McGrath Farewell Bittersweet as 7s Players, Family and Friends See Off Well-Liked Coach: PHOTOS
[ed. photo credit to BC Rugby News if using for other than personal reasons]
Damian McGrath started coaching Canada in December 2016 at the Dubai 7s and hit a high point with a World series title at the Singapore 7s in 2017. Slowly Rugby Canada management began to dismantle his support structure by dismissing his assistant coach Lee Douglas in 2018. Rugby Canada continued to press the issue by renegotiating the 7s players contracts which initiated strike action by the players at the beginning of the 2018-19 season. Rugby Canada finalized putting the nail in the 7s coffin by dismissing McGrath earlier this month. It puzzles Canadian rugby supporters why head office is trying to meddle in a successful program which looks certain to qualify for the 2020 Olympics. It's been put down to personality conflicts and a power struggle between the XVs group at Rugby Canada led by Kingsley Jones and Gareth Rees and the 7s group led by Damian McGrath. Rugby Canada CEO Allen Vansen sided with the XVs group and appointed Kingsley's right hand man, Henry Paul, as the new 7s coach.
This event was focused on saying good-bye to a well-liked servant of the game in Canada, someone who made a lot of friends and connections with the rugby community for the 29 months he held the job of head coach of Canada 7s. He brought a World Series title to Canada, something that hadn't happened before. Unlike other Rugby Canada staff he was always present on the sideline for local club rugby, he loved the game and was always scouting potential talent. He will be missed by the Canadian rugby community and we wish him well in his new position, whatever that may be.
The event started inside the James Bay rugby clubhouse just after 5pm with senior players Nathan Hirayama and Harry Jones paying tribute to the coach.
Damian looks on as the players make their address, other local rugby personalities attending included David Robertson, former head of Shawnigan School and part of the Canada U20 funding group, Hans de Goede former Canada player, Mike Holmes Chair of the Canadian Rugby Foundation and part of the Canada U20 funding group, Tom Woods former Canada player, Mark Wyatt former Canada player.
Mark Wyatt presents Damian and Deb with a Richard Hunt creation. Richard is one of the preeminant First Nation artists on the Island.
Players, family and friends pose outside for a group shot (click for larger view)
The 7s players take a photo with their coach (click for larger view)
Deb shows off the Richard Hunt mask with Justin Douglas, Cole Davis and Luke McCloskey looking on.
Nathan and Harry show off "When We Were Kings" photo montage presented to the players by Damian and Deb.
Players feel the emotion while viewing the photo montage of "When We Were Kings"
Time for individual photos, Justin Douglas with Deb and Damian.
Lucas Hammond with Deb and Damian.
Pat Kay with Deb and Damian.
Event organizer Karl Fix flew in from Saskatchewan, he's been a big supporter of Damian and the 7s program and critical of RC's handling of the matter.
Luke McCloskey with Deb and Damian.
Phil Berna with Deb and Damian.
Jake Thiel with Deb and Damian.
Cole Davis with Deb and Damian.
Andrew Coe with Deb and Damian.
Adam Zaruba with Deb and Damian.
Josiah Morra with Deb and Damian.
Brock Webster with Deb and Damian.
David Richard with Deb and Damian.
Liam Underwood with Damian.
Author/photographer having a quiet word with Damian in the clubhouse