Coach legend Ferguson steps aside to give understudy Greenwood shot at Western

After revamping their coaching staff and revitalizing their second team, the Gaels men’s rugby team is hoping to conquer the OUA championship hump this season.

One of the most storied teams in the history of Queen’s athletics, winning seven of the last 11 OUA championships, the squad has come up short by their standards the last three seasons, losing twice in the finals and once in the semi-finals. All three playoff exits have come at the hands of the rival Western Mustangs, with last year’s devastating defeat coming in overtime. To make matters worse, shortly after the mournful climax of last season head coach Al Ferguson, a staple of Queen’s rugby during their era of dominance, announced his decision to retire.

Fortunately for Queen’s rugby, says captain Geoff Phelan, Ferguson’s successor Brad Greenwood, a backs coach with the Gaels, is the first step in creating a new stage of supremacy.

“Greener (as Greenwood is known to his players) shoots from the hip, and that’s our whole philosophy as a team. With him, you have to give it your all and there’s no excuses,” said Phelan.

Greenwood, a former center with the Gaels in their glory days and an Arts ’88 graduate, isn’t entering the OUA battlefield empty handed. Returning to coach the forwards this season is Herb Steacy, as well as new addition Andrew Perrett, a former Gaels eight man and OUA all-star.

“When I played with Andrew he was a very enthusiastic, real ‘team’ guy” said Greenwood, “I’m sure he’ll have no trouble getting across to the guys, especially the younger players, what the tradition of Queen’s rugby is all about.”

Another major plus for the Gaels was the maintenance of their second team program. The squad had an awful fright last March when they learned that the OUA had voted to eliminate funding of all rugby second teams. Though the second team will not be recognized as an official OUA sport this season, Greenwood has secured fixtures for the second team after every first team game. According to Phelan, retaining the second team is one of the club’s most significant victories, regardless of the OUA endorsement absence.

MEN’S RUGBY

“We’re just very lucky to have second team games because it allows so many more people to participate in the club” said Phelan “If there was never a second team I would never have had a chance to play for the firsts. In fact, every member of the current first team has played on the second team at one time.”

Returning for the Gaels this season are six of last year's seven barbarous forwards, who include OUA all-stars Phelan, prop Steve Elliot, and Ed Johnson and Chad Spence in the second row. A larger question mark surrounds the selection of the team’s backs who will undergo a bit of a makeover this season after scrumhalf David McCully, flyhalf Roger Tumminieri and outside center Paul Hemmings hung up their cleats last season.

“This year’s set of returning forwards is the best we’ve had in a long time. They’ll be able to do some really dynamic things this year because they’re starting right where they left off,” said Greenwood. “With the backs, we’re starting right at day one.”

Day one commences this Friday at 4 p.m. when the first and second teams clash with Dartmouth University on Kingston Field, before heading to McGill for two exhibition games Sunday.

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