From the Editor's Desk - March 2018

March 30 2018


Rugby Canada rebranding Feb 2018
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BCRU Send Official Response to Rugby Canada Over Central Program Player Unavailability


There's been an update on the original story, scroll down below if you haven't been in the loop on this to get the original story and context. There are a lot of good comments in the Facebook section at the bottom.

It seems the BCRU have suddenly and surprisingly grown a backbone and are representing the clubs and the BC Premier league on this matter. The provincial unions are the only "members" who get a vote at the Rugby Canada AGM and therefore have a certain amount of influence. Generally they've been passive in their dealings with Rugby Canada so this is a welcome change. If BC and Ontario ever agree to do something and make changes they would form a strong voting core.

It appears the communication from Rugby Canada to its "members" is broken and the decision was made unilaterally.

Keep the discussion going below in the comments section and we'll provide updates when we get them.

Rugby Canada
30 East Beaver Creek Road, Suite 110
Richmond Hill, ON
Canada

March 30, 2018

Dear Tim and Allen,

We are writing in response to your recent announcement that, "Centralized Program players will not be available to the clubs for the rest of the season".

As you know, there is a general unhappiness in our rugby community with respect to our senior men's progression through the RWC 2019 qualification. No dissatisfaction is directed at the players; almost everyone recognizes the sacrifices they make to represent our country on the international stage. The dissatisfaction rests with Rugby Canada's leadership. There is general cynicism towards the organization's ability to make effective decisions regarding rugby development. There is also a frustration with the way Rugby Canada does its business; decisions are made without consultation and are communicated without respect to the membership and its needs. Your announcement this week did nothing to challenge these perspectives.

You also know that our rugby community has many opinions regarding the most effective way to resolve the declining performance of our national men's teams. Most considered solutions seem to involve one or both of the following - improving the quality of Canadian/North American league play and/or improving our systems for recruiting, developing and retaining 12 - 20 year old Canadian players overall and particularly top-level athletes.

On our BC Rugby Board, we believe these are both important solutions that we can and do support. For example, the BC Rugby Stakeholders Committee has recently acquired a committed sponsor who will invest an unprecedented annual six-figure contribution towards the improvement of the players, coaches, teams, and officiating of the BC Men’s Premier League, all with the ultimate objective to improve Canadian Men’s 15s Rugby.

While we appreciate the critical short-term importance of securing qualification for RWC 2019, your current action is completely contrary to our initiatives which will generate significant development benefits. Elimination of the players from our competition at this time, to the detriment of the clubs and our development programs seems unwarranted particularly in light of the absence of any communication pertaining to the “preparation plan” that RC has established for the repechage competition.

For this reason, our Board strongly disagrees with your decision to remove Centralized Players from participation in our club's matches for the remainder of this season. Continuous improvement of professional and domestic leagues in Canada will provide the rugby development environment required to drive future national success. Local youth players need local role models playing locally to adhere them to our sport. Your recent decision to remove players from our teams seems short-sighted, placing your immediate needs of qualifying over the longer-term benefit those players bring to grassroots rugby programs. Even in the short-term, we believe a good mix of game play combined with strength and conditioning development would be the better road to repechage success.

Our Board also wishes to express its disappointment with the way this decision was made and communicated. BC Rugby has been in frequent contact with the leadership of Rugby Canada lately, most recently in face-to-face meetings at the HSBC Canada Sevens and subsequent phone conversations. Present and former Board Directors have met with you to propose collaborative improvements to the BC domestic leagues. This week's decision was not vetted nor discussed with our leadership, even though it has a significant impact on the clubs we represent. This is particularly frustrating to us in light of the multiple offers extended to work with Rugby Canada’s Rugby department to establish potential spring/summer exhibition games/scrimmages for the National team. We noted that to get everyone on board moving forward, it was critical that we be able to go to our clubs as soon as possible with the “plan” for qualification. What we received instead was your recent notice regarding the immediate removal of Centralized Players from our competitions.

You are asking us to support membership fee increases in support of unplanned costs of the repechage without any detail of how those funds will be used. You are prohibiting national team players from participating in their club's games and playoffs without any detail about why this is the best path for repechage success. This is not collaboration nor transparency. These are the very actions that have garnered Rugby Canada its dubious reputation amongst its membership.

We ask that you rethink your decision and allow the Centralized players to participate in their club's league and playoff games in April and concluding May 5 with the BC Rugby Club Finals. There must be a compromised approach that allows you to achieve your goals while respecting the short and long-term goals of BC Rugby's clubs. We request a meeting in the near term to discuss.

Sincerely,

Samantha Shorter
President of BC Rugby

On behalf of the BC Rugby Executive Committee:
Samantha Shorter - President
Doug Manning - Vice-President
Britt Cook - Treasurer
Steve Cook - Past President
Annabel Kehoe - Chief Executive Officer



Fury Over Rugby Canada Edict to Bar Centralized Program Players from BC Premier


There's an emerging story that's raising some hackles in BC club circles. First read through the letter from Alana Gattinger, Manager, Operations & Logistics, Senior Men's Program.
From: Alana Gattinger

Hello All,

The purpose of this email is to inform you that the Rugby Canada Centralized Program players will not be available to the clubs for the rest of this season. This has been agreed with our high performance staff and centralized players.

The world has changed for us due to our new process for qualification for RWC2019. So now our main priority is qualification in November and our short term focus is preparation for our June tests. In order for our players to be ready to compete on the International stage in these windows they will need to have a proper pre-season where they can make physical gains in order to be stronger and fitter and therefore able to compete against our international opponents. From now until the end of the BC Rugby Club Season they will be training 5-6 days per week at a very high intensity and high load. Playing club rugby each weekend makes it very difficult for them to make these necessary physical gains.

