Jordan Wilson-Ross, JBAA (Judy Teasdale Photo)
Vancouver, BC: The 2013-14 Canadian Direct Insurance Premier League kicks off this Saturday with a full weekend of fixtures highlighted by a rematch of last year's Rounsefell Cup Final between James Bay Athletic Association and Burnaby Lake Rugby Club.
With 16 weeks of games and a history of featuring past, present and future national team players (75 per cent of the 2013 Americas Rugby Championship Canadian roster have played in the Premier League), British Columbia's highest caliber of men's club rugby promises to provide another year of top tier competition.
Canadian Direct Insurance Premier League - Sat. October 5th:
James Bay AA at Burnaby Lake (Burnaby Lake Sports Complex) 2:45pm
Castaway Wanderers at Capilano RFC (Klahanie Park, West Vancouver) 2:45pm
Meraloma Rugby Club at UVic Vikes (Wallace Field, Victoria) 2:45pm
UBCOB Ravens at Vancouver Rowing Club (Brockton Oval, Vancouver) 2:45pm
As the 2015 Rugby World Cup nears, BC's Premier League will provide local fans an opportunity to see future national team reps in action. Of the 30-man roster that represented Canada at the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand, no fewer than 27 players had at one point featured for a BC club side during their young careers.
The 2012-13 CDI Premier League title race went down to the wire last May as three teams (James Bay, Burnaby Lake and Capilano) each wrapped up the regular season with 10-4 records.
Burnaby and Capilano renewed their intense rivalry this past Saturday as the two sides battled for Lower Mainland supremacy in the Miller Cup Final. Burnaby clinched the title with a narrow 24-22 result and are poised for a repeat performance in the upcoming provincial competition.
Reigning champs James Bay have reloaded for another title run with a plethora of national reps at their disposal and their cross-town rivals UVic Vikes are stocked with junior national team standouts and sevens flyers. The students have already gone 3-0 in Barnard Cup play (VIRU inter-union competition) and with only one major departure to their program are looking like the impressive 2010 side that went on to lift their third Rounsefell Cup in school history.
2012-13 Semifinalists Castaway Wanderers are currently rebuilding for a deeper playoff run and will feature the likes of Canadian front rowers Djustice Sears-Duru, Andrew Tiedemann and Ray Barkwill.
Vancouver sides Meraloma and UBCOB Ravens are currently in transition phases with new coaches at the helm and will look to reestablish themselves as title contenders early on in the season. For newly-promoted Vancouver Rowing Club, this season will test their depth and ability to compete alongside the province's top tier clubs.
TEAM GUIDE - 2013/14 CANADIAN DIRECT INSURANCE PREMIER LEAGUE
JAMES BAY ATHLETIC ASSOCIATION
(James Bay / Vancouver Island Rugby Union)
2012-13 regular season record: 10-4 (2nd)
2012-13 playoffs: Rounsefell Cup Champions
Last Premier League title: 2013
Rounsefell Cups: 23 (2013, 2006-08, 1999, ’96, ’93, ’92, ’89, ’82, 1974-80, ’63, ’46, 1938-40, ’25)
Key additions: Patrick Parfrey (Atlantic Rock), Jake Webster (Ontario Blues), Jack Smith (Peterborough RFC), Taylor Dalziel (Capilano RFC)
Key returnees: Captain Spencer Dalziel and Nolan Miles bring leadership to the group as JBAA look to build on preseason successes. Lucien Nel and Ed Adms early season play has been very encouraging. Connor Braid, Sean White and Jordan Wilson-Ross also return this season and along with some new additions will juggle national team commitments.
Key departures: Francis Yoon, David Moonlight, Neil Meechan, Morgan Williams
Coaches perspective - Peter Rushton: I expect the league to be a real challenge. Every game will be meaningful with our goal to be positioned in April for another run at the Rounsefell Cup. Replacing the contributions of Francis Yoon, David Moonlight, Neil Meechan, and Morgan Williams from last year's final will be a very tall order but one that we accept with open arms. We look forward to the start of the league and wish the other clubs best of luck.
