Phil Meyer's Report - Marooned on the Mainland - JBAA v Rowers
Another year has gone – and come. We assemble at an ungodly hour in BC Ferries’ Swartz Bay parking lot at the dictum of The Queen of Burnaby (the BCRU scheduler, not the ship). It is September 7, an ungodly date – spot on time to watch the Blue Jays, but more than a bit early to be starting Premier rugby play.
Embarkation goes well enough, with 29 players – (many fresh faced to this writer) – plus President John and Manager Mike. Jono and Bad Boy are missing, which greatly diminishes the world-scope of our dialogue over breakfast in the Pacific Buffet. Your writer, somewhat battered and bruised by Father Time, but still standing, tries to hold up my end (literally and figuratively). We hope to collect one or two hard men from the roadside as we pass through Delta and Burnaby – and a few additional fast footers once we reach Brockton Oval. At Tsawwassen we pour off the ferry and onto our chartered bus – which I discover is the transporter we have been using for years – disguised with a new name.
These starting player numbers are quite good for so early in the fall. Players still coming into town – and still beset by the Rugby Canada’s rather embarrassing mantra – “We haven’t selected you to play for us this weekend – but you can’t play for your club either.”
These games at Brockton are important. Rowers and JBAA have been playing each other since 1908 – for the past 81 years for the Cox Cup – with the Ferguson Cup added some 50-or-so years ago for competition for what are presently called our Premier Reserve sides. One game each year – winners take the Cups home. This year, JBAA accused Rowers of “losing” the Ferguson Cup, only to subsequently find it in the murkiest depths of our clubhouse. Embarrassing! On the ferry ride, Manager Mike spends considerable time trying to reattach the “rediscovered” Ferguson Cup to its base. Some talk that, in the unthinkable event we lose, we might give Rowers the Cup – but keep the base.
Arrive at Brockton on time - our Premier Reserve team is first onto the field. Like MacDonald Park, Brockton Oval goes back years as a home of rugby. Like MacDonald, Brockton had its grandstand burned down some years ago. With cities preoccupied with the homeless and their various affiliates, the cities have replaced these lost structures with a few bleak bleachers – and called it “even”. But grass still grows between the sidelines – and teams of our ruggers are still here to play our game. Ghosts of ancient ruggers past waft through adjacent Stanley Park trees. We await whatever “surprises” this year might offer.
Peopled by young faces, flavoured with a few “older” Bays, our Ones prove an entertaining lot. We will enjoy them through the season. On this day, they unveil two “surprises”. First, a trio of “Secret Centers”. This trio, entered on the official game sheet as “front row”, often pop up in the center of the field to make smashing tackles on those opponent ball carriers silly enough to venture too near (remember Scotty Warren) – or go on massive runs, highlighted on the day with a try scored by Nico Krawczyk. (Well, that’s the positive part.)
Our second surprise occurs early in the game. We were not as successful as we had hoped in scraping up additional ruggers on the way to the game – and proceeded with a bench that was razor thin. A few minutes in, we lose a back to scraggery. Our Ones play a man short for 10 or so minutes. This does not go well – with Rowers scoring a converted try. In desperation, Coach Whitey, who is coaching both games on the day, substitutes the only back he has available – himself – and promptly scores a try out wide. Rowers 7 – Bays 5. This substitution was a (pleasant) “surprise” – the outcome not. Whitey still has Canada class wheels. He can be criticised for not coaching a strategy to give himself more ball later in the match.
Rowers scored 3 more trys by halftime, two converted. Our Bays countered with a mid-half try by Jordon Austin, set up by an up-the-gut buster from Cole Braid – then the score by Secret Center Krawcyk at 35 minutes. At the half, Rowers 26 – Bays 17.
In the second half, a lot of see-saw. Finally, at 71 minutes, Rowers increase their lead to 33 – 17 with their fifth try (converted). Nine minutes left, and the Bays roar back with two trys – by Etienne Phillips and Sam Stewart. Phillips converts three JBAA trys on the day. Final score: Rowers 33, and 5 standings points – Bays 31, and 2 points. Rowers Premier Reserves proud holders of the Ferguson Cup (including its stand) – Bays PR’s close, but no cigar.
Prior to the Premier game, I spot Al Hudson, one of my favourite referees of all time. I shake his hand with pleasure. Al’s tooth is not quite long as mine, and he is still active “assisting” referees. This is good for rugby!
The Premier game itself is spirited and close fought – at times open wide – at others, lurching toward chaos - bordering on revolution. Of particular note was the leadership of long time Bay, Cheesburger Waldman – towering over the referee at the sets – a career first for him.
The first half sees two Rowers’ trys, one converted. The Bays balance with 3 penalty goals from Cooper Coats. At the half: Rowers 12 – Bays 9.
As in the Ones’s game, Half Two sees Rowers expand their lead with a score at 50 minutes. The Bays charge back within 2 – on a try at 65 minutes from Kye Lloyd, converted by Coats. Then, two minutes from time, Coop slots a penalty kick through for the win. Some creep from the far sidelines begins screeching at the top of his voice every time Coop begins his kick – reminding this writer of the misbehaviour of rabid Burnaby fans some years ago when our Bays won the BC Championship with a game-ending penalty kick at Caps’s stadium.
Final Premier score: Bays 19, and still Cox Cup holders. Rowers 17 - wearing slight frowns in their clubhouse afterwards - not quite.
(Editors' note: There were no programs at the game, so I cannot report the names of Rowers’ scorers. Further, even though I have been watching US Open Tennis recently, it is very likely that I have spelled some JBAA players’ names wrong.)
Next Saturday, Rowers travel to Burnaby Lake. Our Bays hold a “get turned on to rugby” day- long event focused on players, young and more experienced, at MacDonald Park. Come on down! Then, between 6:00 and 10:00 PM, a salute to Pete Rushton - best coach in BC over the past decade, if BC Championship wins mean anything – to be held at the House of Bays.
So off to the wonderful Rowers’ clubhouse overlooking Coal Harbour - the best located rugby clubhouse in the world! (The House of Bays has the best clubhouse in Canada – but must defer to Rowers on location.) A few beers – then out to the sidewalk with happy smiles – Cox Cup in hand – to catch our bus.
Those smiles soon drift away. Our erstwhile bus driver has been sleeping in his bus, somewhere in the wilds of Vancouver. Is he among the homeless? He shows up an hour late! No 7:00PM ferry for us! We take a stab at psychological recovery, aided by an adult beverage or six. We finally arrive at the ferry terminal just in time to wave as our 7:00 PM’er pulls away from the dock. The next ferry isn’t until 9:00PM!
An hour later insult is added to injury. “Our” ferry, having had a “medical emergency” near Active Pass, returns to Tsawwassen to disembark the patient. Sighting our Navy Blue hoard shouting to be taken aboard (think streets of Hong Kong) – BC Ferries refuses to take us – and sails off again.
We pout, and slink off to amuse ourselves with other pursuits. Some of us watch the Canada-US game on TV. Little consolation there. Others, hereafter known as the Furtive Five + One, noting Greater Vancouver is struggling to figure out what to do about B&B’s, initiates a far-flung telephone survey to document “what’s available in the region and at what price” – hoping to sell the data to GVRD for a few bucks. (Or maybe Mayor Lisa of Victoria will buy it?)
We finally arrive home around midnight – or maybe we’re still marooned somewhere between here and Stanley Park. My still-wobbly brain is unsure.
Finally, a shout out to President John who stick-handled us through this mess – last seen in the Pacific Buffet – head buried in hands – vowing: “I’ll never do this again!”