Sean Common (left) of the Brandon Barbarians tries to stop a Winnipeg Assassins player during Manitoba Senior Rugby action at John Reilly Field on Saturday afternoon. (TIM SMITH/BRANDON SUN)
It doesn’t take much for Brandon Barbarian fans to realize how valuable Sean Common is to the Division 1 men’s team.
The 30-year-old fly half has the ability to break through lines on runs, put up a pile of points and lead the team. In fact, his goal every season is to score more points than the year before. What’s even more valuable to the team though is his golden foot and personality.
Common is one of the few players who isn’t afraid to change games with a kick, and it’s not just putting converts and penalties through the uprights. Common has the power to change field position with a boot, which few other Barbarians try.
"That’s a big part of the game is getting the ball in the right places," he said. "You don’t want to be playing behind your own goal-line or 20 metres from your own line, you want to give your team the opportunity to make plays, even when they don’t have the ball. Playing defence on their line is easier than defending yours.
"For me, that’s the most important part of the kicking is playing the territory game when you kick for field position."
This is Common’s third year with the team, and he finds himself stepping into bigger and bigger roles with the program.
With Jon Fitzpatrick coaching both the Division 1 and 2 men’s teams and returning to the field as a player, Common has stepped up to help as an assistant coach with the Division 1 squad. Not only does it give the Barbarians another point of view, but also a second coach on the field.
Granted, Common admits he kind of felt like a coach on the field already before officially coming on as an assistant.
"They probably wish I’d shut up a bit more," he said with a chuckle. "I talk quite a bit in a high tone, some would say I’m yelling. I do a lot of talking, leading and instructing and try to help the guys out whether they want to hear it or not. I kind of get drawn into that and I’m quite vocal on the field and at training.
"I like a lot of effort. I like to see the guys are putting the effort in. I don’t see a point to come down here and mess around. When you’re down here and on the field, play hard and joke around after. I’ll get vocal when it comes to that kind of stuff and give guys pointers, too."
Common, who’s originally from Scotland, opted to join Fitzpatrick for a number of reasons, but one is to help build a resumé for the future, since he knows he won’t be able to play forever.
However, he loves his rugby family and can’t see himself not being involved in some aspect of the game, although he’s not a fan of becoming a referee. Coaching seemed like a natural fit for him.
It hasn’t taken long for Common to make his mark. He recognized that the Barbarians lost a lot of veteran leaders at the end of last season, so he has started to push some of the younger players on the team, like Michael Birch, Sheldon Kowalchuk and Tyler Jury, to step up and become the next generation of leaders for the Barbarians.
"There are a couple guys I talked to Fitzy about in the winter that I want to develop some of the younger guys into leaders and not rely on the older guys as much," he said. "They are developing and it’s good to see. They’re starting to yap a bit and push guys and themselves and it’s good. It was a sideline goal for me, it wasn’t really a team goal, but that’s the future and you have to bring those guys up and make them less reliant on guys like me and (Nathan) Peto and Owen (Hagen) and get some of those younger guys to take more responsibility."
With so much turnover, Common wasn’t sure what to expect from the team this season. However, the Barbarians, who have advanced to the last five Rugby Manitoba championship finals but have come up short each time, got off to a great start to the season by winning the Manitoba Cup pre-season tournament, before dropping their regular season opener to the Assassins on Saturday in Brandon.
However, Common likes what he sees and is starting to build faith that the team can compete for a championship this year.
"It’s been surprising how everyone’s come together with the loss of players," he said. "The expectations weren’t as high as they were in years previous, but we’re building towards having a decent run in the fall, so we’ll see."
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition July 15, 2014