With his first game as head coach of the Bayside Sharks’ top men’s rugby team fast approaching, Pat Kearney is excited – and cautiously optimistic – his side can improve on its past record.
“I’m really exciting about it. I’m very eager to get out there (on the field),” said Kearney, who at just 26 years old will be the youngest head coach in the league “by a few years, at least.”
Kearney takes over the reins of the men’s top team – he’ll coach both the premier and division one squads – from Dave Benoit, and the new sideline boss has a daunting task ahead: snagging one of only two available spots in the spring’s B.C. Premier Rugby League.
In the past few seasons, all teams in the fall league have qualified for the premier circuit, which meant club’s could play younger players in the fall without worrying so much about wins and losses. Bayside, for example, has played a U24 team the last two fall seasons. Now, however, priorities will change.
“We’ll still run the development program during the week, and train the younger guys, but come game day, we’re going to have to put the best team out there that we can,” Kearney said.
“Because we have to qualify for the premier league, for sure.”
The top five teams last spring – the University of Victoria, James Bay, Castaway Wanderers, UBC Old Boys and Meralomas – have automatic berths into the premier league, with the remaining six, including the Sharks, set to fight for the final two spots.
While all 11 teams will play each other this fall, only games against the bottom six will count for points in the standings. Games against already-qualified clubs will serve as exhibition tilts.
“It’ll be a good challenge, and it’s not going to be easy, that’s for sure,” said Kearney, a Semiahmoo Secondary grad and former UVic rugby captain.
The Sharks’ season begins Saturday, when they play the UBC Old Boys at Jericho Park. The following week, they’ll play Meralomas. Because both teams have berths in the premier loop, Bayside will essentially have two warmup games before they have to play for points Sept. 24 against Capilano.
The Sharks will be led by many of the same veteran faces that have dotted the premier roster in recent seasons, and they’ll get a boost for the fall with the return of flyhalf Keaton Styles, a Canada Sevens player who has played the last few seasons at the University of Victoria.
Styles is staying on the Peninsula this fall and taking UVic courses online.
“We’ll have him until Christmas, at least,” Kearney said. “We’re really excited to have him. He should make a real impact for us.”
Kearney is in his second year coaching with the Sharks; he helmed the men’s division one team last year, after his playing career, which began at Bayside, was cut short ago due to an ACL injury in his knee.
“I haven’t even put the (rugby) boots on – I’ve traded them in for a whistle,” he said, when asked if he planned a return to the pitch at some point. “Coaching is different, but I really do enjoy it. The wins and losses still affect me the same as if I was playing.”
Kearney said Bayside is still looking to add players for the coming season – “all ages, new players or experienced guys,” he said.
Anyone interested can find more information at www.baysiderfc.com