first year as head coach, Roes said keeping his team fired up at all times will be one of his top priorities.

“I think the biggest challenge for me is motivating the guys to really show up every night at practice,” Roes said.

“It’s easy to get up for games, but it’s tougher for practices, especially when we get in to the end of October and it’s cold and raining out.

“It’s important to have the guys keen to come out and have quality training sessions every time they are on the pitch.”

If third-year halfback Colin Brown is any indication of the squad’s energy level, Roes should not have too much difficulty motivating the team.

“We’re pumped. We’re absolutely pumped,” Brown said. “It was good to beat Windsor. Things went smoothly and it can only get better from there.”

Halfback Pete Jawl, who is in his first year with the team, said the collegial atmosphere on the squad is what keeps everyone excited to play and practice.

“Coming from high school, our team had a really good chemistry. Everyone knew each other and were really good buddies,” he said.

“Coming here I wasn’t sure what to expect, but seeing the guys interact at practice and socially it’s been the exact same kind of cohesiveness. It’s really nice and refreshing to see that.”

Appleton agreed the team is gelling well together.

“The whole team spends a lot of time together " pre-game meals, after-game meals, we go out on the weekends together ... we like to include all the first-year student athletes in all of our outings and get-togethers and really get them into what the team is all about.”

In addition to impressing their new coach and playing alongside old friends, the team also has another major reason to show up every time they are on the pitch: OUA gold.

“We’ve just got to keep our head up after last year’s finish,” fullback Chad Harris said. “[Coming in second] has just made us want to work harder.”

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