Unsung Hero - Off the Field
KEEPERS OF THE GATE
Every little bit counts when it comes to keeping the head above water, regarding the operating costs required to run a rugby club. Each home game, Gord Hawkins and Peter Kilshaw “patrol” the pathway egress at Windsor Park, courteously requesting a “donation’ from attendees who plan to witness the game/s. Peter, with his indominatable banter and associated sense of humour and Gord, with his quiet, non-plused “Hello”, are the public face of our club to many. The impression they create, is the impression of CW rugby in the Oak Bay and wider community. Both men played with the Wanderers before amalgamation but unlike others, have embraced the emergence of OBC and now, CW, and by ‘giving back’, and are ensuring the continuance of the game they love. Gordie, as Keeper of the south gate, was recognised as an Unsung Hero a few years back, (the blog can be searched on site). Today, we recognise Peter.
CW: Peter, whenever we play UVic you must no doubt recall your times at the institution with great memories. Can you synthesize your years and the University experience with a few highlights?
PK: Ah yes, the UVic days were short-lived but very sweet for me. I only attended the higher-level, post-secondary institution for one year. Fresh out of Oak Bay High School, I started with a couple games with the Jutes, then Norsemen, and by December I was selected for Vikings play. The 1975 season ended and try outs for a Vikings’ Tour of Argentina were held. My pal, Psycho and I both made the team, the youngsters. “Boys to Men” … may well have been the tour for Bob and me. The Tour was in September, beginning of what should have been my second year, but I did not continue at University, as I optioned a butcher apprenticeship offer. Whatever you can dream up to associate with a University Rugby Tour, occurred. We had a terrific time and were very well hosted and received. More than that, we reciprocated with “good manners” so to speak. Howard Gerwing, our stalwart and infamous manager was our spiritual leader and I learned some rugby from the teachings of Reverend Billy Kamloops, moves that were to shape my playing days. [Ed. This team was one of two UVic teams that defeated a National team, when they topped Uruguay.]
CW: Prior to enrolling at UVic, you played your junior rugby at Windsor Park. Tell us something about those times and any highlights from your youth and early “senior” rugby days.
PK: Gordie Hawkins is not only a definition of rugger nut, club supporter extraordinaire, he is the guy who introduced me to Rugby in Grade 8 as my coach, at Oak Bay Junior High School. He hasn’t changed a bit. We learned and played and fell in love with the game under Gordy’s guidance for three years. He also introduced us to Oak Bay Wanderers RFC, our home ground being Windsor Park. So we played school and third division club rugby with OBW on weekends. Unfortunately for Gordie, we were not that good! Individuals with hidden talent who required more to get the on field magic happening. We moved on to Oak Bay High School, then coached under the watchful eye of Frank “Guppy “Gower. Things meshed, we became one rugby organism. The Oak Bay Barbarians were created, thanks to Kevin Neish, Walter “Wooden Hands” Low, our full back, who thankfully, finally started catching the ball! Our team won the first HS School Provincial Championship as the Oak Bay Barbarians, 1974. A lot of this is success could be credited to OBW club exposure. We were basically the same team, playing and practicing 4 – 5 times a week.
Oak Bay Wanderers was our life. We practiced and played at Windsor Park, before the drainage went in. Don Burgess was our coach and mentor. Jim Dempsey, hooker extraordinaire, captained the OBW tour to England and Wales. Jim Dempsey, curiously enough, married my sister. Our clubhouse was on Oak Bay Ave., just inside Victoria boundary, across Foul Bay Road. Everything was within stumbling distance from home and park. As if Tuesday, Thursday practices with Saturday games were not enough, we often hung out at the club, on Fridays. Sometimes quite late into the evening or early morning of game day. Playing with the likes of the mischievous John Morley who we all know well. As a fly half, playing First Division (top level, back in the day), to see how little John Morley would come out of a ruck with the ball, actually smiling and laughing, tossing over to me to scoot away; those are magic memories! Don Burgess was our coach, a man with National caps was always to be revered.
