As you all know, our very own Graham Stickler recently won the Men's Coach of the Year award. Unfortunately, Graham was unable to accept his award in person due to work commitments. So in his place Eric went to the Rugby Ontario awards banquet and read the following speech prepared by Graham. I personally feel it is worth the read, as Graham sums up what it means to be a Country Rugby Player. Please join me, in once again congratulating Graham (and the rest of the coaching staff) on a job well done.
"I want first to apologise for not being able to be there with you all tonight. Like many others I juggle my rugby life with the inconvenience of having to earn a living, and sadly when the season ends rugby has to take a back seat for a few months in order to earn back and bank credits for next season. But as I’m currently working hard by the pool in Singapore I don’t expect I’ll get much sympathy!
That being said it is fitting that Eric can be there instead to accept the award on my behalf. I am a firm believer in the principle of Rugby being a team sport – perhaps the ultimate team sport – and I think this is true both on and off the field and instills a certain humility that sets Rugby apart . so, I’d like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to all my team-mates who have contributed to this award being made. Of course the Coaching team of Eric Ciezar, Josh Windsor, and Tyler Greer, but also as importantly every player at Waterloo County Rugby Club – and I mean every player. I am sure, quite rightly, that this award will have been influenced by the 1stXV going unbeaten in the League this year and the 2ndXV winning their League also. But we all know that however much the mind still begs us at times, as Coaches we can’t get on the field (well this one certainly can’t) and we rely on the Players going out and performing themselves. More than this we need the Players to turn up to training and we need them to want to learn, to listen and to believe in what we are trying to develop. I have been so lucky with this at Waterloo since I arrived and this award to me is more for my Players than anyone. Success for me is so much more than looking at the results on a Saturday – it is having 90+ players turn up for training, it is watching grown men who have never played rugby go out and hold their own and compete in a Marshall Championship 2nd XV match in their first season; it is watching U18s successfully graduate through to the 1stXV; it is witnessing players wanting so desperately to improve and working so hard to do so - and it is watching every smile in the process and the desire to come back for more. Under these conditions Coaching is easy, and when you experience such enthusiasm it is easy to be inspired and motivated. So, thank you to each and every player at Waterloo – this award is as much yours as mine.
I would like to add to this with a few words about refereeing. Many of you will know I am somewhat passionate about this topic and can sometimes find it hard not to hold my tongue on the subject and I wouldn’t be surprised if some hearts have just sank in the room – that is if Eric hasn’t skipped this bit out! Sorry about that, but don’t worry – I just want to offer my congratulations and thanks to the Referees who have been involved in the Marshall Championship this season. I have no idea if it is a happy coincidence or a conscious group effort but the attitude and approachability of the referees that we have dealt with this season has been first class; a real step up in my opinion, and I really wanted to take this opportunity to highlight this here and thank them all for this. As a Coach it helps no end in dealing with the players (and the blood pressure), and believe me the players appreciate it more than you know. As we have just witnessed at the highest level in the World Cup, it is not about making the right decisions all the time, it is much more about creating an ‘atmosphere’ or an ‘environment’ in which to play. I accept we all have a part to play in this, but having been quick to criticise in the past I just wanted to recognise this here and pay tribute to the referees here tonight. Thank you, and please keep it up because it perhaps makes more of a difference than you realise and heavily contributes to everyone’s overall enjoyment of the game.
Finally, I’d like to just add a thought about Rugby in general. We have just witnessed a quite remarkable celebration of our great game with the World Cup over in the UK. I was fortunate to sample the atmosphere over the latter stages personally and the enthusiasm was infectious to say the least. I hope we can carry that forward here in Ontario and build the game still further. I have witnessed a progression in the standard of rugby being played here since I arrived 3 years ago, and I hope we all take the opportunity that the World Cup affords us to harness that enthusiasm and take another step forward. I personally believe not only that the best team won, but that we were shown a glimpse of how the game should be played that will inspire not just us Coaches but a whole generation of players. I certainly look forward to taking up the challenge with you all!
So, thank you Rugby Ontario and thank you to everyone who has supported me and made this award possible. I’d like to say how honoured I am to accept this award on behalf of everyone at Waterloo County Rugby Club.
Sorry again I can’t be there in person. Enjoy your evening, and I look forward to seeing many of you on and around the pitch next year." ~ Graham Stickler, 2015