Lions look to take next step

Rugby: Foothills striving to build on playoff season a year ago

By: Remy Greer

  |  Posted: Wednesday, May 07, 2014 06:00 am

Foothills Lion Jordan Smith is part of a veteran core on a Lions team with a healthy balance of youth and experience. The Lions open their regular season on Saturday at the Calgary Rugby Union.
Foothills Lion Jordan Smith is part of a veteran core on a Lions team with a healthy balance of youth and experience. The Lions open their regular season on Saturday at the Calgary Rugby Union.
Remy Greer/OWW

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A shift in club philosophy marks the return to the pitch of the foothills’ top rugby outfit.

The Foothills Lions qualified for the second season of the Calgary Rugby Union (CRU) in both second and third division play one season ago and are now emphasizing commitment to strengthening the top team in the program as the regular season kicks off this weekend.

“What I’m really trying to focus on is the second division side this year,” noted Lions club coach Jim Ryan. “And really building on that core group of guys that’s going to eventually take us to where we want to be, which is a first division side.

“We’re going to have a core group of about 22-23 guys and week after week we’re going to build the process for that side.”

The second division Lions side finished 5-6-1 last season and claimed the final playoff berth. More importantly, the organization was replenished with a strong youth movement of recent high school graduates and several graduates of the Lions Academy.

“The thirds is really going to be some of the older guys and a developmental side for really young guys,” Ryan said. “Guys that are either just new to rugby or just out of high school and aren’t ready to play seconds yet.”

Foothills should benefit from a full-season of Spencer Watkins, a dominant figure at times on the second row after joining the team midway through the 2013 campaign, along with younger brother Reid Watkins and recent high school graduates James Hanna, Thomas Kurth and Jamie Irving on the pitch.

“We’ve had a lot of youth turnout which is really nice. We’ve got some more guys coming from the high schools and coming in from the younger programs,” said Lions club captain Nathan Marquardt. “And a lot of those guys that came in late last year have come back.”

The Lions raise the curtain on their fifth season in the CRU on Saturday with a back-to-back afternoon double-header versus the Calgary Saracens. The Division III Lions kick things off at 12 p.m. followed by their second division counterparts at 1:45 p.m.

Saturday’s Division III tilt is a rematch of the opening round playoff tilt last summer in which the Saracens prevailed by a 27-17 score.

“We’re just looking at a nice solid start to the season. We’ve got numbers like we’ve never had before for preseason training so hopefully we’re going to start with a strong side,” Marquardt said. “We always want to come back at them (the Saracens) a little bit, but we’re trying to start as a solid team rather than frantically at all.”

The CRU schedule is available at calgaryrugby.com. The Foothills Lions are still looking to add players for the 2014 season, with vacancies at the third division level in particular.

For more information go to foothillslionsrugbyclub.com


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