BURNABY LAKE RUGBY CLUB
(Burnaby / Vancouver Rugby Union)
2012-13 regular season record: 10-4 (1st)
2012-13 playoffs: Provincial Finalists, 18-10 loss to JBAA
Rounsefell Cups: None
Key additions: Kyle Wisniewski (UBCOB Ravens), Cody Rockson (Bayside), Gurvinder Kalar (Bayside), Stuart Vincent (Nor'Westers, Edmonton), Kaevon Khoozani (Winnipeg Wasps)
Key returnees: Rory Love, Anthony Luca, Micha Govorchin, Andrew Lackner, Admir Cejvanovic, Joe Dolesau
Key departures: Matt Alexander, Benoit Piffero (Quebec) returned to France for a pro contract
Coaches perspective - Kris De Scossa: We have become a go to club for players from across Canada. We have welcomed players from nearly all provinces; Quebec, the Atlantic, Ontario and the Prairies, Manitoba, Saskatchwan and Alberta. These players have come into a great culture that evokes the traditional rugby ethos. Our ethics of hard work, discipline, accountability and responsibility have paid dividends with where the club stands right now in terms of playing numbers and standard of play. Our retention of home grown players is a key for us in the CDI Premier League and that only comes by providing excellent programs, coaching, facilities and support. Our close bond and ever improving talent, I believe will make us competitive in all games.
(North Shore / Vancouver Rugby Union)
2012-13 regular season record: 10-4 (3rd)
2012-13 playoffs: Semifinal loss, 34-27 to JBAA
Last Premier League title: 2012
Rounsefell Cups: 3 (2012, '04, '05), 5 as North Shore All Blacks (’55, ’48, ’33-’35)
Key additions: Greg Denton (New Zealand), Hamish Johnstone (New Zealand), Clayton Hunter-James (UBC), Jeff McKinnon(UBC)
Key returnees: Most of last years team including Glen McKinnon, Charlie Jones, Robbie McCall, Jordan Reid-Harvey, Matt Yanagiya, Chris Robinson
Key departures: Nate Rees (UBC), Taylor Dalziel (JBAA), Dan Fiss, Mike McDonald
Coaches perspective - Tom Larisch: We have a solid squad with a few new faces. Some of the younger players have matured quite a bit the past year and are looking forward to improving on last season's semi-final loss. Had a strong preseason with a nail-biting loss to Burnaby in the Mainland Cup last weekend. Lots of work to do but the potential is there for a very strong season.
CASTAWAY WANDERERS RFC
(Oak Bay / Vancouver Island Rugby Union)
2012-13 regular season record: 7-6-1 (4th)
2012-13 playoffs: Semifinal loss, 26-10 to Burnaby Lake
Last Rounsefell Cup: 2011
Rounsfell Cups: 4 (2011, 2002, ’01, ’00)
Key additions: John Braddock (prop), Djustice Sears-Duru (Ontario Blues / prop), Miles Dingwall (Bytown Blues, Ottawa / flanker), Mike van der Westhuizen (Ontario / centre), Andrew Tiedemann (return from French contract and Wolf Pack / prop), Aaron Flagg (Abbotsford / lock)
Key returnees: Matt Buckley (flyhalf), Riley Ilnicki (flanker), Dylan Jones (8), Gord Kehoe (lock), Kyle Armstrong (9), Doug Wooldridge (prop)
Key departures: Clayton Thornber (transfer to UVIC)
Coaches perspective - Ian Hyde-Lay: It's hard to get a real read to date, but we remain optimistic. A good number of players still are not available or are still to play. A number will not be returning until the New Year. Already injuries and CRC, ARC, 7s and National commitments are sorely testing the depth of the club. We may not hit our stride until February/March but will hope to pick up enough CDI points pre-Christmas to avoid last season's late scramble just to qualify for playoffs.
MERALOMA RUGBY CLUB
(Kitsilano / Vancouver Rugby Union)
2012-13 regular season record: 7-7 (5th)
2012-13 playoffs: Did not qualify
Last Premier League title: 2009
Rounsefell Cups: 13 (2009, ’86-’88, ’83, ’73, ’72, ’67, ’65, ’54, ’41, ’39, ’29)
Key additions: TBD
Key returnees: Mike Hall, Shawn Mercier, Alex Boyd
Key departures: Eric Wilson, Sam Jenkins, Brian Erichsen, Callum Morrison
Coaches perspective - Brian Erichsen: Preseason was a bit of a challenge. Numbers were slow to appear but have been steadily improving with each week. The club is transitioning through the absence of some of its regular veteran leaders that have decided to take some time away from the game or unofficially retired. This has left some good opportunity for some of the younger guys to step up and fill some of those shoes. The identity of the team will be determined as the weeks of the season progress.
