2018 Ontario Premiership will be a learning experience for most teams
Written By: Doug Crosse
While many people speak in glowing terms of the BC Premiership and the talent pools that accumulate on the lower mainland and Vancouver Island, the same argument can be made for the Premiership in Ontario.
Eight teams – in two divisions of four – battle it out home and away, with the resulting standings allowing for the annual seeding of the McCormick Cup championship. Admittedly, teams have seen their ranks diminish in the last decade, but the usual suspects continue to shine, such as Brantford, the Toronto Scottish, Balmy Beach and Markham Irish.
New to the league for 2018, the Peterborough Pagans, who surprisingly usurped the once mighty Aurora Barbarians for inclusion into the top ranks.
Teams that need to watch out for relegation this season include Stoney Creek and the Oakville Crusaders.
A consistently well-run program that attracts top players from Toronto area high schools, with also a healthy mix of visitors integrated into the side as well. An annual threat for the McCormick Cup, they are good regular-season performers that tend to peak in the fall heading into the playoffs.
Current Record: 3 - 0
An incredibly well-run homestyle team. A small catchment area of exceptional athletes that per capita have outstripped other clubs in terms of creating national team players. This is a team that is expected to make big strides in 2018 with a deep run into the McCormick Cup playoffs.
Current Record: 2-1
Balmy Beach are one of the original downtown clubs, and even have a Grey Cup title under their belts. They attract players from a wide swath of Toronto schools and have heavy alumni involvement. Typically they can underperform during the regular season and suffer from a large university player drop-off in the fall, yet manage to get hot come McCormick Cup time. 2018 should see much the same pattern. Look for this squad in the final four mix come October.
Current Record: 1 - 2
Another club that relies on heavy local recruitment and a stalwart squad of veterans that have slowly built the team into a legitimate championship-threat team. Mission accomplished in 2017, winning promotion into the Premiership, it will be all about player management and rebounding well after tough outings. This team will be competitive and will have strong home-field advantage as teams tend not to play away well against the Pagans.
Current Record: 0-3
Powerline Road has produced a great number of championship squads over the years and there is no reason to suggest there will be any ebb in 2018. The Harlequins will finish at or near the top of the table in 2018.
Current Record: 3-0
There is a great synergy in place since Markham RFC and the Toronto Irish joined forces a few years ago. Running multiple programs and drawing from area schools, there are always tough questions at the selection meetings. They underperformed in 2017 and will look to finish higher than 4th in the current season.
Current Record: 2-1
The normally front-running Crusaders were off the boil last season. Arguably one of the largest clubs in Canada, it does not always translate into a top-performing Premiership squad. 2018 will see the club trying to right the ship and to lean on second division sides to provide fresh fodder in key positions as needed. It will be a wait and see year, but don’t expect a deep Cup run in 2018.
Current Record: 0-2
This can be a streaky team, but the real weakness is reliance on young talent that will perform well through the summer, but then return to their university sides come playoffs, leaving a bit of a performance drop. Another side that because of geography enjoys home pitch advantage, as visiting sides tend to come with thin cover, while the opposite is true on the road at times. Always competitive, it will be another tough year for the Camels in 2018.
Current Record: 0-2
Overall Predictions for 2018
The Toronto Scottish could have all the pieces in place for a Cup final appearance. Brantford likely will get through to the final round. Teams to watch for in the semis - Lindsay RFC and the Markham Irish. As noted above, the Beach can usually organize a deep run despite lack of polish in the summer season.