New coach lifts hopes of Sarnia Saints

The Sarnia Saints Rugby Club is hoping a successful new coach will help its program take the next step.

Steve Thomas, who lives just south of Grand Bend, has taken over as Club Coach with the Saints.

He will oversee the junior boys and girls and women’s program, but will spend the majority of his time coaching the men’s premiere and developmental sides.

Thomas will develop fundamental skills and game plans for all the teams, so that players moving from team to team can instantly be integrated into the system, said Saints President Chris Groombridge.

“We are expecting good things this year.”

Thomas, who came to Canada from the United Kingdom seven years ago and has been playing the game since age four, has coached the University of Western Ontario men’s side in London for the past five seasons.  The Mustangs advanced to the provincial final in each of those seasons.

“They (the Saints) approached me in December and I took some time to make sure that their goals and mine were the same,” said Thomas, who was hired in late January.

The Saints had 19 players attend their first indoor workout in late February and Thomas invites anyone else interested to email him at Thomassst@Elanco.com for more information.

His only stipulation is that interested players put the program first.

“I think some stability is needed,” he said.  “I can’t have players calling me up on Friday and saying they can’t make a game on Saturday.  I understand that things come up, but players have to be committed.”

Thomas says he’s continually taking stock of weaknesses on the roster and will recruit accordingly.  But he’s not a fan of airlifting international players in for a few months, wanting instead to develop young players from local schools.

“They (younger players) are the backbone of the program.”

As for his coaching philosophy, Thomas says it’s straightforward.

“If you can run and you can pass, you should have some success.  If we get the basics right and tidy up a few mistakes, we’ll do fine,” he predicted.

The Saints play a series of friendlies (exhibition games) in April.

The regular season begins in May.

More club information can be accessed at www.sarniarugby.com

– Barry Wright