Here’s a hint at how seriously the Brandon Barbarians are taking this weekend’s Manitoba Cup rugby final:
While much of Brandon was trying to dry out from Thursday’s deluge, the Barbs spent the evening slogging through a soggy training session in preparation for Sunday’s game against the University of Manitoba Wombats at Winnipeg’s Manitoba Games Rugby Park.
"We were joking around a bit about it last night," said coach Jon Fitzpatrick, whose Barbarians have been Rugby Manitoba’s men’s Division 1 runners-up for the last five years in a row. "… We just want to win something. We want to win some hardware. (After) five years being the short end of the stick, we just want to win some hardware. This actually means a fair bit to the guys, and I think winning this would be a bit of a monkey off our back. Not the big one, but a little brother anyway."
The "big one" Fitzpatrick is referring to is the year-end title that has so far eluded the Barbarians. The Manitoba Cup is a pre-season series that was reintroduced this year after last being contested in 2005, giving some teams that don’t normally play in the first division the chance to face some top competition. The Barbarians and the Wombats both topped their divisions with 3-0 records in Manitoba Cup play, with Brandon outscoring its opposition by a combined score of 168-25.
Having gone into the season with modest expectations due to the departure of some key veterans, Fitzpatrick has been impressed by the team’s form so far and he believes they can use a strong Cup performance as a springboard into the regular season.
"On the field the results are one thing, but the way the guys have essentially come together early in the season — and we’re already a pretty tight-knight group of guys — (but) we haven’t had a lot of time to really get to know each other and bond, so I’m ecstatic about that," Fitzpatrick said. "In both divisions, the club is quite tight. And on the field, the results, the last two games have been pretty dominant over two teams that were in the playoffs last year … so we’re quite excited on the way everything is turning out so far."
Fitzpatrick said he likes the way other players have stepped up to fill the holes left by the turnover.
"You tend to get dependant and reliant on people and when you have to change, you change. When you don’t, you kind of get stuck in the status quo," he said. "… Nothing against the guys who stepped away by any means, but it seems to have been a bit of a spark for change, anyway, and it’s been a good thing."
The Barbarians women’s team is also off to a strong start this season with a 3-0 record going into a game in Winnipeg today against the Sturgeon Creek Rowdies. The Barbarians’ Division 2 men play their first game of the season today, also against the Rowdies in Winnipeg.