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Rugby season at McMaster is officially over. As teams pack up their cleats, it’s time to assess their past season and plan for the challenges ahead. For the Marauders’ men’s rugby team, the 2018 season ends without a medal, despite coming off an Ontario University Athletics Bronze Medal last year.
However, that does not mean this season was a failure for the program, as there were several changes made to the team that have set up the team for success in the near future. One big change for the men’s rugby team was how they approached their training camp and the implementation of their playbook, moving to a problem-based learning method.
“It was very high-intensity. I think it’s what we needed,” fourth-year Mitchell Richardson said. “If you want to play in the OUA and you want your team to do well, I think you have to practice like you play and play like you practice. I think [coach Dan Pletch]’s practices and training camp where exactly that, which helped us win a couple of games this season.”
— McMaster Men's Rugby (@MacRugbyMen) October 1, 2018
Richardson has been a mainstay of the men’s rugby team over the last four seasons, anchoring the team at the fly-half/centre role and a name you would regularly see in game reports. The veteran was one of four key players that made up the team’s leadership group this past season, along with Jack McRogers, Jamie McNaughton and Brett Sullivan.
“We’re there to provide a leadership role to the team, not just in a rugby sense, but in school and a mental state as well,” Richardson said. “We’re there both on and off the field.”
Taking on this leadership role in his second year, Richardson has found this position on the team to be an extremely beneficial experience at a personal level.
“It’s really helped me as a person because I think it gave me a few things that I didn’t think I had,” Richardson said. “Being a vocal leader, having guys look up to you… it’s a really cool thing to be a part of.”
— McMaster Men's Rugby (@MacRugbyMen) October 13, 2018
The team hoped to collect some more hardware in 2018, and it looked like they had a chance after a 4-4 regular season. Unfortunately, the men lost to the Wilfred Laurier University Golden Hawks in the OUA quarter-finals. Despite the early exit, there is a lot to be positive about for the program.
“I think the season went well. I mean we are a very young team, mixed with a few older guys. So if anything, it’s more of a developing year,” Richardson said. “It’s really good to see new faces come in, and only gives you a better idea of a brighter future to come. I think in the next two to three years, Mac’s going to be a powerhouse again.”
Richardson still counts the team’s quarter-final loss to be a highlight of his season, a game in which the team showed the grit and perseverance that characterized them throughout his tenure.
“I think the last game, when we were at Laurier and we are up at half, we kind of fell down but never gave up,” Richardson said. “I think that was kind of my highlight of the season, just playing to the final whistle, even in our last game.”
[spacer height=”20px”]For Richardson, who had been eyeing the McMaster program since he was in high school in Stoney Creek, he will always remember his time at Mac fondly.
“It’s amazing. Couldn’t have pictured it any other way,” Richardson said about his time at Mac. “It was an amazing experience… I would say the best years of my life to this day. Getting to learn off Dan Pletch… and then making new friends. I have best friends now on this team. And then getting to provide that leadership role for the younger guys that came in this year.”
Although his time on Back 10 Field is over, Richardson is far from done with the game of rugby. Richardson will be on the roster of the Toronto Arrows Rugby Club, Canada’s first professional rugby team to join Major League Rugby.
Although statistically this season may not have gone as the men’s rugby team had hoped, it is clear that the culture of the team has formed a strong foundation for what’s to come. With players like Richardson moving on, there will be holes to fill, but the impact he and other team leaders have made will surely remain.
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