THIS IS the fifth consecutive year that Maclean's Magazine has invited me to sponsor an Eastern Canadian rugby football all-star team. While I greatly appreciate the personal honor, I am also deeply indebted for this annual opportunity to promote interest in the sturdy game of rugby.
In the preparation of the 1938 team, I have not only carefully listened to the suggestions of many experienced observers, but I have also received the active co-operation of three recognized authorities—Ross Trimble, Ottawa Rough Riders coach; Bill Storen, University of Western Ontario coach; and Harold Bailey, referee and secretary of the Ontario Rugby Football Union. Each representing one of the three eastern leagues and each residing in a different city, they have contributed the names of the best players in their associations. After receiving these nominations, the responsibility for the final selection is mine.
To qualify for this task, I have had the privilege of seeing every leading Eastern senior team in action. Moreover, the last roundup of the .stars was not concluded until after forty-four exhibition and scheduled games had been played, and every team had met each other league rival at least once.
While my advisers and I have had ample opportunity to get a good look at the candidates, and even though this selection is my fifth one, I am still conscious of the difficulties involved in selecting the best player in any one position, let alone twelve. Consider the halfbacks, for instance. There are at least seventy-two definitely labelled halves on twelve Eastern senior teams, yet sixty-nine must be rejected and only three nominated.
Furthermore, a rugby player isn’t a commodity to be analyzed in a laboratory. You can’t put him in a test tube and conclude that he has only seventy-five per cent of the ingredients usually found in football stars, while specimen B has eighty per cent.
Yet we must have some basis beyond sentiment or instinct, so I have formed this conception of an ideal
Selected by JOHN DeGRUCHY, Former President Canadian Rugby Football Union, and Associates.
12 Thornton Outside Wing Toronto Argonauts 6' 175 lbs. candidate for Macleans team. The all-star, in my opinion, must be smart, durable, quick thinking, sporting, aggressive, know the rules, inspire his team mates, and be an all-rounder in his position rather than a specialist. If the candidate can do something beyond his normal duties, such as being a good inside wing and also a reliable placement kicker, I would show a preference for him. If two players are pretty much alike. I would give the edge to the one who has given longer service.
After visualizing this ideal player, I began to weed out from the names submitted to me. At once I missed six of those who were selected for last year’s team. Ormond Beach was fatally injured just prior to the season’s opening. Jimmy Simpson and “Bud” Lewis were serious casualties in exhibition games. “Muck” Welch and Pete Jotkus preferred to “spectate,” and “Abe” Eliowitz returned to United States gridirons. Naturally, the absence of these
1937 all-stars provided opportunities for other players to earn distinction and fame.
Not only are those six formidable stais missing from our
1938 line-up, but there is also a dearth of intercollegiate players. This shortage need not reflect unfavorably on college football. This year’s intercollegiate teams were well balanced, the quality of rugby was uniformly good, players like Faust, Hilton, Gray, Stollery, Anton, were quite capable, but only Westman of McGill stood out individually like the college stars of former years. Somehow great university teams run in cycles, and 1938 is evidently not at the top of the wheel.
There are other individuals we would like to have included in our team, and the margin between the stars we have chosen and a twelve composed of Teddy Morris. Bob Isbister, Sam Sward. Johnny Ferraro, Annis or Bill Stukus, Dunn, Jim Palmer, Fraser, Wadsworth, Casson, Ike Norris and Wes Cutler, would be quite thin. If our dozen could be stretched to twenty-four, we might accommodate the material we have in mind.
But there has to be a choice and so, with some mental reservations, we now assume an air of jaunty confidence and submit Maclean's Magazine 1938 Eastern Canadian all-star rugby football team.
Many Good Halfbacks
'OOR halfbacks, we select Stirling, Sarnia Imperials; “Ab” Box, Balmy Beach; and Westman, McGill University.
There are other good halfbacks. West, Toronto Argonauts, can run like a scared rabbit; Isbister, Toronto Argonauts, is an outstanding kicker; Ferraro, Montreal Nationals, and Griffin. Ottawa Rough Riders, can toss passes like a baseball catcher throwing the ball to second base; but they all lack the general excellence of the trio we have finally nominated.
Stirling, Westman and Box are the hubs around which their great teams revolve. Being human they occasionally err. but Saturday after Saturday their jierformances are uniformly brilliant and thrilling.
I Iere is a summary of a Stirling performance. In the first, meeting between Montreal Nationalsand Sarnia Ini¡)erials, “Bummer” personally accounted for a single, a placement, two more singles, one from the centre-field kickoff, and a touchdown, for a total of eleven points. Then with only four minutes remaining and his team still needing another point, he kicked from his own J5-yard line for a touch in goal to tie the score. One of his kicks travelled 70 yards, yet Stirling went down under it with such s|>eed that he arrived in time to make the tackle. Even though this remarkable backfielder is thirty-one years old and has starred for a decade, he still retains those qualities that make him outstanding.
Westman, like Stirling, is a player who excels in every chore assigned to halfbacks. For some years he has,been noted mostly for his long, lofty punts, and while his 1938 kicking has lost none of ifs lustiness, Westman has also been equally esteemed for his passing, plunging and sturdy defensive play. Coming or going, Westman is a standout in intercollegiate football, and has earned inclusion on our all-star team.
