CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. – OK, the P.E.I. Mudmen are a marked bunch as defending Nova Scotia Division 1 senior men’s rugby champs.
They know it, the rest of the league knows it, so let the bull’s-eye be well-placed upon their backs.
And Kyle Robertson, Charlie Waddell and their teammates are more than happy to wear the circles.
“It’s great,” Robertson said while prepping for a recent Mudmen practice.
“Yeah,” Waddell added, changing into his cleats and slipping between Robertson’s comment.
“We’ve always wanted to be No. 1,” said Robertson. “Being Nova Scotia champion will always look good. Now we’re going for the Maritime championship. We’re looking for an undefeated season and we’re not taking any game lightly.”
That march begins Sunday when the Mudmen open the season at home against the Valley Bulldogs. Kickoff is 2 p.m. at Co-op Field in Charlottetown.
Last year, the Mudmen lost an early game to the Fredericton Loyalists in Elite League play (a mix of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick teams), then rolled off 10 straight victories, including a 7-0 mark in Division 1, en route to its first league title.
Along the way it finally topped a Halifax Tars squad that stymied the Mudmen’s championship dreams for six seasons and overmatched a strong Enfield side in the league final.
Then came the Caledonia Cup and a shot at P.E.I.’s first Maritime title since 1955.
The result? A 22-20 loss to the Loyalists in Fredericton, N.B.
So near and yet so far… and the memory is fuel for Robertson.
“It was a close game. We were right there and they knew it. It could have gone either way. But we can build off that,” he said.
Valley is coming off a 63-0 thrashing by Enfield last week. The Bulldogs moved up to Division 1 from Division 2 this season and felt the effects of the new competition right away.
It could be a tough day for Valley on Sunday, but like Robertson, Waddell isn’t thinking it will be a cakewalk. It’s about working on the schemes, Waddell said.
“The big thing is we’re trying some new stuff this year. We’re trying to perfect our systems and play as a team,” he said. “Whether or not Valley is strong, the focus will be to tweak our systems and be on the same page.”
As coaches, Waddell and Robertson guided the UPEI Panthers men’s club team to the national university championships last November.
Mike Lloyd, former player, organizer and administrator and 2018 P.E.I. Rugby Sport Hall of Fame inductee, joins Eddie MacDonald’s coaching staff for the new season.
The Old Boys team, a mashup of Abbies and Mudmen alumni among others, play its first game this season following the Division 1 matchup. It’s an exhibition contest against the Prospects, a team of new club members and recently graduated high school players. Start time is 3:30 p.m.
The Mudmen Division 2 squad starts its season Saturday, July 21, at Eastern Shore.
The Charlottetown Rugby Football Club’s Tier A and B women’s teams begin their seasons on the road Saturday, June 16, versus Halifax RFC and Windsor Hants County, respectively.
Need to know
The P.E.I. Mudmen schedule this season in Divisions 1 and 2 of the Rugby Nova Scotia Senior Men’s Rugby League. All home games are at Co-op Field in Charlottetown.
Sunday – Mudmen vs. Valley Bulldogs, 2 p.m.
Saturday, July 14 – Mudmen vs. Dartmouth PigDogs, 2 p.m.
Sunday, July 22 – Mudmen at Halifax Tars, 1 p.m.
Saturday, July 28 – Mudmen vs. Pictou County, 3 p.m.
Saturday, Aug. 4 – Mudmen at Windsor Hants County, 5 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 1 – Mudmen at Enfield, 1 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 8 – Mudmen at Halifax RFC, 4 p.m.
Saturday, July 21 – Mudmen at Eastern Shore, 1 p.m.
Saturday, July 28 – Mudmen vs. Pictou County, 1 p.m.
Saturday, Aug. 4 – Mudmen at Truro Saints, 1 p.m.
Saturday, Aug. 11 – Mudmen vs. Riverlake, 4 p.m.
Saturday, Aug. 25 – Mudmen vs. Caledonia, 2 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 1 – Mudmen at Enfield, 3 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 8 – Mudmen at Halifax Tars, 2 p.m.