Meet Gavin Kratz, the consummate ‘Hard Hat’. Gavin is a man who has spent 15+ years on the fields of Windsor Park. He is the epitome of “CW Family”. He also epitomizes the club’s commitment to players, facilitating a pathway for their rugby development and joy of the game. He has played from club Age Grade, to Tide, BC, and National level.

CW: Gavin, we use the word “pathway”. Just what has been your pathway from Minis until today?

GK: Well, I have been playing rugby since U8 CW Minis, played in middle school, at Oak Bay High School, UVic, and now back at CW with the Prems. Throughout middle school, high school, and the first few years of university I’ve had the opportunity to play in many regional, provincial, national, and international age grade games. I feel grateful towards my coaches who have always had faith in my abilities and especially for my parents who believed in me and often paid for me to play in said tournaments and games.

CW: The fact that your wore Canadian colors at U18 must have had you thinking. Do you recall your thoughts about rugby at that time?

GK: Some of the most engaging experiences I have ever had playing rugby came from playing on the U18 tour. I really enjoyed the intensity of the tryouts leading up to selection, and the bond everyone shared after we proved to each other we had what it took to play at the highest level for our age grade. I had an absolute blast, and to me at the time, this was as far as I wanted to take my rugby. I did feel a little bit selfish at the time, taking the spot away from someone who saw themselves making a career out of the sport. But at the end of the day, rugby to me is about putting your best 15 guys out and making a statement.

CW: Along the way, you have had some quality coaching. Who were some of your coaches? What were some of the key factors that kept you motivated as a player?

GK: Throughout the years there have been a great many coaches who have helped in providing technical, tactical, and motivational support. However, I think it is fitting if I take the opportunity to praise one of them here.

Of all the coaches I have had, Spencer Robinson has impacted my personal development as a rugby player in the most positive way imaginable. I had the fortune of being the same age as Jonas Robinson and the privilege of growing up with a team of highly skilled players coached year after year by Spencer through CW Minis and Tide programs. Spencer has always been able to strike the right balance, knowing when to bring intensity and when to let loose and let the boys play. On the bus rides to games he would lead us through his iconic “We are Warriors” chants and with training we would mostly have fun engaging mini games and drills but every so often he would burn us with a fitness session. He had a great sense of when to test us and when to let loose and let us figure it out for ourselves.

CW: What have been your highest achievements and best memories?

GK: The best memory I have from my rugby is leaving everything I had on the field for my final National Championship with UVic. I went into that game nervous. I had a very fatalistic approach leading up as we had been beaten and lost at the hands of UBC so many times that year and prior. I remember Ben Newhook asking me something like, “how do you think we’ll do”, and I told him that we were going to lose but that I was going to make sure it would be no fault of mine. I remember pushing James O’Neil to the try line in an impromptu maul, and I remember hitting the floor seconds after Gabe Casey (I’m pretty sure), joined in to finish the job. I was absolutely exhausted that whole game, but the feeling afterwards was of disbelief. It was probably the most emotional game I have ever experienced. It ended with us putting up an incredible defensive stint just for them to find an overlap on the wing and score in the corner and they were down by a single point. They missed the conversion and we won. The fact they scored had me so crushed at the end, but I can’t help but look back now and remember those feelings and admire the willpower each of my teammates displayed. 

CW: You left OBHS to attend UVic. What did you study? Continuing to play with CW teammates Carter White, Nick Carson, Jonas Hall, Brennig Prevost, Jonas Robinson, Jack Nyren, and Daniel Flynn must have been a highlight. What are your reflections about university rugby?

GK: I studied at the Gustavson School of Business and graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce. However, that was hardly the highlight of my university experience. The rugby was great. I do feel I could have benefited more from going to UBC to the Sauder School of Business, but I could not bear the one-two punch combo of missing out on being coached by Doug Tate and having to play for the bad guys.

UVic rugby was a great time. Much like club rugby you could take it seriously or more as a hobby if it suited you. All the top players took it seriously but with the three teams (Vikes, Norsemen, and Saxons) Doug and Ricker did a really good job of creating an environment where everyone was welcome to come play rugby. I forged some strong bonds through UVic Rugby, and I do miss a lot of the people who have left Victoria after university. UVic rugby also helped immensely in funding my education. Without a lot of the grants and scholarships that have come from so many in the rugby community a lot of the players would be far worse off. 

CW: What differences are there between university and club rugby?

GK: Now that I have played club rugby for the last three seasons with CW and four and a bit (lookin’ at you COVID), with UVic I do feel I have a good frame of reference. University rugby was a lot more time consuming with weight training, three field sessions, and a game every week it was quite a lot to work with. I have been known to miss a weight session here and there but training with the boys really helped motivate me to show up and put in my all. UVic can demand this from players due to the financial incentive as well as the flexibility in the schedule of the typical student athlete.