“Ab” Box lacks the stature and weight of Stirling and Westman, but his kicking is just as effective, and his passing is even more successful than that of his Sarnia and McGill contemporaries. The Balmy Beach half has sure hands, tackles with the skill of an outside wing, and is equally qualified to take over the duties of quarterbacking. Not only fundamentally sound in his play. Box is one of those natural athletes who do instinctively what most others have to be taught.
Stirling, Westman and Box are therefore nominated for halfbacks.
For the position of quarterback, there were many splendid prospects. Most of them were members of the more successful teams, but Dennis Whitaker, the player wre prefer, did not belong to a champion club.
Whitaker, a product of University of Toronto Schools and Royal Military College, now in his second Hamilton Tiger year, is the lightest man on his team ar.d has been further handicapped by playing for a club that is in the rebuilding process. Nevertheless, he has starred in every game.
At one period in the match against Toronto Argonauts, the ball was in Tigers’ possession on their own 40-yard stripe. In four consecutive plays, Whitaker tossed a 20-yard completed pass, a 15-yard completed pass, plunged ten yards through Argos’ line, and heaved a touchdown pass that unfortunately was dropped by his receiver.
Whitaker is not only a brilliant player hut a smart leader, and even when his team was being heavily outscored, he never stopped trying until the final whistle. Still young, Whitaker already compares favorably with those field generals whose reputations have long been esteemed by Eastern Canadian rugby fans.
To complete our back field, we nominate for flying wing Ernie Hempey, Montreal Nationals.
Flying wings require great versatility, and Hempey is a suitable answer to our quest. Experienced in many positions, clean but aggressive, sufficiently fast to be a good ball carrier, possessing the strength to stop opposing linemen, Hempey is well qualified to meet mechanically the demands of flying wing. Moreover, he is a leader who inspires his team mates.
Selection is Difficult
npiIE position of snap is perhaps inappropriately named, for the man in the centre of the line really has a rough job. This important player is not only supposed to propel that awkward-shaped ball in all kinds of weather without even one wild heave in a whole afternoon, but he must also have the strength to resist attack and the power to do some driving on his own account. For these reasons, snaps are usually big, agile and game.
We believe the outstanding example of this type among our 1938 Eastern teams is Ottawa’s Moynahan. The Rough Rider rarely falters in his snapping, is an excellent retriever of loose balls, has more than average success in blocking kicks, shows a talent for intercepting passes, and is a strong secondary. Moynahan is one of the best centre men in recent years.
For the two inside wing positions, we have preferred Herman, Ottawa Rough Riders, and Staughton, Toronto Argonauts.
Inclusion on all-star teams is not new to Herman, for the burly 265-pound Rider has long been recognized as a football giant. While “Tiny’s” size and strength are admirable for defense, he also ¡xissesses sufficient speed to block kicks, pick up loose balls, and even elude his opponents in goal-line dashes. In addition, Herman is one of the most successful placement kickers in Canadian football. From 35 yards “in” he is a real threat, and his achievement of four converts in one game without a miss is something for any backfielder to emulate.
Staughton lacks Herman’s heft and kicking ability, but he is defensively superior to his Ottawa rival. Strong, smart, durable, rarely out of position, always reliable, Staughton’s ability is mostly recognized by coaches and players. Offensively he travels fast, is popular with his mates and opponents, and is a former captain of his team.
The two middle wings that we have selected are Dave Sprague, Ottawa Rough Riders, and Mike Clawson, Sarnia Impe rials.
Both players are true middles who do not wander into other line positions; both are over six feet tall and pack appropriate bulk. Sprague has long been famous for his high - stepping, hard - driving angular smashes. He is the tyjie of player who may be stopped twice, but is likely to gallop 30 yards on his third effort.
Clawson, former University of Kansas star, does not equal Sprague as a ball carrier, but he does carve a lot of 5-yard gains, frequently intercepts passes and blocks kicks, is very fast for his weight, and tackles well in open field. Originally a team mate of the late Ormond Beach in United States football, Clawson readily adapted himself to the Canadian game and
has been an important cog in Sarnia’s successful rugby machine.
Outside wings have more opportunity to receive public acclaim than other linesmen, for their work is generally performed in the open. Because of this prominence the names of good outsides are always numerous, and thus our selection is made more difficult.
However, after considering the talents of about fifty candidates, we chose Thornton, Toronto Argonauts, and Reynolds, Balmy Beach. Both players are former university stars, Thornton having played with Queen’s and Reynolds with University of Toronto. The Balmy Beach outside is thirty years old but still possesses real speed. In the first Sarnia game he scooped up a loose ball at midfield and beat fast Imperial backs to the goal line. Even without that spectacular achievement. Reynolds has earned his place by hard accurate tackling and robust line work.
This is “Bernie” Thornton’s first year in the Interprovincial Union, and his ankle snatching and forward-pass receiving have been uniformly good. Thornton's football education at Queen’s was certainly complete, for the Argonaut star has an uncanny instinct for detecting opposing plays.
Again acknowledging my indebtedness to my capable associates, the final selection for the 1938 Maclean's All-Eastern team stands as follows;
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