As the fall 2015 series wraps up for the Surrey Beavers, the club saw it fitting to ask some of the club members and coaches if they could give some feedback on their thoughts of the first 2 months of competition play for the men’s divisions.
Head coach Kevin Taylor views the biggest success of the fall season so far is the increase in registered players in the men’s program. The amount of registered SBAA players is at 76 and still growing. Taylor suggests that “The U20 team has really worked in achieving the overall increase in our club numbers.”
Marc Filiatrault SBAA junior program coordinator and men’s program coach believes that members in the club are starting to work better as a group, and the last few weeks have been a big step forward with the coaches and players having discussions about what is working and what is not working. Marc expressed that the coaches want the teams to try to be much more flexible in how they can attack, and not to simply attack out wide with the backs and straight up the field with the forwards. Most coaches in the club agree that the depth of the talent pool in the club allows a very aggressive style of play all over the field in every division the club is fielding a team.
The club's U20 side has pooled a lot good young players from local schools, and the plan is to have these young Beavers roll right into the 3rd division team once their season is over at the end of November. Coach Taylor said that the U20 players “will help with all three divisions when they are done and have already started to do so.” In many cases after a U20 game the players will dress for the 3rd division game or rest to come in for the 2nd and 1st division games. Coach Filiatrault stated that the “club understands that these players are the future of the club and we need to challenge them as much as possible.” Stand outs for the U20 team so far have been the heavy running forward Chris Atkinson, hard running centers Gavin de Brouwer, Connor McKay, and fullback Brandon Gatto who also has an outstanding kick for points. A player who has shown the ability to play multiple positions is Darian Archer and has played flanker, wing, and in the centers. Stability can be found from players like Riley Nagy, Alex Bachmeier, and Dylan Vermette. Coach of U20’s Paul Kelly said that “The U20s have been committed right from the start of the season and most players have been pretty consistent at coming to training on Tuesday and Thursday. The results other than the second time up against United have shown that we are on the cusp of being a great team.”
3rd Division Men
At the beginning of September the club was not sure if there was going to be enough players this half to field a 3rd division side. The first game of the season for 3rds was covered by the U20 men, and some salty 3rd division players who were available. Unfortunately the club had to forfeit the next two games, because scheduling conflicts came up with 3 men's games being at one field and our 3rd division team at another location. However the club has now managed to field a side for 3 games straight, and had to play a stiff Meraloma team, and Ridge Meadows team. The results for most games have been one sided losses, but the long term plan is to strengthen the 3rd division team up in the second half of the season with U20 players.
At this point the goal of the club on any given Saturday is to field a 3rd division team and making the men's program a 4 division program. Coach Taylor believes if the club can get “injured players back with the full use of the U20 side, the 3rd division team will be a tough team to beat, and we may even need to have second 3rd division side.”
2nd Division Men
The 2nd division men won one game in the opening round of games this season, and it was a blow out win over the United Rugby Club. If there is any silver lining with the other 4 games it would be that all of the games were very close losses. Two games saw the Beavs blow 10 point leads going into the second half. Coach Taylor believes the issue of not being able to complete a full 80 minutes comes down to a lack of experience. Coach Taylor expressed that two new 2nd division front rowers with only two years of experience, two second rowers at the age of 21, and a back row with solid defense but a lack of experience is one of the reasons for a drop off of their results. The roster appears to be going through some growing pains as of late. Players with youth are vital for any rugby program, especially at 2nd division but a lack of experience can be exploited by veteran teams.
Coach Taylor believes the 2nd division scrum half Brandon Craig is playing really good after taking a year off in that position. Taylor expressed that Brandon has some loose forward traits defensively and takes full advantage of scrappy ball when necessary. The 2nd division backs are generally all young and some veterans being injured has left big shoes to fill for the youth of the club, and for the most part the young players have filled in very nicely. Both Marc and Kevin agree that the 2nd division side will get stronger as the season progresses, and the team will be one of the more competitive sides in the league that the Beavers have been use to having in the last several seasons.
Like the 2nd division team the 1st division team only had one win in the opening round of the fall season, but that game was a massive blow out. Until their final match of the first round against the Bayside Sharks the 1st division side was unable to put out their best roster. The first four games the Beavers had two or three players playing above their level of experience and talent, and the teams the Beavers played took advantage of this. Coach Taylor thinks the 1st division team played “okay” in the first 4 games, but he was not convinced that everybody was ready to play at the start of the season. Coach Taylor felt a few guys didn’t show up right away, and to win at the 1st division level you need all 15 players ready to contribute physically and emotionally. “Just felt like we were a week behind when the first game started,” Kev said. Coach Taylor felt that the players were making many fundamental errors that became very costly. Arguably the Beavers 1st division forwards are some of the strongest and most skilled in the league, and the control the forwards have shown in the set pieces is something they can take real pride in. The pack has nearly been 100% in their lineout completions, and scrums. The pack also has some hard and skilled runners like Matt Bose, Iain Small, Danny Leigh, and the Kelly brothers. Forwards coach Danny Leigh believes a lack of finish is what has killed the team in all their losses, and that the team has to put up way more points for the amount of time spent in the oppositions 22. The 1st division team fell into a predictable offense and it became very easy for the other team defend.
Things appeared to turn around after a tough loss against Langley during the Fourth Annual Ruck for a Cure game. The whole day was a huge success and saw the club raise over $20,000 for a local family and the Canadian Cancer Society. Club President Rob Brown believes the game was secondary to the day’s events, and seeing two rugby clubs getting along like Langley and Surrey did was nothing short of an amazing feeling, and a good example for all the young guys in both clubs.
The last game of the round saw Beavers star back Jamie Beaton back on the roster, and club captain James Kelly back ready to play in the forwards. Finally the club had a solid 15 starters on the roster. The crowd set a great atmosphere for what turned out to be the Beavers biggest blow out game in more than a few years. Players played the way they needed to play, and eight different players scored tries. “It was contagious” coach Taylor said, and he believes that this is the game the Beavers have been expecting to play for the last 3 seasons.
The coaches are optimistic that this type of effort can be duplicated more consistently, and game results will lean much more in their favor after 80 minutes if the boys play rugby with more passion. “I feel like we’re heading in the right direction and we need to keep on improving on how we train” said coach Taylor. Coach Taylor’s goal for the rest of the season is getting more players playing games at, or near the top level they can play at, and getting the most out of them. He believes this is the best way to make the club successful in the coming seasons.
Many club leaders believe that even though the results were not in the favor of the Beavers in the first round of games in the fall season there is still a ton to be happy about. Club captain James Kelly said “all the games our 1st and 2nd division teams have played have been up for grabs, and at no time did the boys give up and throw in the towel.” 1st division player Paul Kelly added that “There is a fine line between winning and losing, and if we just do a few more things right on the field our club will be shocked on how successful we can be.”
The Beavs can hit the restart button, because the real season for Surrey’s 1st and 2nd division teams begins on November 7. This will be the start of season that runs until the end of April 2016. The U20 and 3rd division leagues both will wrap up at the end of November, and then the club will see the 3rd division league start up again in February 2016.