For me, it was all about the club, the friends, and the rugby. We played a lot of decent rugby. In the 1970’s, JBAA were the team to beat. However, we did dominate for a couple of years in a row. I remember being fiercely proud of those days. To beat JBAA at “the park” was lovely, but not quite as sweet as winning at MacDonald. Those post game beers in their clubhouse, were so much stronger, seemingly. I also had good fortune to play some Junior Tide line ups under the leadership and coaching of our one and only, Macca. This was higher level exposure, albeit a short stint as we were “juniors” moving up the ladder, so to speak.
A Spring Tide team well represented by Wanderers (Peter, middle back; Shane Muldrew, front left seated), Captained by Brent Johnston, circa 1974.
Things one never forgets: My introduction to OBW First Div. play was against JBAA at Windsor Park. I was a 'snotty' fly half from UVic. Just off the grand Argentina tour. We won the ball from a set scrum, I decided to loop around the blind side. Easy peazy! The sun went out, I felt cold, crunched to the ground by Casey Walt. Twice the size of me. I couldn’t breath, I was carried off the field and laid to rest in the change room with what I was sure to be two collapsed lungs! Burge came in, made sure I was all right, and then; “Welcome to First Div.” he turned around and left. I was left alone, learning from the arrogant mistake. I went on to play twenty years of club rugby, including a couple of years with the illustrious Victoria Crimson Tide rep side. Oh, what memories!
CW: Rugby requires volunteers to survive. Many who volunteer are provided with the privilege by their spouses and family. Would you mind sharing a few details about your family with our readers?
PK: My wife, Kathy, is simply put, the greatest! When our three children were young, I stopped playing rugby and became Dad. I took myself out of the rugby scene to dote on my family. This was about an 18 year departure. When the nest emptied and I had new found time, I automatically started coming back to the fold to watch the games and enjoy the brotherhood. Funnily enough, when I would talk about the games and the afternoon, it was Kathy who said, if I was going to attend regularly, why not get involved? Perfect! I had reserved that notion thinking that she may not want me to renew my vows with the club. So this second time around, I have taken on a small, but necessary, position for the club. Management and organization of the “gates” was a void to be filled. This became my role.
CW: Your two sons were very good athletes, rugby being just one of their strengths. What are the boys doing with themselves these days?
PK: Yes, they were and still are. They both played rugby for Oak Bay High School, and they were “starters” with the 1st XV. They made the touring team to Ireland. In the end they chose to stay with soccer. At this time, Brad is a happy, self-employed, husband, father and soccer coach in Delta. Danny, a carpenter, married the love of his life last year and has taken to the woods and fishing for recreation.
CW: Then there is Peter! What career path did you follow after University and what do you do now?
PK: I left UVIC to accept a Butcher apprenticeship with Slaters Meats. This eventually led to Kilshaws Quality Meats. Landlord difficulties encouraged my taking a sales position in the meat business. I was very fortunate to be picked up by a great company, Grimm’s Fine Foods. I earned a management position, which came with privileges. After 35 years in an evolving business platform, moving more and more to warehouse distributions, I accepted a fair package. I now enjoy a part time sales position with a counter top company, selling granite, quartz, marble etc. You can find me three days a week chatting up Costco members who might be interested in a home renovation.
CW: We will preface this question with the fact that not too, long ago you had a severe health issue. Why have you become so enthusiastic about giving back to rugby, in particular, your club, CW?
PK: “The widow maker” health scare was just that! Life is sweeter now and I do not feel any rush. I didn’t feel it was necessary to give back to rugby and the club, rather, I’ve always been enthusiastic by nature, and what better and deserving way to spend time than helping out the very club who gave me so much, so many years ago? Also, I was warmly welcomed back, greetings I received when I started coming round again. That’s why I have enjoyed “giving back”. The club never left me, I left the club, for those intervening years. The camaraderie means so much. We should all be giving back, paying forward, so to speak, in some form or another.
CW: What were some of the highlights for you this past season?