Club rugby players are forced to schedule training when everyone is typically off work and that leaves us having to go out there and sweat in the dark. So, in comparison we train only twice a week in conditions that are quite dissimilar to what we see at 2:30 on Saturday. However, we make the most out of these sessions! With work though, training every day is not feasible for everyone, me included, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

UVic was my home away from home and while I was there, I didn’t think too much on it because I had to be there in the moment to perform but looking back now and in my heart, CW has always been the home club and I’ve always known I would be coming back to play here. University rugby, by its nature, does not have space for guys once they graduate. It’s a young man’s game, but the Club has so much more to offer people who “live” rugby. Here there are so many people who have given decades to the club and University rugby just does not have as many opportunities for that long-term potential.

CW: Now you have hit the work world, could you tell us a little about your job?

GK: I am a Financial Advisor at the Royal Bank of Canada, meaning, I am a retail banker who handles everything under the sun regarding personal banking, investments, lending, and problem resolution. I’ve been working here at RBC for nearly three years now, ever since I graduated from UVic. I do not need a degree for what I am doing now, but I’ll make good use of the degree in the future. Success comes to those who plan for it, and I enjoy helping others understand their financial needs and create plans to succeed in meeting those needs. My next step here at the bank is hopefully not too far away and I’ll be looking to specialize deeper into financial planning.

CW: What goals do you have off the field going forward?

GK: Well in the last question I identified my broad goal I have been working towards for a long time of getting into personal financial planning. There are a lot of smaller goals which are a part of that which I am currently working towards. I also have some shorter personal goals which I hold near and dear to myself that I do not want to reveal today should I be audited on them three years from now!

CW: Gavin, there are not too many tight heads wo have pinched a scrum from you! At the same time, you are playing with a rather exceptional club FRF. The likes of Bossi, Fatt, Peters, Wallace, and Braddock on the side is arguably the best club arsenal in the Premier league. How do you work on making each other better?

GK: We are highly competitive with the other clubs. We have had games where we have held our own and we have had games where eight forwards are just out for a walk in the park, and we don’t mind if we must step over a few of the opposition to get to where we are going. It is a blessing to be on a team with such depth to draw from. Even still, if you are in the front row, reading this, and looking for a club to play for… We can never have too many front row forwards.

We have been training a lot lately under the philosophy that the best way to train scrummaging is to scrummage. We have highly competitive sessions in the forwards mixing and matching players against each other in 8v8 full tilt scrum sessions. This year we are blessed with numbers and taking the time to scrummage in training is instrumental to our success on the field. When we get all eight of the boys pushing in unison, it shows, and the more we train that the more you all will see that in our match play. Reps, feedback, and more reps. At the end of the day, you can go to the gym and put crazy weight on the rack, but a scrum is not a squat and if you want to push people back in a scrum you must train on a real live opposition.

CW: With Burnaby, UBCOB, and UBC to come, there will be ample opportunity to show this. However, we deviate. What have been your most enjoyable moments of club rugby?

GK: Unequivocally, running James Bay into the dirt in the scrums and mauls. It excites me like nothing else can when I am stepping over top of James Bay bodies in a scrum. We have been very fortunate to have a handful of those experiences this year and at this rate I am hopeful that we can continue this for years to come.

CW: A final comment and question. Gav, you are the strongest supporter of your ever-improving brother, Lachlan (NSMT 7’s).  Your perpetual grin/smile mirrors your fun of the game, and life in general.  Is there anything you would like to add?

GK: If you follow Lisa Kratz on Facebook, it will become apparent that she is in fact the biggest supporter in my brother’s success in rugby and in life. However, I’m fine with taking third place behind both my parents. Lachlan has seen a lot of success, and I’ve watched him be successful in everything he has put his heart into. People often give me credit for giving him inspiration or helping him achieve his goals, but I would not say that myself. When I look at Lachlan’s achievements and his quality of life, I am the one who walks away inspired. Be it MLR, Rugby 7s, DJing, and his newest venture as a Life Coach, Lachlan has been able to force positive change in his own life as well as the friends he meets along the way.

As for the perpetual grin, its not always smiles out there but if you give whatever you are doing all of what you have to give you can at least know you had tried your best. That feeling of looking back on something in failure or success knowing you tried your best should be enough most of the time to drive some happiness out. For the most part, I would say that you should make it your mission to surround yourself with good teammates, good coaches, and a great community. You’ll find all that here at CW.

Gavin, a big thank you for your time responding to our probing questions. Your answers are most insightful. We hope that at some stage you may enjoy a BC title with CW.  Heaven knows, there would be no one more deserving! Best of luck.