Head coach Shane Muldrew preached unity as the driving force behind the success of the U16 boys A team that represented B.C. at the Canadian Rugby Championships in Calgary last week.
He listed six core values that would lead to team unity: discipline, resilience, respect, honour, accountability and excellence. Six players on the team, including Cowichan Valley products and Shawnigan Lake School students Nathan Goliath and Ciaran Breen, were charged with keeping the team focused on those values. Goliath, making his first career appearance with a provincial side, was named team captain, and Breen, playing for a provincial team for the fourth time, was picked as an assistant.
“Shane asked if I wanted to take a leadership position,” said Goliath, who also captained Shawnigan’s junior team in the spring, in just his third year playing rugby. “It was a great experience. It was good being able to lead the boys.”
This year’s B.C. team didn’t have as much time to come together as a team as they usually do, but that ended up not being an issue, as the players found a bond immediately, thanks in large part to Muldrew’s philosophy.
“It usually takes a while to gel, since we only play together once a year,” Breen commented.
“Even with our school team, we didn’t have that brotherhood,” Goliath added. “We spent a lot of time going over the team values and team culture.”
Joining Goliath and Breen on the U16 A team were Shawnigan teammate Brenner Kelava, Brentwood College students Matt McDougall-Percillier and Jacob Bossi, and Ladysmith’s Nick Joe. All except Goliath, who also plays hockey for Shawnigan, are members of the Cowichan Rugby Football Club’s junior program.
The U16 A team swept through the round-robin portion of the tournament with wins over B.C.’s U16 B and U15 teams as well as Alberta and Saskatchewan. Breen led the team and tied for third overall in the U16 division with six tries. Three other players on the B.C. A team had five tries, including McDougall-Percillier. Goliath and Bossi had one try apiece.
Unfortunately for the B.C. boys, one of their key values — discipline — broke down in the final, a rematch against Alberta. B.C. came out of the gates ready to play, and led 15-0 inside the first 10 minutes. Penalties started to pile up, however, and the Albertans took advantage of them.
“The championship got in our heads a bit too much,” Breen said. “We weren’t focused on playing the game.”
The final result notwithstanding, Goliath was still pleased with his team’s performance.
“I couldn’t be more proud of how we played,” he said. “We never let up, no matter what was going on on the scoreboard.”
A lot of the players will move up to the U18 age group together, and Breen believes this year’s result will provide some motivation going forward.
“The good thing about losing is that a lot of guys are determined to win next year,” he said. “We don’t want to feel the way we did this year.”
The Shawnigan boys have played with some of their Team BC teammates in the past — Breen in particular through his previous stints with the provincial side, CRFC experience and two years at Brentwood before transferring — but they got to know some of their rivals from other schools like Brentwood and St. George’s even better this summer. That will make a difference when their school teams square off next spring.
“It’s gonna be a little bit funny,” Goliath said. “But we know we’re gonna have to come out hard if we want to win.”
“In the end, it’s business,” Breen said. “You’ve got to get the job done.”