PK: A highlight for me is the fact that we were short four home game fixtures on the season versus last season and we, the gate keepers, managed a 25% increase in collective donations with this 20% home gate reduction! This was partially due to the “suggested admissions“ increase. Cash injections are vital to a healthy club. First come the players and the team, then comes the support of that team. The rugby was good as well. I want to point out the quality and entertainment value of CW women’s premier rugby. In added effort to capture more gate support, I’ve come to not only appreciate the women’s style of play, but every extra bit counts in the coffers. Thus I have set up a “gate” for the earlier game. I would encourage more supporters to come and watch the “full day“ of play. As Johnno recently pointed out to me, quite directly, Saturday is Rugby Day, get your house in order!
CW: If you had a magic wand that would work solely for CW what would you request of it?
PK: More “dependables”. Supportive supporters. Besides the cash blood flow, we need a few more hands in the volunteer pool. The fact is, the club functions on the consistent effort of a few of the members. Some of us are getting on. If I had a magic wand for CW, I would love to have a secondary crew of gate keepers, who would be dependable for those few home game fixtures through the year. I’m a CW supporter. I attend those 12 – 14 weekend games anyway. If my appeal sounds like it is for you, it is! Please help out in some small way. One example is that the Gate function carries floats for the four corners of Windsor Park. We invariably only have the two main Gates manned. Bill Palmer has recently stepped up for a third gate, but we have those other days and gates un-manned. Loss of potential income! Can you step in? There are other support requirements needed. Field set up and take down, score board duty. After a 100 years, or so, Hugh Creighton, has rightfully handed over the score board. Many hands make light work. As the old hands wash themselves of it, who is there to step up? Take on a small club function and own it. Every bit contributes and I call on our CW supporters, to make connection with me at the gate at the beginning of season and to identify as a “dependable”. The President might even buy you a beer some time! Perhaps some of the juniors who are inheriting the club would come forward and show that commitment?
I respectfully acknowledge I have not mentioned our dedicated executive, coaching and managerial staff who are so much more the life of CW. Having said that, my bit is to recognize us little fellas who chip in to help things run. We could use a few more hands to help out with the chores.
Peter has provided us with an historical synthesis of CW rugby of recent decades! Peter, we thank you for the positive spin you give to visitors, family and supporters as you cajole a few bucks to watch the games. Your indomitable sense of humour and personality makes it; “a lovely day at The Park” for all of us!
Hats off to NSWT 7’s, 3rd place in Biarritz this past weekend and third overall in the eight series tournaments. The ladies have qualified for the Olympic Games!
As well, to the Seattle Seawolves, repeating their MLR Championship when they pinched victory from the jaws of defeat with a last second, 26 – 23 come from behind victory over San Diego on the road, in the presence of a very creditable home crowd. This was a quality match except for some of the kicking and aired by CBS, exposing the sport to many not familiar with the game with commentary that was succinct and understandable. The Wolves had suffered two last minute losses during the season to SD so perhaps it was third time lucky. Both teams were constituted with many “imports”, Seattle in particular, with a solid host of Canadians. It was a good crowd in San Diego and a great to and fro match. SD went ahead in the very late going 23 – 19 following a droppie from an RSA #10 however they committed yet another error and the Seawolves worked their way downfield in “extra” time and from a penalty and ensuing lineout drove ten yards for the 24 – 23 lead and Brock Staller convert to REPEAT as Champs!! On the field in the end were Phillie Mack, Jake Ilnicki, Brock Staller and Jeff Hassler. Others who started and were subbed – DJ Sears-Duru; George Barton (COW) who is an absolute horse and Nakai Penny from Westshore and I think that was it for Canada. Many other nationalities – NZ, OZ, RSA, SAMOA, TONGA and whatever else, refed by a Kiwi who did a good job. So more opportunities for our kids in the pros and all the more need for clubs to keep finding a way to develop players! ‘onyas, Seawolves and our Canadian and CW boys – DJ and Jake. [Ed. Cam Polson, M.I.A.??]