By Adam Daff and Andrew Mitchell
The first sign that the Whistler Hoary Marmots RFC might have been headed for a shaky start to their rugby season happened an hour before kick off when some players met each other for the first time.
Then there were some players who admitted they hadn’t actually played a 15-a-side game of rugby before.
This lack of familiarity with each other and the game, coupled with the heat and the lack of squad fitness, could have resulted in a fairly lacklustre start to the season for the Marmots as they took on a team from Simon Fraser University that included some of their top players.
But, as fate would have it the Whistler team, or as it was affectionately termed by the players, the "United Nations rugby squad from Whistler", contained many players who had played the game before and were quite good at it.
At last count there were four Brits, two Kiwis, and seven Aussies on the team, as well as a solid group of Canadians. Most of the Canadians were experienced, and the ones who weren’t were either very keen, very big or very fast.
The turnout helped Whistler as well.
About 22 players arrived on Saturday to play so that, combined with the unlimited ability to sub, helped the team overcome any first-game fitness barriers.
The other mitigating factor in this game was the referees – there weren’t any.
But this did not affect the game because both teams decided to elect one player to referee a half each and both "referees" did a remarkably good job in allowing the game to flow.
"It was not the strongest SFU team out there. They brought 17 players with them, and I’d say the bulk of them were starters. They definitely didn’t expect us to put up much of a game," said Marmots coach and captain Johnny "Comedy" Gideon.
"All game, all 15 players on the field got the ball, and everyone stepped up. We have a real surprise team this year."
In the opening stanza Whistler scored first through their hooker after Simon Fraser fumbled a lineout five metres from their line.
SFU hit back quickly but Whistler’s backs soon found some space and promptly widened the score.
Several players were on and off the field in different positions and the flankers made the most of the situation, scoring several tries each.
Special mention must go to winger Ralph "very Ralph" Forsyth who capped off one of the best back line moves of the day with a try under the posts in the second half. Other players to score were Eddie "Special Ed" Dalgleish, Gabe Gregg, Mark Whitman, "Kiwi" Mike (two tries), John Jestin, Drew (two tries) and Christian. Drew was the team’s rookie of the year last season with strong 7-a-side performances. He played solidly in his first 15-a-side match.
All told the Marmots scored 11 tries for 55 points and made four converts for eight points.
The team has a busy schedule this year, continuing this weekend with a road trip to Williams Lake for the 25 th annual Stampede Rugby Tournament.
Other important dates to remember are:
• Whistler RFC hosts the Rowers RFC in Whistler on July 10, time TBA;
• Whistler RFC travels to the Simon Fraser University 7s on July 17;
• Whistler RFC hosts the annual Whistler 7s tournament on July 24;
• Whistler RFC hosts Nanaimo RFC on Aug. 7.
"We’re hoping to get a strong turnout of supporters when we host the Rowers in a couple of weeks," said Gideon. "We’ve got a good team this year. Our motto used to be ‘not bad for a bunch of ski bums’, but I’m thinking of changing it to ‘like a box of chocolates’."
Another way to support the team is to buy a jersey. They are available at Tapley’s Pub, the team clubhouse, and Sportstop. Proceeds from shirt sales go towards the team’s travelling costs and field rental.
The Hoary Marmots practice every Tuesday and Thurdsay night at 6 p.m. at Whistler Secondary School. Everyone is welcome to come out and practice, men and women, boys and girls, with no experience necessary.
You’ll be able to follow the Marmots online at the Tapley’s Pub Web site in the next few weeks at www.tapleyspub.com.