BANFF – The Bears didn’t want to come out in the cold spring and it has come back to bite Banff's men’s rugby team.
The local team (5-4) didn’t make the postseason after finishing fifth in the Calgary Rugby Union (CRU) Third Division. The top four teams in the league advance to the CRU playoff starting Saturday (Aug. 17) in Calgary.
Bears president, Oli McKay, said there was a combination of things that ultimately cost last year's CRU 15s champs a playoff spot in 2019 – including weather.
“Due to the late spring, it made training difficult and … we didn’t get the momentum or players registered in time and were forced to forfeit our first two games,” McKay said. “I personally take it as a lesson learned for myself as president. I take the responsibility of not having organized from the first week moving forward.”
Despite winning five of seven matches the full Bears squad played in, the forfeited matches ultimately were a factor in missing the playoffs.
What’s even more “frustrating” for the president, is the Bears had an opportunity to slide into a playoff spot after CRU asked them to replace the third-place Foothills Lions, which bowed out of the postseason due to a lack of players, but Banff had its own eligibility issues and was forced to pass on the opportunity.
Per Alberta Rugby rules, players competing in the playoffs must have at least four regular season games under their belts. Throughout the season, players joined the Bears squad and never played four times. This, on top of maxing out the number of import players and a season-ending injury to Bear Ben Rada, depleted the team, and left the Bears teetering at 13-14 eligible players for playoffs.
“We have to make sure this doesn’t happen again. It’s frustrating to say the least,” McKay said.
It wasn't all gloom though. A major takeaway for McKay this season was the young “born and bred” Bow Valley men adding a spark on the pitch. He praised Daniel Dixon, Max Lozeman, Duncan Thorburn and Scott Chisholm for their efforts as the new generation of Bears.
“We’re developing a strong junior culture in Banff,” he said. “There’s a strong base of young born and raised players moving forward. I look forward to having 18 to 20 men develop a bit further.”