We apologize for the last minute notification in this case. However, for next season, we will commit to providing more advance notice regarding player availability. We would like to work with you in the future to make sure that the players are getting competition when they need it in their progression.

Our intention is to work with BC Rugby to coordinate a meeting in mid-late May with all of the clubs where we can discuss the best way for us to work together and communicate with one another in the future.

Many thanks,
Alana

The clubs most affected will be James Bay, CW and UVic. Players such as Conor Keys, Guiseppe du Toit and Aidan McMullen from UVic are reportedly being pulled out with Rugby Canada possibly to name new players as they see fit. James Bay reportedly will lose Lucas Rumball, Luke Campbell, Cole Keith, Patrick Parfrey and Travis Larsen. It's not clear who CW will lose but Doug Fraser and Liam Chisolm are a couple of names that come to mind. [update CW to lose Doug Fraser, Dustin Dobravsky and Rob Povey, Westshore to lose Ryan Kotkewski.]

There's three weeks left in the BC Premier season before 3 weeks of finals between the top 6, then top 4 and top 2 teams. The timing seems critical. It will be interesting to see how the BCRU react to this.

The MLR league isn't likely to be affected as players are signed to contracts so this seems aimed at the BC Premier. Considering the UBCOB Ravens were one of the few teams to beat Houston Sabercats, the only Canadian team actually, this isn't being judged on playing levels.

The source of the edict is likely to focus on new head coach Kingsley Jones, who also made the decision to travel to Oxford before the Uruguay matches.

More to come as new information is made available.

John de Goede, the JBAA President made public his letter to Maria Samson and Tim Powers of the Rugby Canada board.

Maria, Tim,

So here is some feed back. Below you will see that the RC Coaching staff again has decided that the best way to prepare players is to have them not play. I have watched this happen for the last four years and you know what? We lose, Canada looses. Players have to play in order to be stronger players, in order to be prepared. The BCRU ends at the beginning of May. There is no conflict what so ever with the June Internationals. Does the RC coaching staff intend to tell all the oversea pro players to stop playing so that they will be better prepared? Why do we keep doing the same thing over and over again? Doesn’t anyone see the patterns?

Regards,

John de Goede
President
James Bay Athletic Association


commentary from Phil Meyer

Mark, as a rugger who started at MacDonald Park some 50 years ago – and has played various roles (player, coach, referee, university club founder, VIRU President, BCRU executive member, and more recently club dog’s body), I have been struggling with recent rugby happenings in men’s rugby, both here in British Columbia, and abroad.

Ms. Gattinger’s “information re. withdrawal of top young “Canada” players from domestic play comes as no surprise to those of us involved in domestic rugby competition in our Province. It has, in fact, been “de facto” here for several winter seasons.

- BC clubs provide winter season development opportunities for young “home grown” players, for promising players from elsewhere in Canada – and for others nearing their prime.
- As soon as Rugby Canada (RC) identifies these players as having national “potential”, they offer them continuous training, usually in Langford; and withdraw the best of them from all but a smattering of BC club play.

Effectively, this has reduced BC domestic rugby to a feeder system for RC’s feeder system – and with this, reduced the quality of rugby played in the BC (and Canada) winter season.

Rugby Canada continues to hire their lead men’s coaches from the second or third tier of available internationals (David Clark was a notable exception), under the apparent presumption that such coaches are significantly better than available Canadians. Their return, a few years on, to second/third level rugby jobs outside Canada does not seem to have dimmed such conviction.

Rugby Canada officials continue to enjoy good salaries, and benefits from national and international travel, while espousing this “train don’t play club rugby” formula. This seems the inverse of rugby policy in the United States – where young players are apparently developed under a mantra: “if you are not playing for your country, you play for your club”. At the same time, public interest in club ruby in British Columbia – substantial a decade or so ago, as measured by club supporters along sidelines, and by media coverage – is trending down toward minimums.

This RC formula is employed under the apparent presumption that our national men’s team will compete more effectively if:

- coached by foreign rugby “experts”; and,
- young developing players are trained by “experts”, rather than playing in a domestic winter league in Canada.

When all is said and done, the proof of this pudding is, of course, in the eating – and has been the inverse of hopes and expectations.

- Canada’s men’s teams have been sinking in international standings, season by season.
- We have also been sinking in head to head play against our arch-rival, the United States.

“Blaming the players” after each setback is self-serving nonsense. I have had the privilege of knowing many of our Canada’s. They are fine athletes and fine young men. The problem – more obviously – is with the “formula” presently employed by RC. “Blaming the players” is just an excuse!

When considering these happenings, both in British Columbia and internationally, the results are lose-lose.

- Our international results have progressively diminished.
- The quality of domestic rugby play in British Columbia is having the guts ripped out of it. (Domestic rugby in the rest of Canada perhaps less so, as their “summer season” has less conflict with the “winter rugby” played in the Northern Hemisphere.)

Going forward, two questions emerge.

- Will rugby clubs in BC continue to comply with this present adverse formula;
- or, will BC adapt an adjusted approach (US or otherwise) to recognise the positive role that BC rugby has played in the past – and can play again – in renewing rugby in our Province – and hopefully enhancing success for our Canada athletes in international competition?

I have my own answers to these questions. Don’t we all. This brief note is, however, intended to set what I believe is undeniable evidence to paper – and to pose the questions – hoping a remedial dialogue will ensue.

Pemberton Holmes
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