With the disappointments of the 2008-2009 season behind them, the Concordia men and women’s rugby teams are looking for a fresh start in the 2009-2010 season.
The men are coming off a winless season in 2008, which head coach Clive Gibson modestly described as “less than stellar.” They struggled against powerhouse McGill in 31-5, 59-3 and 41-0 thrashings but faired well against Sherbrooke and Bishop’s. Their narrowest defeat was at Sherbrooke’s home opener where they fell 8-7.
In the case of the gritty men’s team, the numbers don’t reflect the story. Many of the losses were results of missed opportunities or mistakes by the Stinger squad, which opposing teams took full advantage of. In the four games where Concordia did not face McGill, they lost by a margin of five or less.
Leaving the Stingers this year are four pivotal players: scrum-half Glenn Imperial, centre Patrick Demers-Stoddart, forward Andrew Taylor and captain Eric Van Thiel.
Luckily for the squad there’s an army of players looking to replace the old guard and earn their spot on the team. According to head coach Clive Gibson, about half the players who came to training camp were rookies. Also stepping to the plate are new co-captains Johnathan Dextras-Romagnino and Michael Consolante, who according to Gibson “compliment each other and provide an important bridge between playing personnel and coaching staff.”
Gibson says that this year the team is developing a new approach. “We are implementing a new playing style that we hope will suit the personnel we have acquired,” he said. “We look forward to developing it to play a fast paced and exciting style of rugby that players and spectators alike should enjoy and appreciate.”
Last year the women’s squad was robbed of their chance at nationals by a technicality. For those whose memories don’t stretch as far back as last fall, the Stingers and the Laval Rouge et Or were tied at the end of regular play in the finals. After a ten minute sudden death over-time the teams were still deadlocked. It was then discovered by both teams that in the case of a tie then the team with the most tries wins. Since Concordia had achieved their score with fewer tries and more kicks, they were declared losers.
Rising from the ashes of last year’s season is a core group of players strengthen by a number of promising rookies. Head Coach Graeme McGravie says he’s keeping his eyes on newcomers Cortney Keeble from St-Annes Rugby Club and Liza Myers from King’s Edgehill School in Nova Scotia at the flank, Jeremie Paré-Julien from Laval Rugby Club at prop and Hughanna Gaw from the Ormstown Saracens at eight-man.
Rookies aren’t the only ones jockeying for a spot. Mel Tranchemontagne’s departure leaves the captaincy position vacant. Although no decisions have been made as to who the next captain will be, McGravie admits that there are big shoes to fill.
“Her leadership on and off the field will be a huge gap to fill for us,” he said. Despite the lack of a definite decision, McGravie said he is depending on two key players to lead this year. Vanessa Grillo will move up to prop from eight-man and is expected to lead the pack. All-Canadian player and former captain of the Canada U20 team Jackie Tittely will be essential to the back line again this year. McGravie described Tittely as “our fulcrum last year,” and commented “she somehow needs to have a big year again for us to be successful.”
McGravie asserts that along with talent the key ingredient to this year’s team is maturity. “We need to understand the real demands of varsity sport from the beginning. If we can grasp that in camp and on tour we should be okay for the season.” He also acknowledges the team’s other challenge: “Laval, of course.”
Stinger rugby has its first game and home opener on Friday, September 11 at 6:30 for women and 8:30 for men at Loyola Field against Bishops.