Despite injuries having ravaged the Penticton Harlequins rugby team, coach John Cannon has confidence his group can defeat the Vernon Jackals in the Okanagan Division rugby championship.
“I think if we are able to field all our players, the ones that are injured and we put in a good performance and remember from game film, but also from experience why they have been successful, what we can do to shut it down. I think we stand a good chance,” said Cannon.
On Saturday the Jackals (six wins, no losses) and Harlequins (two wins, four losses) will battle in Vernon for the chance to play in provincials in Prince George on June 25. Cannon knows they are up against a strong team and said if they don’t do the things he talked about, they won’t win. As he put it, it’s “a matter of recognizing what they need to do.”
Brad Martin, who is out with a dislocated elbow, said a key for the Harlequins will be communication and working well together.
Martin said one of the things the Jackals do well is overlapping.
“If we play a good 80 minutes, we can win,” he said.
One of the things that has helped the Harlequins this year, said former coach Ken Simpson, is what Cannon has taught the new and veteran players. Simpson said Cannon, who played with Canada’s national team and professionally in England, has been positive with the players.
“Guys are learning from him,” said Simpson, who at times helps out Cannon at practice. “I see improvement in the players. Even the veterans have learned a few things. Playing at a higher level, he has a different perspective.”
Martin, a local who has played for Canada’s under-20 team, said Cannon’s experience and background have been a bonus for players. One of them is Ben Gorrod.
“He has been a good coach,” said Gorrod, “He is good with everything.”
Cannon admits that being a coach is different than being a player, but because he has had good coaches where he played, he has taken certain things from each.
“I wish I still had the opportunity to play but it’s still nice to be involved and to help teach some of the guys,” he said. “Being aback, there are certain things that we are more knowledgable than some of the forwards. Some of the guys have improved a lot.”
Cannon got involved with coaching the Harlequins because he wants to help them become a better squad.
“I felt that I could help,” he said. “I wanted to be a bit more involved in rugby because I was around the game a little bit. I knew that there is potential to grow the program here.”