KEITH WILKINSON CUP
April 30th, 2022 from 12:30 PM to 5:00 PM
at John Abbott College
Join us for a day of rugby in honour of Keith Wilkinson on April 30th for the inaugural Keith Wilkinson Cup. The Montreal Wanderers, Mississauga Blues, and Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue Rugby Football Club will host an annual rugby day in honour of the man that had such an impact on all of our clubs. Join us for some rugby and to raise a glass in honour of the man we all love so much.
Keith Wilkinson: the ultimate “Saint” in Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue RFC
By Bill Tierney Keith Wilkinson has just died after a fierce and prolonged battle with Parkinson’s. Hard to believe for a man so fit and so resistant, but here we all are dealing with Keith’s death. As Martin Silverstone put it, in case I’d forgotten, “It’s Keith’s final whistle.” Game over.
Who was he? You will hear and read lots in the memorials that are planned in the spring. Keith was a major influence on rugby here and all across Canada. But perhaps it’s appropriate for me to answer this question: why was he so important to SABRFC, Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue Rugby Football Club?
Keith Wilkinson was the ultimate ringer for Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue Rugby Football Club, our young rugby club back in the seventies. He was the secret ingredient for our young teams of rugby players in Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue. He took us to the next rungs on the ladder.
Back in those days, I played with Keith for the great Wanderers team in the 70s and I suggested that he should apply to teach English at John Abbott where I had just started in 1971. He got offered a job and I knew right away: our game and practice in Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue would be revolutionized because Keith Wilkinson was serious.
Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue RFC grew out of the Bobby Clark’s Macdonald College team (the very old photos of Martin) and the early John Abbott teams of Randy Flanagan-Kevin McMullen-Steve Jameson (check out the walls by the Casgrain gyms). We established a steady flow of players but we still needed an ambitious rugby thinker. Capturing Keith Wilkinson, who towards the end of his international career was establishing his young family in Baie d’Urfe, was a coup and we all knew it.
After all, Keith was still playing international rugby. He was playing against the best players in the world. And every time he stepped onto the field with us he brought the excitement of the big games with him. He was a markedly inspirational centre.
He was distinguished in his old rugby community in England, at Cambridge University and in county teams. Some people even thought he was posh: after all, one of his college acquaintances was Prince Charles. And he may have spoken an impeccable Brit English, but It didn’t matter: he was here to stay, very democratic and, anyway, it was all about his intensity. He gave a maximum intensity to every intervention at all the levels he played and worked at. There was no condescension in his game: you got tackled, he got tackled. He never used humiliation to provoke or challenge. It was all very healthy.
Which is one of the reasons he was such a good coach. Everyone liked Keith. He had wonderful manners, charm even and great control of his behaviour. His old students loved Keith.
As an athlete, his running action was graceful but explosively effective. He could motivate our own elite players because he was there already and yet here he was playing alongside you. You could measure yourself against him. And he brought his magical reputation and practice to all levels. Twice a week and then he’d be playing in your team on the weekend. It was magic.
As our coach and planner, he immediately wrote a 5-year plan for the club. He was serious about it. And made it happen in 2 years. We upped the ambition. By the third year, we could field two teams good enough to compete with each other in practice, and we did.
He was appointed provincial coaching authority and set about giving clinics to coaches and players who then went back to their secondary schools to coach. The plan aimed for a certain number of certified club coaches long before that became compulsory. Keith was way ahead of other planners.
Keith was with SABFC for many years. We went through several plans. He made our players into formidable teams. He never stopped working at the national (Canadian) level and somehow managed to keep all this going through many successful years.
He was fearless. I thought I was tough, and I was, but Keith was fearless. And he had several serious injuries to prove it.
Keith took on a lot of rugby challenges but he was most successful in Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue. So how do we feel about our ultimate Saint, Keith Wilkinson? He brought our club to higher levels of competition. The players who are probably reading this memoir all improved under his guidance. Along the way, we produced many top-level players, men and later women
So, if you have the honour, as I did recently, of standing around a blazing fire at minus 20 by the pond celebrating Keith Wilkinson’s life with some of our most famous players and social animators, you won’t find many people who don’t have fond memories of Keith Wilkinson.
I know he impressed me for the 50-odd years we were friends and teammates. And I can find you a lot of Saints who agree with me.
Cheers, Keith! Thank you for all those training sessions, including the sprints, all that planning, and all that travel with the club. Thank you from all the Saints! You will be missed. See you later.
SCHEDULE OF EVENTS (tbc)
12:30PM to 1:30 PM – Junior Game(s)
1:30 PM to 3:00 PM – Senior Women’s Game
3:00 PM to 4:30 PM – Senior Men’s Game
4:30 PM to 5:00 PM – Tribute to Keith Wilkinson
6:00 PM onwards – Post Games Social (location to be determined)
**Let your coach know if you are available to play! **