UNIVERSITY OF VICTORIA VIKES
(Saanich / Vancouver Island Rugby Union)
2012-13 regular season record: 5-8-1 (6th)
2012-13 playoffs: Did not qualify
Last Premier League title: 2010
Rounsefell Cups: 3 (2010, ’03, 1971)
Key additions: Clayton Thornber (Castaway Wanderers / prop) seasoned Premier league player and will help us stabilize the set piece. Very mobile prop who showed well with BC Bears in CRC.
Guiseppe du Toit (Shawnigan Lake Grad) who due to injuries and national team commitments (Pat Kay, Nathan Hirayama) has gone straight into the Vikes senior team. Has played very well in first three games and his outstanding goal kicking has really put pressure on teams.
Key returnees: Pat Kay, Nathan Hirayama, Sean Duke, Chase Kelliher, Liam Murray, Dan Hrycyk, Shea Wakefield, Beau Parker, Nathan Yanagiya
Key departures: Jake illnicki – in NZ played for Auckland U21
Coaches perspective - Doug Tate: I'm looking forward to the season. Not many players have graduated and the Vikes have started strong. The difference a year makes is immense and the players have come back much stronger. We have lots of options in the back row and it is competitive for positions throughout the team. There is a nice blend of youth and veterans and we hope to get off to a good start in the Premier League. Will be missing a number of players throughout the year due to representative honours, but we have excellent depth this year and many players have stepped forward already to claim spots on the varsity team.
UBCOB RAVENS RFC
(Vancouver West/ Vancouver Rugby Union)
2012-13 regular season record: 3-9-2 (7th)
2012-13 playoffs: Did not qualify
Last Premier League title: 1994
Rounsefell Cups: 5 (1994, ’90, ’91, ’85, ’81)
Key additions: Callum Morrison (Meraloma), Matt Harrison (Winnipeg Assassins), Weston Hill (SABRFC, Quebec), Joe Franey (Badgers, North Saskatchewan), Tom Luke player/coach
Key returnees: Garrett Garbe, Garner Lea, Tom McKeen, Kol Henrikson, Conor Trainor, Mike Burak
Coaches perspective - Dean Murten: Preseason took a while to get going and we suffered two bad loses against the Rowers and Burnaby. The squad's now started to take shape and numbers at training have improved. I believe the two loses give us the reality check we needed. We still have a lot of work to do to reach the standards the players, coaches and I expected to reach. The aim for the season is to make playoffs, then after that anything could happen.
VANCOUVER ROWING CLUB
(Vancouver/ Vancouver Rugby Union)
2012-13 regular season record: Okanagan Spring League 11-5 (3rd)
2012-13 playoffs: Okanagan Spring Brewery League Champions
Rounsefell Cups: (1995, 1936, 1923)
Key additions: Chris Seyler (Ottawa Irish, Ontario Blues), Jake Chahwan (Ottawa Irish, Ontario U19), Alex Forrest (Atlantic Rock), James Roughan (Marist North Harbour, New Zealand), Brian Derham (Irish Universities, Munster U20), Romain Plantey (Coventry)
Key returnees: Senior players extending their careers: George Richmond, Phil Hosie, Karl Mudzamba and our young core of Academy grads: Doug Crowe, Henry Recinos, Caleb Hansen, Kevin Gurniak, Ryan Chapman
Key departures: Justin Wong, Duncan James, Nolan Laderoute, Ben Keith, Josh Schrieber, Justin Humphreys
Coaches perspective - Jeremy Sabell: Our preparations for the promotion to CDI Premier League competition began the day after we won the Tier II championship in May. The first step was to make a decision as a whole club that we were prepared to do what it takes to compete in the country’s top club league. We felt we had the requisite rugby skills, but knew we needed to be bigger, stronger, fitter and more prepared technically. To their credit, the players have really backed their vote to advance to the CDI by working hard throughout the summer and early fall, both in the weight room and on the pitch. As a coaching and management staff we’ve also had to step up our game, and really put in the hard work to recruit additional players to deepen our rosters after losing a number of key players from last season.
Overall, our goal is to be competitive every single weekend and earn enough points to remain in the Premiership. Our main focus in contributing to that goal is to work as hard as we can at getting better every week, as individuals, as teams and as a club. We love where the players are at mentally right now. Having played two games in September that we used as preparation, they are coming together nicely and are extremely eager to get underway. It is a long and arduous season and we know that many challenges lie ahead for us, some within our ability to control and some not. Although many of the Premier clubs have been magnanimous in expressing their satisfaction that the VRC is back in the top tier, we know that there won’t be any welcome mats put out for us on Saturdays and that we’ll have to fight hard for everything we get against some of the best players and best clubs in Canada. We wouldn’t have it any other way.