The St. Albert Rugby Football celebrated the latest additions to its Canada Corner with a tip of the cap to a trio of homegrown products.
Kyle Gilmour, Duncan Maguire and Jake Robinson were feted and saluted during an evening of heart-warming speeches, standing ovations and lots of laughs during Saturday’s cap and tie presentation.
“We are here to honour three St. Albert men who have distinguished themselves playing the game we love for the club that we love and made us so proud,” said Terry MacPherson, one of the night’s presenters.
SARFC president Simon Hill’s introductory remarks echoed MacPherson’s sentiments.
“Playing for your country in any sport is an honour and a privilege that few experience,” Hill said. “These three men, Kyle, Duncan and Jake, wore the Canadian jersey and represented Canada on the international rugby stage and they did so with pride but they also shared it with family, friends and of course their rugby club.”
Roger Scott, another presenter, also chimed in on the Canada Night guests of honour.
“They’ve won championships as teammates in high school, junior and senior rugby and that in itself is an incredible feat,” Scott said. “They’ve so successfully represented our club locally, provincially, nationally and now internationally. It ignites a great feeling of pride in all of us and I’m sure we feel it together in the room tonight as parents, spectators, coaches and teammates. We’ve been blessed.”
Graham Hogg, who played for Canada with the 1986 juniors and the 1988 U21 team, and Andy Tiedemann, the most-capped SARFC player with 38, were also recognized with a ceremonial Rugby Canada tie.
Hogg, who was among the first wave of SARFC players from the early years of the Paul Kane High School program, delivered a message to the Canada Corner inductees
“Don’t stop achieving as you move forward on in life,” Hogg said.
Tiedemann, a member of the 2011 and 2015 Rugby World Cup teams for Canada, congratulated his former high school foes with the St. Albert Skyhawks and past SARFC teammates with a phone call during the proceedings.
“Is everyone having a good time tonight?’ asked the Paul Kane rugby grad through the speaker phone and was instantly greeted with a thunderous roar. “I just want to give a big shout out to the boys.”
Tiedemann’s dad, Clayton accepted the tie on his son’s behalf.
“It’s great to be part of this,” said Tiedemann, who was capped for the first time on May 30, 2009 against Wales in Toronto.
The first honouree of the night was Gilmour, a fearless flanker who has four caps in 7s and 15 caps in 15s who joined Tiedemann as the SARFC’s reps on the 2015 Rugby World Cup team.
Gilmour’s older brother, Justin, offered some insight on the man called “the bleeder” that MacPherson shared with the audience.
“I would like to talk about how hard Kyle worked for everything. He learned his work ethic from our parents who have worked hard their entire lives. That helped him get a degree in finance from the University of Alberta, which he got while working a job and sacrificing evenings and weekends for training and studying. When everyone was out having fun he was working, saving money and taking his training seriously. When he got selected to the World Cup squad he was the only one working another fulltime job all while training and practicing when and where he could. He did the hard things lots of players didn’t or wouldn’t do to have this opportunity,” MacPherson read. “He’s still working hard to get back and keep playing.”
MacPherson went on to describe his biggest day ever in rugby and it involved the 2015 World Cup match between Canada and Ireland in Cardiff, Wales.
“It was magical,” MacPherson said. “Kyle is starting the game and then another kid from St. Albert comes onto the field. It was unbelievable.
“Late in the game, a guy turns around and says, ‘In a country the size of Canada, to have two guys from your club and one starting is an amazing thing.’”
Gilmour, a noted non-talker, expressed his appreciation with a surprising lengthy address by his standards.
“That was quite the speech, Terry. It was pretty emotional. I appreciate it,” said Gilmour, who made his 15s test debut against Portugal at Lisbon on Nov. 23, 2013 and the last test was against Uruguay on Feb. 6, 2016 at Langford, B.C.
“It’s great to have this kind of support out here,” added the Edmonton Rugby Union’s senior player of the year in 2009 and 2013. “This is the best club in Canada as far as I’m concern and people are really starting to notice that now. When I tell people I’m from St Albert they always go, ‘Oh yeah, there are a few other guys from there, isn’t there?’”
