Voralek’s dominant campaign carries the Waterloo centre to Player of the Year honours

Photo by Waterloo Warriors
Photo by Waterloo Warriors

Burlington, Ont. – The black and gold had a triumphant season in the men’s rugby realm, a season that included a major award-winning effort from one of their own. Ontario University Athletics (OUA) is pleased to announce the 2018 major award winners and all-stars from the season that was on the pitch.

Player of the Year – Mitch Voralek, Waterloo Warriors

Coming off his first two seasons where he finished third and fourth in OUA scoring, 2018 Player of the Year Mitch Voralek (Waterloo, Ont.) compiled 124 points this season on four tries, 37 converts, and ten penalties. In total, Voralek hit 47 of 61 kick attempts, including multiple penalties from near 50 meters.

For the first time with the Warriors, he played outside centre and made a seamless transition. He maintained his playmaking abilities for the Waterloo Warriors, and along with his scoring, he directly set up eight more tries.

To buoy his offence, a skill that he showcased with the black and gold’s new single-season point record, he also has a tremendous work ethic and is a routine presence all over the field. On defence, Voralek consistently organizes the backline and rarely misses his tackles. With his speed, meanwhile, he also shuts down the outside attack to make him an all-star presence across the board for the Warriors.

Joining Voralek as an all-star, meanwhile, and helping the team to reach the postseason for the first time since 2012, is fly half Ben Scher (Vancouver, B.C.), who cracked the squad after completing his first season in the OUA. Although his individual stats might not leap off the score sheet, Scher helped transform the way the Warriors played on the field. Scher’s leadership was a difference-maker for the Warriors with the way he positions the players and controls the game, and his presence greatly contributed to the team’s fourth-ranked points total and up-tempo style.

Rookie of the Year – Nathan Jutronich, Laurier Golden Hawks

Right down the street was another impressive first-year, who made an impact right off the hop for Laurier in their third-ranked regular season. Nathan Jutronich (Mississauga, Ont.), the 2018 Rookie of the Year, dealt with more than just his first taste of university rugby; however, as he was also coming off a severe ankle injury. All things considered, he didn’t skip a beat when stepping back on to the field, playing every minute of every game. He has proven to be a great attacker and defender for the purple and gold, while demonstrating his development and overall improvement each time he played.

Along with their top first-year is a third-year player also got better game in and game out this season. Matt Fish (Waterloo, Ont.), Laurier’s vice-captain, not only played in every game as well, but was a meaningful contributor in each of those contests. Offensively, he collected 12 tries, four conversions, and a total of 68 points, and was an ever-growing force on the defensive side of the ball.

Coach of the Year – David Butcher, Queen’s Gaels

Since his arrival in 2017, David Butcher has taken an already strong Gaels' program to a new level. The second-year coach led his squad to a spotless regular season (8-0) with the narrowest margin of victory coming in a 55-22 win over the Laurier Golden Hawks. Now with home field advantage in the OUA championship game, Butcher looks to coach his team to their second consecutive undefeated season. 

Butcher has been involved in rugby for more than 20 years, first as a professional player and then as a coach. He is a technical resource coach, national A team assistant coach (forwards), national U20 coach (forwards), and national scrum development coach for Team Canada. Prior to that he was the high-performance coach for Scottish Rugby, and now, he is using all of that knowledge and experience within the sport to lead one of the OUA’s best all-around squads.

Some of the most talented players on the Gaels’ roster are also being recognized for their respective campaigns, as five Queen’s players have been named all-stars.

Patrick Lynott (Chelsea, Que.) has proven to be one of the best props in the OUA as a result of his hard carrying and aggressive style, consistently using his power and size to put up points. Lynott’s teammate, however, has scored his way to the top of the team’s try earners, as Nicholas De Lallo (Ottawa, Ont.) also earns an all-star nod. His thirst to score is made easier by his power, energy, and sneaky speed.

Another player who has been a reliable presence for the Tricolour is Lachlan Devir (Toronto, Ont.), who has been deemed “Mr. Consistency” thanks to his no-error play. He is also a specialist in leading the counter-attack for the Gaels. Tristan Ruse (Campbellville, Ont.) has shown off his skill on both sides of the ball, while Brendan Blaikie (Markham, Ont.) showcases the team’s best throw and has done so as captain and leader of the squad.

Trillium Award – Alex Pipchuk, Queen’s Gaels

The Queen’s all-stars have demonstrated dominance on the pitch, but when it comes to being an all-around player, perhaps no one defines the moniker better than Alex Pipchuk (Calgary, Alta.). His performance on the field has contributed to all aspects of play, and as the ultimate teammate, he is more concerned with setting up his fellow Gaels’ success rather than flourishing in his own.

While he may not always be the player that is noticed on the field, his play is invaluable thanks to the many things he does off the ball to ensure his teammates find lanes to score. As a result of his team-first attitude and his ability to hold the Gaels together throughout their powerhouse play, Pipchuk has been called the “glue guy”, making it clear that he is in fact, one of the most all-around players the OUA has to offer.

Off the field, Pipchuk’s work ethic spills into other aspects of his life as well. Just this year, he led the team’s fundraising initiative and organized the men’s rugby program’s “Run for the Cure”. Thanks to his leadership and hard work, the team raised $30,000 for this charity, which was the highest amount for any group in Kingston. Pipchuk has also been heavily involved with taking rugby into local schools in Kingston, joining fellow Queen’s rugby players in running regular sessions at a local school.

The Gaels’ counterpart in the season finale, the Guelph Gryphons, have also established a well-rounded unit once again, and it has catapulted them to four all-star selections. En route to their 7-1 record, 375 points for, and 128 against, the Gryphons earn representation from scrum half Riley Di Nardo (Toronto, Ont.), back three Andrew Douglas (Chippawa, Ont.), back row Marcello Wainwright (Toronto, Ont.), and second row Mackenzie Kea (Woodville, Ont.), the final of whom secured the team’s place in the OUA championship with his late semifinal score.

Joining Douglas and Devir as all-star back threes is RMC’s Glenn Butler (Grimsby, Ont.), who put his skill and perseverance on display this season. Butler led the Paladins in tackles from the full back position, and despite a significant ankle injury that has limited his playing time to 60 minutes per game, he was still the team’s leading scorer.

Earning an all-star nod alongside Voralek at the centre position, meanwhile, is McMaster Maruaders’ Mitch Richardson (Stoney Creek, Ont.), and rounding out the 2018 roster is prop Emerson Prior (Gananoque, Que.) from the Trent Excalibur.

The complete list of 2018 men's rugby major award winners and all-stars is as follows:

Player of the Year – Mitch Voralek, Waterloo
Rookie of the Year – Nathan Jutronich, Laurier
Coach of the Year – David Butcher, Queen’s
Trillium Award – Alex Pipchuk, Queen’s

All-Stars

Fly Half – Ben Scher, Waterloo
Scrum Half – Riley Dinardo, Guelph
Prop – Patrick Lynott, Queen’s
Prop – Emerson Prior, Trent
Centre – Mitch Voralek, Waterloo
Centre – Mitch Richardson, McMaster
Back Three – Andre Douglas, Guelph
Back Three – Lachlan Devir, Queen’s
Back Three – Glenn Butler, RMC
Back Row – Nicholas De Lallo, Queen’s
Back Row – Matt Fish, Laurier
Back Row – Marcello Wainwright, Guelph
Hooker – Brendan Blaikie, Queen’s
Second Row – Tristan Ruse, Queen’s
Second Row – Mackenzie Kea, Guelph