Blues Take CRC Title with 50-21 Win Over BC; Denver and Ohio Meet in PRO Rugby Final Next Weekend; What's the Future for BC
posted July 25 2016
[ed. comments below]
Another dismal CRC season for the BC Bears wraps up with a 0-4 record, the last one a 50-21 loss to Ontario. That bonus point win gives the Ontario Blues the title, just ahead of the Wolf Pack. All teams in the competition, except BC, were in the running for the title on the last weekend. It prompted one reader to message, "what do you think the Bears need to end the drought?" Good question.
First let's establish some facts, BC turns out some of the best young rugby players in the country. The fact that BC has won 4 of the last 5 U19 men's national titles is proof. They also consistently dominate in the U16 and U18 levels on the men's side at the national level. So the schools and clubs in the province are doing their job as well, or better, than any other province in this development area. We haven't broken that system... yet.
So you have the best age-grade programs but can't win a game at the senior level? Like any problem there are several factors many of them interconnected.
Season matters! I know many people will say season doesn't matter but it does. It's usually people with short seasons that will say that, BC has a long season, about 9 months long, (Sept to May). It's the only province in Canada that can play winter rugby, like the Tier 1 countries, and it does. There's a little bit of season envy going on in the other provinces who generally have a 6 month long season (May to October). BC are forced to play the national championship in their off-season as it's the common denominator and they have more difficulty recruiting senior players and getting them mentally into match mode than other provinces who are in the middle of their season.
I wouldn't even bother trying to fix the summer rugby problem, I would focus on assembling the Bears team for exhibitions during the BC season. The BC defeat of Russia came in season (November) and that's a model I would follow. I would also work to turn the CRC into a U20 competition, there's already a U19 competition so perhaps that can be bumped up to U20. As for the senior men's competition, I'd leave that to the professionals. That segues very well into the next topic, PRO Rugby.
If you're going to play summer rugby then you might as well be paid for it and let the professionals do their job. Bring PRO Rugby into Canada next year with at least a team in BC and Ontario, a western and eastern team, with possibly more to come in future years.
PRO Rugby currently runs from mid-April to end of July. There wasn't a playoff scheme this year with only 5 teams but it works out that the last match, next Sunday, will determine the league champion. Ohio Aviators host Denver Stampede with a winner take all match.
It was interesting to watch the two leagues by live stream within a few days. The CRC comes off as much more amateur than PRO Rugby. In the CRC, some games are streamed, some are not, it seems to be on a whim. Trying to find rosters beforehand is hit and miss and then when you do get a stream it features Dr. Parfrey screaming from the sidelines in fifty shades of blue. With modern technology he can literally scream from St. John's to Victoria. The PRO Rugby game was presented more professionally as they're motivated to reach out and win over a fairly sophisticated sports consumer in North America.
PRO Rugby are in talks with Rugby Canada but it's far from a done deal. How would PRO Rugby fit in with Rugby Canada's plan for a dedicated team out of Langford? Is Rugby Canada interested in entering them as a team? Would they be divided between east and west. How would the good doctor in Newfoundland feel about this and what's in it for the Rock? Would PRO Rugby be willing to give up part of its ownership model of the teams? There are lots of issues but if the Canadian rugby public keeps up the pressure on Rugby Canada for professional rugby then they'll eventually see the light, or at least open the door a crack to let some light in and allow a fresh breeze to enter.