Gilmour played his first national 7s match in 2011 and in 15s was captain of the 2015 Canadian Rugby Championship tournament-winning Prairie Wolf Pack, as well as for Canada at the 2014 IRB Americas Rugby Championship.
Robinson, a slithering snake of a scrumhalf, was headed down a dark and dangerous path at a young age until Scott rescued him from soccer.
“I wisely sheppard him to rugby football,” Scott said with pride. “Since then, there have been so any thrills that we’ve had out here on the (SARFC) deck watching Jake play at all levels. You’ve provided us with countless reasons why we love the game of rugby football so much.”
Scott “poached” Robinson from the other St. Albert school district to play junior high rugby at Lorne Akins.
“Jake was just a terror to the opposition. Any position we played him in he was just a pure and natural player. His exceptional skills soon translated to success at St. Albert High and well beyond,” said Scott.
His fondest memory of Robinson was the “remarkable 30-metre plus penalty” into a biting wind at Ellerslie Rugby Park for an early lead against the Calgary Irish in the 2004 U16 provincial final.
“(The Irish) had three quarters of the provincial team (on its roster) but as soon as Jake made that kick, the phenomenal goal early on, (everything) began to change for us,” Scott said. “Jake went on to tackle everything that moved and shut down plays before they ever got going. I played him at fullback and I said, ‘Jake, just play free safety,’ and he ran the ball and he tackled and he supported and he did it all while firing up a pretty fair group and we went on to win that cup 3-0.”
Robinson’s first cap was against Brazil in Langford on Feb. 20, 2016 and Scott was there to witness it.
“It’s been a great privilege to coach Jake in junior high and junior rugby and when he took the field wearing a Maple Leaf, I’ve got to tell you my heart just about burst out of my chest. It was truly an emotional and moving series of flashbacks and images before my eyes that captured every practice and game and championship and sacrifice and success that lead up to that great moment.
“To see you take the field for Rugby Canada and feeling such a sense of pride in knowing you is exactly how I feel tonight,” Scott said.
Robinson expressed his thanks to a long list of individuals.
“I owe many and all of my success to my family and this club and members,” said the 2016 Edmonton Rugby Union’s senior player of the year. “I don’t think I would’ve got involved in rugby at all without Mr. Scott. He stopped me from playing soccer to come play rugby. He even got me out of math class after lunch to practice with Lorne Akins.”
Robinson also heaped praise on his high school coaches with the Skyhawks, as well as the SARFC Old Boys for providing a “world-class facility” for the players and fans to enjoy.
“Also, I especially want to thank all my teammates who come out and train every other weeknight and putting in all that work and dedication not only keeps us going throughout the season but it pushes me to be the best player I can be for the team and for the club.”
Robinson was also blown away by Canada Night celebration at SARFC.
“It means so much and it encourages us to do better for this club and make it better than it already is, which is hard to do.”
The last presenter was Johnny Moloney and his slide show presentation on Maguire’s life “from birth to now” with comedic commentary on his brief modeling career, rash of injuries, off-field antics and dance moves.
On a serious note, Moloney expressed admiration for his teammate, a winger with world-class speed, as well as U21 coaching sidekick and BFF.
“All in all Duncan is a fantastic athlete. He’s been huge for this club both in terms of support for what ever team he’s played for and the younger guys,” Moloney said of the happy-go-luck Maguire with a heart of gold. “Duncan has always played with a smile on his face, has always been upbeat and very good to everyone and it’s great to have him capped as a Canada representative.
“He’s one of our boys and it’s great to have him here.”
Maguire is never at a loss for words but struggled to string a few lines together during his acceptance speech. The recipient of three 15s caps and four 7s caps acknowledged several influential coaches, from high school with the Skyhawks to SARFC and beyond, and was grateful for the roles his parents and past and present teammates have played in his successful career.
“It’s awesome to have so much support,” said Maguire, who earned his first 15s cap against the United States in Texas on Feb. 13, 2016 after first competing for Canada in 7s in 2013/14.
“This is an awesome place and I’m so proud that I play for the St. Albert Rugby Football Club.”