80'S & 90'S
January 22, 2020
The eighties began with the club starting a Colts (U18) side, winning championships in 1980 and ’81, continuing until 1983, when it was incorporated into the MRU’s new Third Division. With the club now running four teams, membership was at an all-time high and the Wasps won the Third Division title for five straight years, from 1985 to ’89, adding another Second Division trophy in 1988 as well. The 1st side, although greatly successful in league play, could not repeat the good fortune of the 70s, and despite making seven finals appearances from 1978 to 1990, were not able to recapture the MRU’s top prize. The mid-eighties had the Wasps women dominating their division, with four straight championships from 1985 to 1988. By 1984, the club had fostered a passion for the unique offshoot of snow rugby, and the under the direction of Geoff Ellwand and Marc Pellerin, managed to add snow rugby to the list of events at the Festival du Voyageur celebration. That relationship lasted into the ’90s, when the snow sport was then introduced to the River Trail festival at the Forks and eventually evolved into our own, current Snow Sevens tournament.
The ’80s also saw a return to touring for the club, with travel to the UK and Ireland in 1985, Trinidad and Tobago in ’87 and then Czechoslovakia in 1988 – hugely significant, for it represented the first time a North American club side visited and played rugby in an Eastern Bloc country. The impetus for this trip came about with the 1986 “Athletes Against the Bomb” goodwill tour to Czechoslovakia, organized by Cole summers and largely made up of Wasps players, including guy McKim as player/coach. This became the first side from our continent to travel behind the Iron Curtain, and the tour jersey and booklet were added to the World Rugby Hall of Fame in Twickenham. The Wasps women also toured to the UK and France in 1987 and ’88, while the Port-of-Spain Royalians (Trinidad) made a complementary visit to Winnipeg, to play rugby and renew friendships.
In 1986, a pivotal development occurred for both the Wasps and the MRU, when, through the vision of our own Bob Moffat and the like of Gary MacDonald, Martin Waigh, and Don Pincock, Maple Grove Rugby Park became a reality. Since then, the club has played all of its home games at the pitches on Frobisher Road.
The 1990s and the start of the club’s second half of existence brought further growth and accomplishment. It featured teams in every division, with many of the players from the schools programs of the ’80s and ’90s making the jump to senior play. After a 14-year drought, the First side once again hoisted the cup in 1991 as the MRU’s premier division champions. That year also saw victories by the Seconds and Wasps Women – ac elan sweep for the Waspies. The Firsts would go on to dominate the division in that decade, with Cup wins in 1993, ’94, ’96, and ’99 and reached the final in all but one year. The Second side would repeat as champs again in 1994, ’95, and ’97, and again in 1992.
The ’93 season was noteworthy as well, when the Second side, competing in the First division, knocked off the heavily favoured Assassins in quarter-final action and, along with the 1sts, reached the semi-finals.
In 1995, the club came up with the idea for the “Manitoba in a Day” tour. The day featured three matches, against Portage La Prairie, Brandon and Dauphin, and served to be a farewell to Lyle “Two More” Hicks, who was leaving the club and the province. Travel was done on the Wasps bus, and with the promise of free beer from our man, Tony Gardiner of the Cambridge Hotel. The only caveat: they head to complete the game and be back at the hotel by midnight. Mission accomplished!
Other highlights of this decade had the First side winning the 1996 provincial league, provincial championship, the MAN-SASK Cup against Regina’s Champion Grads (the only Manitoba team to ever win that cup) and the MARR (Manitoba Association of Rugby Referees) Spirit of the Game award – all in one season. In 1998, the Wasps 7s team, winners of their own tournament, traveled to the North America 7s Championship in Vancouver, where they defeated a side from Sacramento to win the Bowl segment. Such success was reminiscent of the Cambridge Gophers 7s of the early 80s