Former Stoney Creek rugby coach joins provincial program

The full coaching staff for the Ontario Blues senior and under-19 men’s provincial rugby program has been appointed for the upcoming national championship season.

The Ontario Blues senior team celebrated their fourth national title in 2014. (Photo:  José Romelo Lagman/Rugby Ontario)

The Ontario Blues celebrated their fourth national title in 2014. (Photo: José Romelo Lagman/Rugby Ontario)

As announced in November, current senior men’s provincial team head coach Chris Silverthorn will see his role expand in 2015; the four-time national title-winning coach will also oversee the complete Ontario Blues program for the season, which will include the Ontario Blues under-19 development side.

At the senior level, Paul Connelly and Mike Curran have been appointed as Silverthorn’s assistant coaches.

Connelly’s return to the Ontario Blues senior team’s coaching staff marks his fourth consecutive season with the program. At the national level, Connolly has coached with the Canadian under-19 men’s team from 2004-2006 and 2011-2012, serving as the national side’s head coach in his latter stint with the program. Provincially, on top of his work with the Blues’ senior team over the past three years, Connelly has served as the head coach of the U18 Ontario Junior Blues team from 2003-2004 and 2007-2009. He has also been the director of rugby and head coach of the Uxbridge Secondary School rugby program since 1999.

Like Connelly, Curran is also an Ontario Blues program coaching staff returnee, and brings a wealth of coaching experience at various levels. While this upcoming season marks his first coaching position with the Blues senior team, Curran has served as a head coach with the Ontario Junior Blues program (U15-U19 age-grades) since 2011, most recently guiding the Blues development side to a national title in 2014. At the club level, Curran has coached with the Mississauga Blues since 2008. He has also served as head coach of Streetsville Secondary School boys rugby program since 2002, as well as with the University of Toronto Varsity Blues and Humber College Hawks collegiate rugby programs.

Curran will also return as the head coach of the Blues under-19 development side, while Paul Pendakis and Cory Hector have been appointed as Curran’s assistant coaches.

Pendakis arrives at the Ontario Blues development team with an extensive portfolio of coaching experience at the age-grade level. At the club level, Pendakis has served as a head coach with the Stoney Creek junior program (U14-U18 age-grades) from 2001-2004 and 2011-2013. After seven years as an assistant coach with Nelson High School’s boys rugby team, Pendakis has held the head coach position with Saltfleet High School’s boys rugby program since 1996, amassing 25 years of high school coaching experience. While this upcoming season represents his first coaching position with a provincial rugby side, Pendakis is very familiar with Ontario’s provincial rugby program, having worked as a provincial team selector from 2010-2014.

Hector joins the Ontario Blues development side with a strong body of work developed throughout the national, provincial, club, and university levels. On top of serving as an assistant coach with national teams at the World University Sevens in 2012 and the FISU Sevens in 2013, Hector has coached with the Ontario Junior Blues program since 2013, and is the current head coach of the U16 Junior Blues Sevens side. Hector has served as the director of rugby with the Guelph Redcoats since 2012, and has been an assistant coach with the University of Guelph Gryphons rugby program since 2008.

As announced in November, Mark Winokur will be returning as the Ontario Blues program manager. Like Silverthorn, Winokur will also see his role expand beyond the senior team in the upcoming season, with his managerial duties set to encompass the program’s development side, as well.

Rounding out the Ontario Blues coaching staff is Rodin Lozada, who will return as the Blues program’s performance analyst. Like Silverthorn, Connelly, and Winokur, Lozada has been involved with the Blues program in all four of their national championship-winning seasons. On top of his responsibilities with the Blues program, Lozada also serves as the head coach of the Markham Irish senior men’s rugby program.

“This upcoming season is going to be a very exciting campaign for our Ontario Blues program,” said Rugby Ontario CEO Andrew Backer. “After a thorough selection process, we’re welcoming back coaches that have already established a solid foundation for our program, and we’re introducing some coaches that will help to push our program even further.”

The Ontario Blues have been Canada’s most successful senior men’s provincial rugby team in recent years, winning the Canadian Rugby Championship’s MacTier Cup each of the past four seasons; the latter three have been with Silverthorn at the program’s helm.

Under Silverthorn’s lead, the Ontario Blues senior and development teams will be integrated under the same banner, which will see both sides train together as one united program.

Looking ahead, the Ontario Blues senior team will participate in a condensed Canadian Rugby Championship this summer, with the competition serving as a key part of Rugby Canada’s senior national men’s program’s World Cup preparations. Between June 28 and July 1, the four CRC teams will gather in Calgary to play in a two-round competition. In the first round, the top-seeded Blues will face the Atlantic Rock, while the British Columbia Bears will take on the Prairie Wolfpack. The winners will square off for the MacTier Cup on July 1, while the remaining two teams will play for third place.

The Ontario Blues development side will also be defending their national title this summer when they participate in the annual under-19 men’s Canadian Rugby Championship, taking on the British Columbia Bears, Prairie Wolfpack, Lower Canada Voyageurs, and Atlantic Rock development sides in Regina between July 15-19.

Over the past four seasons, the Ontario Blues senior team holds an overall record of 18-3-0 in CRC play, having also enjoyed an 18-match winning streak in all competitions between September 2012 and September 2014.

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