A lot has changed since the Concordia men’s rugby team won their third consecutive QSSF championship last November.
On the sideline, Graeme McGravie has taken over as head coach from Gerry Clayton.
“When they offered me the job, it was a quick yes answer,” said McGravie. “I’ve got big shoes to fill, but it’s good pressure. We have a reputation to uphold.”
McGravie has been coaching rugby since 1986. He has coached the provincial men’s under-17 and under-19 squads. He was instrumental in building the rugby program at Dawson College. McGravie is also in his fourth season as coach of the Montreal Menace of the Canadian Rugby Super League.
While the Stingers have added years of rugby experience off the field, they have lost a lot of experience on the field. Last year, 60 per cent of the players on the team graduated, leaving a lot of holes to fill.
Most of the returning players rarely played last year and will be starting for the first time at the university level. Some players have only club experience, while others have no experience at all.
“A lot of guys are going to get thrown in the deep end. It’s going to be a case of sink or swim for them,” says McGravie. “It’s my job to help them float.”
Despite the lack of experience, McGravie is not overly concerned. Captain and hooker John Chiniborch and fly-half Jared Walker gained a lot of valuable experience this summer while plating for The Academy in the Canadian Rugby Super League.
Rookie scrum-half Scott Gill has lots of experience at the club level and at the provincial level. He also brings a great deal of energy and enthusiasm, says McGravie.
In the second row, McGravie expects big things from rookie Nick Mairroda as the season progresses. The coach also sees promise in rookie forward Peter Kanavaros who will be playing at prop.
The last major obstacle for the Stingers is the size of their forwards. Compared to other packs in the league, the Stingers are “tiny” according to McGravie. That means that the pack will have to learn the skills to be technically superior to the other teams.
McGravie also plans to take advantage of the fact that all four teams in the Stingers’ division will move on to the playoffs.
“We’re going to use the season to find out our strengths and weakness,” says McGravie, ” in order to win the two games that will win us a championship.”