Years of blood, sweat and tears were all made worthwhile over the weekend.
Squamish's Axemen Rugby Club has clinched the team’s first championship victory since the group was reborn five years ago.
The local team beat second seed Richmond RFC 33-3 in the Division 3 final on Saturday at Burnaby Lake.
“It was real step up in terms of physicality and competitiveness on the field,” said Axemen’s fly half, Neil Irwin, in a news release.
“Richmond were fantastic and made us work hard all the way. We knew that we were capable of grinding teams down, so we stuck with that game plan and progressively the scoreboard told the story.”
“The weekend win was hugely satisfying in and of itself, and a very emotional occasion,” said Cian Starogardzki, player and manager, told The Chief.
“To have been so close over the last few seasons, and worked so hard, it meant a lot to a lot of people to raise that trophy.”
While Richmond seemed to have the upper hand at first, Starogardzki said the Axemen’s win-by-attrition style of gameplay allowed the team to recover and then some.
“We know we have the stamina to keep on going and wear them down, and also the key thing is we have a very strong bench,” said Starogardzki.
It was an approach, he said, that was fostered by the group’s coaching team, which saw the addition of Keith Reeves as an assistant coach this year.
Head coach Blake Mahovic and assistant coach Phillip Maas were the other two making up the coaching staff on the team.
“Teams can’t defend against us for 80 minutes, you know? They get worn down,” Starogardzki said.
There were several players in particular that Richmond couldn’t defend against.
Matthew Jolley, Jack Couzens and Stephen List scored a try each. Blake Mahovic secured two tries, and Neil Irwin made four conversions.
Beyond having a good game, Starogardzki said the Axemen have enjoyed a good season.
Recruitment was strong this time around, with both new and old players investing heavily into the team, he said.
Drawing fans to their Sea to Sky games also helped give the team forward momentum, Starogardzki added.
And the time spent community-building off the field has been a big boon to the group, he said, adding that the Axemen have been sharing their craft with youth in town.
The team’s win is timed perfectly, as a new crop of young players training in the Axemen’s youth groups are starting to come of age.
Starogardzki said the club hopes to have two men’s teams next year, as well as get the women’s team up and running.
The win “gives something to build on,” he said.