Thursday, November 5, 2009

The fallacy of individual awards

The Gryphons women’s rugby team are moving on to the national championships in British Columbia, fresh off an impressive win over the Western Mustangs in the OUA title game. These undefeated Gryphons feature Brittany Benn, the OUA’s leading scorer, Jacey Murphy, perhaps the league’s most powerful player, and Colette McAuley, their head coach who has never failed to lead the team to an OUA medal in her 13 years with the club, the first ten coming as an assistant.
And yet, none of these women’s names could be found when the OUA dealt out the individual awards for Most Valuable Player and Coach of the Year at the end of the regular season.

Without taking anything away from Western’s Laura Russell and Laurier’s Jennifer Armitage, who won the Most Valuable Player and Coach of the Year awards, respectively, these women pale in comparison to Guelph’s finest.
Forgive me for being a homer, but I’ve got to agree with the sentiments that I overheard from onlookers following the individual ceremonies on Saturday. These awards are a farce.

Benn led the league with 13 tries and 12 converts, despite playing on field conditions that were never particularly favourable. Her 89 points exceeded the second-leading scorer, Andrea Wadsworth of Queen’s by an incredible 39 points. No player came anywhere near Benn in terms of dominating the attacking and kicking games this season, and yet her accomplishments were not enough to garner top honours? Did I mention that she did all this as just a second-year player? Farce.

Murphy is one of the most well-rounded players in the league. The third-year 8-man was a constant pillar of force for the Gryphons, scoring tries, breaking tackles, passing to her teammates and holding the opposition at bay. Her eight tries placed her third beyond Benn and Wadsworth for most in the OUA. Yet no accolades? Farce.

Or consider McAuley, a Gryphon rugby alum, former member of the national team and a coach who has never failed to put her team on the podium in her 13 years as a team administrator, including three OUA titles in the past four years. She has constantly replenished the Gryphon talent pool via deft recruiting and her dedication to hard work has resulted in the Gryphons playing above and beyond their competition every week. And they keep getting better. I’m sure Armitage is a capable coach, but let’s face it, the Golden Hawks (1-4) finished in last place, including a 90-0 loss to McAuley’s Gryphons. I guess that instead of recognizing individual accomplishments, the OUA opted for rewarding mediocrity this year. Farce.

In each and every game this year, the Gryphons have won as a team. If you asked them about their names being omitted from the individual awards, they’ll surely shrug it off. They play for all the right reasons: team reasons. But their accomplishments would not be what they are if it weren’t for the work of some extremely talented individuals; individuals that were not given their due respect by the OUA. The league needs to reconsider its selection strategy; it has failed its most successful individuals in the greatest way. Guelph Gryphons: OUA champions. OUA selection committee: Farce.

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