TIM SMITH/BRANDON SUN
Brandon’s Shawn Sarkonak fends off a tackle from a Winnipeg Highlanders defender in last week’s semifinal.
The Brandon Barbarians Division 1 men’s team will be playing for the history of the club as it tries to make history by winning its first-ever Rugby Manitoba title this afternoon.
This is the first time in the Barbarians’ 32-year history that they are hosting the league’s championship games, and the 23 players that take to John Reilly Field at 4:30 p.m. have decided to play for everyone who has been a part of the club’s history, in addition to themselves. Strangely enough, that will mean playing for the opposing head coach as one of the Barbarians’ founding fathers, Guy McKim, heads the Winnipeg Wasps squad that will be opposing Brandon.
It’s a bizarre circumstance, and one that has left 34-year-old veteran Barbarian flank Shawn Sarkonak speechless.
"Beating one of the founding members of the Barbarians, I don’t know how you would describe it," he said. "It’s not a coincidence. It’s just, I have honestly no word to describe. … It’s going to be an exciting day."
If trying to win the team’s first title in the first final the team has hosted and facing a club’s founding father is not enough motivation for the Barbarians, then just playing the Wasps should be.
Brandon has appeared in each of the past four league finals, only to lose each of them. That trend started in 2009 when the Wasps won their third straight league title by beating the Barbarians. Brandon has dropped the past three championship games to the University of Manitoba Wombats, and now believe the Wasps are the perfect opponent to beat to win their first championship.
"I’ve said to many people that I see this as coming full circle and getting back to where we started," said Sarkonak, who’s in his seventh year with the Barbarians. "Getting a win against the Wasps would be a great start to hopefully starting a great run for us. It’s been a trend over the last six years where the Wasps had won it three years in a row and the last three the U of M Wombats have been at the top of the food chain. The Barbarians would like to start that kind of trend."
Although the Barbarians have not had a lot of success in the Division 1 men’s final, there’s a different feeling on the team this year. They haven’t changed their style of play in the last month and the players aren’t as nervous as they have been in the past. Instead, a quiet confidence is building.
"There’s a feeling of calm that’s in the air at practice," Sarkonak said. "You know that there’s something good building here and we’re really looking forward to it."
Championship day kicks off today at John Reilly Field at 11:30 a.m. with the Division 2 women’s final between the Brumbies and the Wombats, followed the Division 2 men’s final between the Assassins and the Saracens at 12:30 p.m. The Division 1 women’s final will also feature the Saracens and Assassins, kicking off at 2:30 p.m., with the Division 1 men’s final closing out the day at 4:30.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition October 5, 2013