Gilly the Great was really great this year.
Kyle Gilmour’s triumphant return to the pitch from injuries was capped off as this year’s recipient of the Rugby Alberta Senior Men’s Player of the Year Award.
“It’s certainly nice to be recognized,” said Gilmour, one of the toughest and most talented players in St. Albert Rugby Football Club history. “It’s been a challenging couple of years for me trying to get back on to the rugby field again.”
Gilmour, 29, broke his left cheekbone playing for Canada at the 2016 IRB Americas Rugby Championship and surgery was required to repair the damage with metal plates.
The high school rugby product of the St. Albert Skyhawks was also soldiering through a nagging groin injury.
The road to recovery looked bleak for the No. 6 flanker for Canada at the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
“There was a big mental side to it for sure,” Gilmour said. “I struggled trying to get a proper diagnosis and that sort of thing so at times I wasn’t sure if I would be able to get back and play rugby. It was pretty challenging at times but once I got back working with all the right people, a lot of coaches and trainers, it helped me out to get through what I needed to get me back to where I was in the past.”
The Edmonton Rugby Union’s senior men’s player of the year in 2009 and 2013 eased his way into full-time duties with the Calgary-based Prairie Wolf Pack and the SARFC premier men’s team and the first full 80-minute match was the inspired three-try performance June 24 as SARFC manhandled the Calgary Saints 62-27 in the Alberta Cup fixtures.
“I felt pretty comfortable back in my first game and I got some games in with St. Albert and just the more I played the more comfortable I got,” said the six-foot-two and 225-pound slab of granite. “Once I was able to start running again and getting out and putting the rugby ball in my hand it all started to come back pretty quick.”
After one of the worst premier men’s seasons SARFC fans have ever endured, Gilmour was selected to the Canada A lineup for the second annual Americas Pacific Challenge in Montevideo, Uruguay and the No. 6 flanker was named team captain.
The tournament is designed for players to gain international experience before the upcoming test match fixtures.
“It was a bit of a surprise considering I hadn’t played international rugby in almost two years but I think it was a vote of confidence by the head coach at the time, Mike Shelley, and it just reinforced that I did belong there and that I had worked my way back into it,” said Gilmour, the captain for Canada at the 2014 Americas Rugby Championship and for the 2015 Wolf Pack as winners of the Canadian Rugby Championship tournament.
Gilmour’s last match for Canada was as the starting eight-man in the 57-17 loss to Fiji on Nov. 25 in Narbonne, France. He also came off the bench for No. 6 duties in the 54-22 loss to Georgia in Tbilisi on Nov. 11, filled in at eight-man in 37-27 win over Spain on Nov. 18 in Madrid and didn’t dress in the 51-9 loss to the Maori All Blacks on Nov. 11 at BC Place in Vancouver.
Kyle Baille, a former SARFC forward, also played for Canada.
“It was good,” Gilmour said of the recent Canadian tour. “It was a long road so to kind of get back involved in the mix and to have an opportunity to play in front of the new coach (Kingsley Jones) was obviously what I was working for so it was huge for me on a personal level.”
Gilmour now has 18 caps in 15s to go with four in 7s.
“It’s kind of a bit wild to think about. That was my goal. That’s what I set out to do and go to a world cup and I achieved that,” said Gilmour, who played his first national 7s match in 2011 in the Wellington leg of the series and made his 15s test debut against Portugal at Lisbon in 2013. “Just looking back on it it’s been quite an achievement. Hopefully I’ve got a few more left in me.”
The next Rugby World Cup is 2019 in Japan and Canada kicks off its first qualifying leg Jan. 27 against Uruguay at BC Place.
Gilmour is taking a wait and see attitude.
“At this stage just with how everything went in my career I’m just taking it one game at a time and one tour at a time and take it as it comes,” with Gilmour, who played some professional rugby with the Rotherham Titans of England in 2015.