Kenny Goodland isn’t from this Island, but he knows a thing or two about its storied rugby team, the 107-year-old Crimson Tide.
Goodland, a Newfoundlander, suited up for the Atlantic Rock during the nation-wide Super League of years past and faced the Crimson Tide many times, including losing to them in the national finals.
Now Goodland is taking the helm of the Tide as new head coach, with co-coach Roger Robinson. The longtime Castaway Wanderers duo have partnered before, coaching CW youth and U20 teams.
They’ll assume the same format, with Goodland, 36, handling the forwards, and Robinson, a former national player, organizing the backs. They also have the help of local rugby great Hans de Goede, as manager, as they shape the latest version of one of the oldest rugby teams in the world for its Jan. 26 return against Vancouver.
“We’re coming off a popular tournament with the (America’s Rugby Championship), and a successful tournament, so hopefully we can ride the coattails of that a little bit,” Goodland said.
“Having de Goede is a huge benefit. When he talks, the players listen.”
The Tide’s senior men’s team won’t look much like the last one, which hosted touring Irish side Ballymena at Esquimalt’s Bullen Park in 2009.
But the revival of the McKechnie Cup has brought back B.C.’s three-way regional competition, and in a festival type format. The Saturday of rugby will feature a triple-header against Vancouver at Westhills Stadium in Langford. The premier women will play for the Ruth Hellerud-Brown Cup, the U20 men for the Dunbar Keg cup, and the premier men for the McKechnie Cup.
The Tide had its first assembly of potential squad members in Cowichan back in early December. Many players, including some top UVic Vikes, were unavailable due to exams. But more
“That was really to gauge the interest and we got a good start,” Goodland said. Things will move fast now.”
The B.C. Rugby Union established some key rules for selecting the team. No import players, which is logical, and no national team members, which makes no sense, Goodland said.
“If Rugby Canada wants to look at this as a pathway, which, as a regional competition, would be ideal, then why not play the carded guys?”
About a dozen of the nation’s top rugby players are playing professionally overseas. The rest are in the B.C. premier league.
There are some loopholes. Rugby Canada has scaled down its national team for now and that means CW scrum half Kyle Armstrong, who played two games in the ARC, is available to the Tide. The Ontario import has been playing with CW long enough to be considered local. Like Armstrong, Robinson also played for the Tide.
Otherwise, to be a true rep side, there’s also an understanding to use at least one player from each club in the Vancouver Island Rugby Union, though all teams were represented at the first tryout.
“We’ll do our best, I guess,” Goodland said.
Other players who have looked promising are Cowichan veteran Robin MacDowell, a handy fullback, as well as a strong UVic contingent, with Oak Bay’s Shea Wakefield, Pat and Doug Fraser (unrelated), and Jake Gylnicki, former captain of Canada U20 team.
The Tide’s final selection training goes Sunday. Then it’s game time from there on in.
Coaching the women’s Tide is former Vikes women’s coach Brad Skene of Cowichan RFC. He will be assisted by Anna Schnell, a former national team player and current B.C. Rugby Union board member. Managing the women’s team will be Aimee Burley of Comox RFC, vice-president for women’s rugby in the Vancouver Island Rugby Union.
Head coach of the U20 Rising Tide is Winston Stanley, assisted by Pat Dunkley.
The Rising Tide will be managed by John Lyall of Velox, VP for senior men’s rugby in the VIRU.