By John Leung
Who can forget the run last season? The drama, the action, the excitement. No, I’m not talking about the Flames’ miracle run last year, but the team that actually brought home the proverbial bacon, the Roughnecks. In winning the National Lacrosse League Champion’s Cup in front of 19,000 fans at the Pengrowth Saddledome, they became the first local national league team to win a championship in Calgary. As another season begins, the ‘Necks face a tough road in their title defence.
I had a chance to sit down with forward Tracey Kelusky and goalie Curtis Palidwor to talk about what is coming up this season. For Kelusky, winning the cup was last year and it is time to look forward.
“It’s an unbelievable achievement for our team and it’s just a lot of fun,” he explained. “And you’ve gotta put last year behind ya. This is a new year and you know you’d like to reflect on the championship last year, but you know you have to go forward. You know last year is last year and this year is this year so we’re hoping to be able to repeat.”
Despite these high hopes, the team hasn’t let their heads get too big.
“I don’t think the attitudes have changed. We had one goal coming into training camp last year and that was to win the championship and we have the same goal this year,” Palidwor stated. “I think the confidence level is higher than it was going into training camp last year, but we were still pretty confident last year. I think we have a bit of a target painted on our jerseys this year for teams trying to beat the defending champions, but that just means we know we have to work harder to achieve our goal.”
But has their achievement been overshadowed by the more popular Flames and Stampeders? Kelusky certainly doesn’t think so.
“People love following a winner, and as long as you’re producing a winning team, they’re gonna follow ya,” he exclaimed. “Once you’ve got a product on the floor that can win, and consistently prove that they can win and play at the level on a consistent basis then you’ll get the coverage.”
So what can the fans expect for this season? The focus is simple: win.
“We’re the defending champs, we’ve got a target on our backs and our expectations are to win the championship,” boasted Kelusky. “First and foremost our expectations are to play each and every game, win each game we go to, and the first expectation right now is to make the playoffs.”
Palidwor offered a more unambiguous outlook.
“We’re bringing back pretty much the core of our team last year except four or five players, but we’ve brought in young draft picks in trades to fill those holes, and management has done a great job of filling [the rest].”
With both players expressing such confidence in the team, wins should be plentiful this season. Kelusky had no problem expressing just how important it is to win.
“That’s the whole reason behind playing,” he voiced. “I hate to lose and everyone on the team hates to lose and that’s why we were so successful last year. We can use the negatives to get riled up. If we didn’t have a strong belief that we can win, then I don’t think anyone would be here. The main reason for playing is to win!”
According to Kelusky, any team can be a threat to take one of these precious wins away.
“I think the biggest team out there to make sure you control is yourself,” he admitted. “You gotta make sure that your game is on no matter who you’re playing.”
The ‘Necks road begins Jan. 1 in Colorado, so fasten your seat belts Calgary, we’re in for another exciting ride this season.