B.C. Secondary Schools Rugby Union’s Stadium Series provided an early season lesson for a young McMath Wildcats team.
The BCSSRU Series is an opportunity to face opponents outside of league play in venues around the province. The Wildcats got off to a slow start and never could recover in a 41-14 loss to Courtenay’s GP Vanier Towhees on a rainy and blustery Friday afternoon at the South Surrey Athletic Park.
It’s a season of transition for the McMath program after playing for the provincial tier two championship last season and finishing fourth a year earlier in the AA top tier.
“For the last two years we had a real core of players that have now graduated,” said McMath head coach Mike Charlton. “Our team is very young. Half is Grade 11 and we even have a couple of Grade 10s in starting line-up.
“They are inexperienced and that’s why practices are so critical this year because they have a lot to learn so they can cope with game situations.”
Adding to the challenge is the Wildcats playing at the AAA level for the first time thanks to the school’s enrolment numbers of Grade 11-and-12 boys (256) just creeping past the tier allocation of 251 and higher.
Still, a return to the provincial championships is within reach thanks to the BCSSRU introducing tiers to the tournament in recent years to avoid lopsided matches in the early rounds.
But Charlton will need to see a much better work ethic and commitment moving forward.
The Towhees dominated the opening minutes against an opponent that didn’t look ready to play. McMath had a chance to cut into the deficit but lacked ball movement at critical times when in scoring range.
“We are young and we are raw and to be perfectly honest we are not working very hard right now,” continued Charlton. “Today was a real disappointment and that’s the first time I have said that with any of the McMath teams.
“We performed the way we deserved to perform. They were a big team and we handled their size but we were error-ridden and we just kept giving them more and more opportunities.
“As a coach you want your teams to go out and perform. There was a lot of panic and lot of being hypnotized by seeing the try line. There was looking for self glorification and that’s not what McMath rugby is all about.”
Charlton added another challenge this season is having no one on the coaching staff at the school. The former vice-principal has come back to the school to volunteer coach after being promoted to District Principal. Remarkably, Charlton is closing in on 30 years of coaching in Richmond at a number of schools.
“Without a doubt that’s a big factor, he said. “Not walking the hallways anymore and seeing the kids. A great program usually has someone with a true passion in the building. Going on nothing but pure history can be hard.
“There are a number of challenges this season but ultimately the kids have got to work hard. If you want to be in provincials, you have to work for it.
“To meet our goal we need to start working together.”
The Wildcats will return to their Lower Mainland AAA League schedule Thursday when Argyle visits at 4 p.m.