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Written By: Chris Perotte
Just one game to decide who is the undisputed RSEQ champion.
A dominant performance from start to finish.
And when the final whistle sounded only one team stood victorious. The Concordia Stingers defeated ETS Piranhas 35 to 7 to capture the RSEQ Championship in front of their fans on home soil, and end their 2017 season undefeated.
The Concordia Stingers men’s rugby team (of Concordia University in Montreal, Quebec) are coached by Craig Beemer who took over the reigns in 2016.
“My first year as head coach here was quite trying. It was a complete rebuild and I probably learned more about myself as a coach than any other season,” recalls Beemer. “It definitely made this year’s championship incredibly sweet and it is completely attributed to the amazing coaching staff I have in place, the commitment the returning players made in the off season, and a lot of talented recruits that we had join us this year. The brotherhood this team displayed and their commitment to each other – and to getting better – is something I will not forget.”
In his first year as head coach, the Stingers ended their 2016 campaign with one win and six losses. Putting the losing record behind him, Beemer focussed on a complete rebuild of the team for the 2017 season. To his already talented coaching staff of Jocelyn Barrieau, David Macleod, Anthony Mcqueen and Alexis Mynard, he added John Lavery, who brought a wealth of knowledge and experience to the Stinger program.
Believing in his personal motto of “many hands make light work,” Beemer with the help of his skills coach Barrieau put together a five player leadership group that helped set the standard of success. Working together to turnaround their season, the result was a perfect regular season of seven wins and zero losses.
“We are fortunate to have a dome that allows us to train year-round and we spent all winter working on becoming better,” says Beemer. “We had a full season of recruiting and were able to bring in a lot of home-grown talent which really put us over the top.”
Looking back at the 2017 season and what the players accomplished on the field, it was hard for Beemer to pick out just one underrated player who stood above the rest. But if he had to choose….
“I think our team did a good job in valuing everyone that stepped on the field this year, but we definitely had some “glue guys” that may not appear on the stats sheet this past season,” shares Beemer. “Two that come to mind is a second year lock named Dylan Macdonald and 2nd year prop Stephen Martinez. Both of those players shined during the playoffs and really did a lot of the little things extremely well that sometimes go unnoticed.”
The impressive work ethic of the Stingers on the field led the coaches of the opposing teams to vote 13 first and second team all stars from the club. Definitely some MVP candidates in that mix of players.
As newly crowned RSEQ champions, the Stingers went on to represent Concordia University and their province in the inaugural Canadian University Championship that was held at the University of Guelph in the Alumni Stadium. The tournament featured six teams from across the country, the UBC Thunderbirds, McMaster Marauders, Guelph Gryphons, Victoria Vikes, Prince Edward Island Panthers and the Concordia Stingers. Despite the fact the Stingers weren’t able to win the inaugural championship, Beemer had just one word to describe what it was like to be a part of that tournament.
“Incredible!!,” enthuses Beemer. “It is my twelfth season coaching men’s university rugby and I was starting to wonder if it would ever be a possibility. It was amazing to have the opportunity to play a team like UBC and see how many other amazing programs there are out there first-hand.”
As rugby continues to grow in Canada, a tournament like the newly formed Canadian University Championship can help ensure a bright future for the grassroots of this sport across the nation and for the game overall.
“I am hoping it will legitimize the men’s university league and help strengthen the men’s pathway just like the women’s side does,” says Beemer. “Universities provide an excellent opportunity for top-level facilities and coaching that can only help develop the rugby talent here in Canada.”
With a young squad made up of mostly first and second year players, Beemer is still trying to continue building a better Stingers team. They look forward to defending the RSEQ Championship and being a part of next years’ Provincial rugby championship, which is a tournament the Stingers won back in 2014. To obtain those goals, you have to start with small steps.
“For right now we will just focus on skill development and trying to get our players performing up to their own performance goals this off season,” explains Beemer. “I have a feeling everything will work out the way it is supposed to in the end.”
From the coaching staff to the players, this entire organization will be remembered for their overall drive of getting better, holding each other accountable, and how much they enjoyed working together on and off the field.
A formula for success and a bright future ahead.