BC Rugby Season Begins Full Schedule This Weekend: Some Preseason Predictions
posted Sept 13 2016
[ed. comments below]
The rugby season in BC gets up to cruising speed this weekend with all leagues in action. The Island Div 1 men were first out of the blocks last weekend and there were a few exhibition matches but this weekend it's full on.
We'll take a look at how we expect the season to unfold, there's not a lot of data to go on so far but based on a few whispers here and there, last season's form and club management we'll give our early form predictions. Men's Premier
The University programs have ruled the last couple of years, particularly UBC, winning back to back titles. Will UBC be able to claim a triple crown?
I think a couple of club sides are going to make it tough, I'm expecting big things from Burnaby and James Bay this year. James Bay have some national level players in the mix with Connor Braid and Phil Mack both apparently "retired" from national duty. Connor Braid may be the top Canadian not playing professionally overseas and if he's available for club duty at JBAA, he'll have an impact. JBAA will no doubt have done some recruiting over the summer and there was some murmur about South Africa and prop that may have been heard.
Burnaby were finalists last year and they also are recruiting savvy with a lot of depth in their 3rds, 1sts and junior programs. I expect them to be in the mix again come playoff time.
On the Island I think CW and Westshore will be battling it out for the final qualifying spot. A lot depends on their recruiting activity, CW have the likes of Ken Goodland and Gareth Rees looking out for their former club while Westshore's new proximity to Rugby Canada central along with the guiding hand of former national team players Mark Wyatt and Clay Panga may see them snag a couple of centralized players. They meet this Friday evening and the rosters should reveal a lot about their playing strength this season.
UVic have a lot of new players coming in at the Norsemen, Saxons and Jutes level. How the Vikes fare this year depends on how many sturdy forwards they can field who can handle the robust play of BC Premier. In their championship years they always had a senior player like Pat Riordan or Gregor Dixon to provide that needed grit. Again this Saturday's roster vs James Bay will provide some answers.
On the mainland, besides Burnaby and UBC, who else will surprise this year? Capilano possibly, they ran into injury problems last year and their on-field leaders like Glenn McKinnon are getting up in years. A few key imports may boost their chances and they have a lot of depth in their 1sts, 3rds and junior programs. Meralomas may be the surprise team this year if they've done some recruiting. They missed the Premier cut last year, the Rowers taking the spot that the Lomas were eyeing. It will likely be Rowers, Meraloma and Abbotsford vying for the final Premier spot.
Seattle are a bit of an unknown this year. They were hit hard last season by the fledgling PRO Rugby league that took a number of their national team players. Will some of them return for the fall season at least? They have access to an immense player pool in the US and they have a top coach in Justin Fitzpatrick so they may be very strong this fall. They travel to Abbotsford on Saturday so that result will answer some questions.
The Ravens can be hot or cold. With Rick Bourne as club patron they do have a bit of clout in the recruiting stakes and they've shown up with some surprises like Connor Trainor, Gordon McRorie, Nick Blevins, etc. They should safely make it through the Premier qualifying part of the season. They take on UBC this weekend at home so a good first test for them. Women's Premier
The Island teams CW, Westshore and Cowichan should be strong as they'll be able to take advantage of proximity to the Rugby Canada centre of excellence and some national team athletes. CW and Westshore were in the final last year and I'd take a guess that this year's winner will either be from the Island or the States.
Seattle have a huge recruiting potential being the only American team in the competition. They were strong last year, with a little effort they could be stronger. Will this be the year an American team takes one of the Premier titles, it's wait and see on that front. The first weekend's results will cast some light. Seattle have a bye on the weekend while Cowichan hosts Westshore and Capilano hosts Burnaby.
There have been some late changes in the schedule with both SFU and Bayside dropping out of Premier. Other Leagues
The Island Division One will be a good indicator of the depth of the Premier teams as their seconds teams compete against the Div 1 teams of the North. One week is already in the books with James Bay defeating UVic 22-19 in a close match while Nanaimo clobbered Cowichan 47-10. One of the Cowichan players booked his wedding on rugby day which impacted player availability and the result. Will his mates forgive him, time will tell. James Bay made it to the Provincial final in Div 1 last year so should be strong, Nanaimo looks good coming out of the blocks in the north.
On the mainland Abbotsford, Surrey, Capilano and Burnaby are expected to be strong contenders again this year in their respective Division One leagues. There have been rumblings from United about a breakout season, we'll see how they fare against last year's finalists Surrey this weekend. Kelowna who won the Provincial Div 3 are in Div 1 this fall and host Richmond on Saturday.
In Women's Division One, the league has expanded to 9 teams with both Bayside and SFU dropping down from Premier. Abbotsford and United were the finalists last year but may get competition from the two new teams added from Premier. The United v SFU game on Saturday should answer some of those questions.