19 Teams in 19 Days – Calgary RATH

Another season is underway and as teams hit the ice in their quest for the 2011-2012 NRL Championship title, we’re taking a closer look at each team in the league. The new series is called 19 Teams in 19 Days and we would like to encourage you to join in the discussion on Twitter by following www.twitter.com/nrllnr or by sending us an email at NRLchatter@nationalringetteleague.ca

Calgary RATH

Last season finish:
Regular season – 2nd place Western Conference
NRL Championship – 3rd place

Head coach: Cliff Lawrick
Two questions with coach Lawrick:
What would it mean to you, as a coach, to win the NRL championship this season?
Winning this season would have special meaning in that the team is in a rebuilding year. We have three new players moving up from U19 and have lost seven full time roster players from our medal winning team of last year.

What does your team have to do to win an NRL championship?
Our team needs to become a cohesive unit early in the season to ensure we qualify for the NRL championship and then find a way to win the close games at the NRL championship. We have been close for several seasons, but have not been able to get over the hump and win the gold medal.

The NRL nugget to know about this team:
RATH rookie defender Carolina Romeo is coming off a silver medal at the Canada Winter Games with Team Alberta. She is also a varsity field hockey player at the University of Calgary, is a 4th year mechanical engineering student (as a 19 year old) and was named one of the “Top 20 under 20” in Canada by the Globe and Mail. And, she is the only Argentinian born player in the NRL. Carolina has a lot going on!

The question to be answered:
How do you replace seven players from the national bronze medallists? Losing Victoria Russell would hurt. Losing Stacey McNichol would hurt. Losing Kailee Dundas would hurt. Losing Jacqueline Ho would hurt. Losing Nicole Geddes would hurt. Losing Pam Stephenson would hurt. Losing Allison Cronin would hurt. Losing them all could be devastating for a lot of teams. The RATH have a bevy of young talent to bring into the fold, but there is a lot of holes to be filled in Southern Alberta this season.

What happened in the off-season:
Well, RATH lost seven players from a very good team – but they did gain three members of the Team Canada West U19 squad, so they have definitely added something to their new mix.

The (hidden) gem:
This team can keep the ring out. Calgary was second in the league in goals allowed per game last season and their Team Canada defensive tandem of Abbey van Roekel and Dallas Robbins were a big part of that. Team Canada players are not often considered “hidden gems” but to the uninitiated they may seem to blend in with the scenery. Blending in or not, these two players have made Calgary one of the toughest teams in the league to score on and a force to be reckoned with in the Western Conference.

Reason for optimism:
Calgary may boast one of the best rookie classes in the history of the NRL. Adding Romeo, Christianne Varty and Emily Webb in one off-season is an incredible get for any team. Adding them to an already tough team gives them plenty to look forward to in Cowtown.

Reason for concern:
It is hard to imagine a team losing all that RATH has lost this off-season and not suffering – at least in the early going. If this team can get through the transition of the first few weeks of the season they may be all right. But that adjustment may be very difficult in the early going.