King’s Men’s Rugby advance to league final for first time in 10 years

King's Men's Rugby advance to league final for first time in 10 years

The King’s gymnasium walls are adorned with a large collection of banners. The newest of these are owned exclusively by the Badminton program, who have dominated headlines in recent years. Older banners sport the green, blue, and yellow colour scheme of the “Nova Scotia College Conference”, which evidently was rebranded sometime around 1990. Some 20 odd other banners of cloth signify ACAA championships for Soccer, Basketball, Volleyball, even Cross Country. And quietly tucked away, in the corner near an old shot-clock, smallest among the collection, sits the lone King’s Rugby banner.

The 2012-13 King’s Championship team.

Won during the 2012-13 season, this artifact represents the “Golden Age” of King’s Men’s Rugby. I have often heard tales from King’s Athletic Director, Neil Hooper, of this era when Men’s Rugby was so flush with recruits they would have numbers to field two full rosters. “The Rugby team had its own executive, with a club president, secretary, and treasurer. We’d have guys wearing suits in the team photos because there weren’t enough jerseys for everyone to dress in uniform.” At its peak, the team had resources to travel to Cuba for a community service trip and play local club teams and enjoyed the use of a donated scrum-machine; a specialized piece of rugby training equipment.

But following the triumphant 2012-13 season, the team endured a series of consecutive seasons in decline. In 2017-18 the team failed to win a single game; the start of a 4-year winless stretch. Short rosters became the norm, injuries were common, and previously-reliable recruiting pipelines began to retreat from the royal blue corner of campus towards the growing gold and black section.

The 2012-13 banner hanging in the King’s Gymnasium.

Then in 2021-22, nearly 10 years after their championship season, the program began to show signs of life. Following the cancelled Covid-19 season, the Men’s Rugby program emerged into the sunlight, finishing over .500 and securing a place in the Rugby Nova Scotia playoff for the first time in seven years. Fast forward to the 2022-23 season and the Blue Devils are on the verge of repeating history; undefeated through the regular season and playing in their first league final in a decade. Much of the program’s renaissance can be attributed to the dedication and commitment of a senior-laden roster. The core of the King’s squad have been in the trenches together for years. It sports 14 graduating seniors; some playing as many as six seasons.

“This is definitely one of the most tightly-knit teams I’ve ever played on,” says Noah Lawless, senior 8-Man and team captain. “From top to bottom on our roster we have likeable and talented guys who get along and are willing to go out on the field and lay it all out. I think it’s really helped us out at the end of games when endurance and determination become significant factors.”

Head Coach, Geno Carew, joined the Blue Devils in 2020.

Head Coach, Geno Carew, is also a driving force behind the team’s success. Carew took the helm in January 2020 and had his entire first year stymied by Covid-19 before the ultimate cancellation of the 2020-21 season. Carew coached the program for 18 months before the team took to the field in competition in September 2021. Despite the hiatus, the roster has flourished under Carew guidance. Depth and quality are found across the squad and internal competition for spots in the starting lineup is at an all-time high.

Having punched their ticket to the championship last weekend in a thorough 78-5 victory over St. Francis Xavier, the Blue Devils will have just a few more days before their league final match on Saturday against Cape Breton University. The Blue Devils will enjoy hosting rights with their winning regular season. The match is scheduled for 3 p.m. November 5th at Graves Oakley Field in Halifax. Should they emerge victorious, King’s will be league champions of Nova Scotia and earn the right to represent the province in the Maritime Rugby Final against the champion team of New Brunswick. The Kingsmen are on the cusp of repeating history; ringing in a new Golden Age and perhaps adding a mate for their lonely banner upon the King’s gym wall.



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