The McGill University Redmen Rugby team capped off another fantastic season with an undefeated regular season record. This included two convincing championship wins in both the RÉSQ Final against cross-town rival Concordia Stingers and the unofficial “Eastern Championships” facing the University of New Brunswick Ironmen.
For a Rugby Club that had been around since 1863, McGill has only realized their potential as a serious University rugby side in the last ten years. After winning six-consecutive Quebec Championships, McGill looks to expand with quality competition in the Ontario leagues and sides from Northeastern United States. Internally, they now have paid coaching staff, strength and conditioning programs, and the all-important scrum machine. Also, a highly effective executive club team has expanded efforts of recruiting, fundraising and alumni relations.
McGill boasts players from all over the world, including contingents from Asia, Africa, and Europe. A large portion of the team consists of students from British Columbia and Ontario, who compliment the stalwart local Quebeckers on the field of play. McGill RFC has produced a number of top-flight players with international caps. Most notably, McGill lock Jon Phelan (B.Eng ’09) played for Canada in 2010 and competed professionally in Wales this past season.
The “Unofficial” Eastern Championships were born in 2008 when the Dalhousie Tigers travelled with two sides to Montréal, Quebec to take on the hosting McGill sides. The Redmen lost that game on a last-minute kick, but responded one year later with a similar victory against the Tigers, in Montréal.
After a brief, bureaucracy- induced hiatus, the Eastern Championships returned in 2011 with much anticipation. Trepidation was rife in the first minutes of the game, with both sides committing several penalties and mistakes. Fortunately for the local Redmen side, the game opened up and they were able to play their fast and effective brand of creative rugby. Graduating flanker John Lee scored twice as a plethora of skill came from all over the field, from first-year standouts to wily veterans. McGill won the game 36-0, in a definitive triumph for both for the club and Quebec rugby.
The win was due in no small part to the tireless efforts of McGill’s coaches, Craig Beemer, Eric van Sickle, and Adrian Thorogood. As a mainstay of the RESQ, McGill is seeking the inclusion of the University of Ottawa and l’Université de Montréal into the Quebec league, one of the many necessities for the regional growth of rugby. For highlights of the last two championship games, check it out the video!
McGill RFC is also actively involved in developing local and international rugby for those who either have not been exposed to the sport or for those simply do not have the means to play. Regionally, McGill has contributed to underfunded rugby programs by donating kit, and hosting day camps for young players to hone their skills.
Globally, McGill RFC and the McGill Marlets Women’s rugby team have been proud to affiliate themselves with Gainline Africa, an initiative to help support the development of rugby in war-torn northern Uganda. In this year’s championship games, McGill donned the signature orange Gainline Africa shoelaces – the very same that members of Canada’s national team wore in recent internationals. With this donation, in addition to other fundraising events, there is a chance to make a serious impact on the lives of other rugby loving teams around the world.
McGill continues to earn recognition as a top-tier Canadian rugby school that combines international styles of play with professional training, physiotherapy and nutrition. “The Mighty Red” are now a force to be respected within discussions of Canadian rugby, gone are stereotypes of academia and elitism when the boots are laced up at Percival Molson Stadium.
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