Articles

MACLEAN’S ALL-CANADIAN TEAM

TED REEVE December 1 1948
Articles

MACLEAN’S ALL-CANADIAN TEAM

TED REEVE December 1 1948

The Moaner watched the best, in the East and West, as a coach this year. These caught his eye — through the tears

MACLEAN’S ALL-CANADIAN TEAM

Articles

TED REEVE

RUGBY FOOTBALL schedules are growing so long and so rugged that an All-Star selector can almost sit back and pick the survivors for his dream team.

This process of elimination among the leading linemen and busier backs via the emergency wards has, at various times this autumn, taken care of such football worthies as racing Royal Copeland and Joseph Krol of the Toronto Argonauts. The general wear and tear (or disastrous strings of injuries, as the sports writers prefer to call ’em) also rattled the camps of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, the Saskatchewan Rough Riders of Regina, Toronto Beaches-Indians, Hamilton Wildcats and Montreal Alouettes for weeks at a time.

Because of this, perhaps, certain well-packed teams, strong on reserve strength, dominated the season, at least during the scheduled play. The Ottawa Rough Riders, two-deep with experienced men in every position, the surging Stampeders of Calgary with their reinforcements that were gathered all the way from Winnipeg to Honolulu, and the Tigers from the football hotbed of Hamilton ran rather roughhsod through the three top Conference shedules and, owing to their victory strings, managed to supply a number of the headline players. Or vice versa.

Three other items may have been noticed by the closer gridiron observers during the 1948 campaign.

First: On the wing lines where experience and mature strength play so

The All-Stars

Ends—Ralph Toohey, Montreal; Woody Strode, Calgary.

Middles—Bronco Reese, Montreal; John Waggoner, Ottawa.

Insides—Don MacKenzie, Toronto Beaches-Indians; Eddie Michaels, Ottawa.

Centre—Jake Gaudaur, Hamilton Tigers.

Quarterback—Frank Filchock, Hamilton Tigers.

Flying Wing—Tony Golab, Ottawa.

Halfbacks—Howie Turner, Ottawa; Keith Spaith, Calgary; Paul Rowe, Calgary.

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large a part, a good many of the great Canadian wingers finally began to tire from the grind.

Secondly: The stadiums were filled with fast-running young Canadian halfbacks. As Frank Filchock, the brilliant playing coach of Hamilton Tigers, and other Americaris have mentioned, the native runner is as fleet and elusive as the best of the U. S. college stars. Almost every team had a couple who could dart from scrimmage or scuttle and dodge through an open field like Bugs Bunny on a jag.

Thirdly: A remarkably high percentage of imported talent made good. Some of them were second-year men in our game, but many others took to the running start and the moving backfield of the Canadian manoeuvres as though they had been at the trade since prepschool days. Others, as usual, failed to live up to advance notices owing to the old injuries they brought along with them, and a few of the tourists, of course, still shun the training grind which has often been the reason they are athletic travelers. But, by and

large, the Canadian importers made many fortunate investments.

So, before being called by the referees for spending too much time in the huddle, leave us get to the Canadian all-star selections, put them in print, fearfully as ever, and fall back before the firing. With the reminder, again, that the running half, the ends and the inside wing, or guard as our broadcasters prefer to call it now, gave us the hardest headaches while conferring with our scouts. And it is with great reluctance that, on the strength of scoreboards, we have to include four men from one team, three from another.

The Big Four from the Big Force of the Big Four, Ottawa’s Rough Riders, are Eddie Michaels, inside, John Waggoner, middle, Howie Touchdown Turner, halfback, and the perennial pick Anthony Colab, as plunging and secondary halfback.

Michaels, a veteran of the pro football and pro wrestling wars, must be deep in his 30’s but is fast enough afoot, a very powerful and cagey individual and one of the best exponents of the running block that we have had in these parts. Critics say he drifts a bit too much with the play on the defensive, but that puts it up to his opponents to drift right along and do something about it. Eddie, who reminds one a bit

of the great Brian Timmis as he roams the field, scorning a helmet, has aided Wally Masters with the coaching duties on the line and, in fact, has made himself right at home in a capable and businesslike fashion.

Waggoner is young, a rangy 210pounder, who just missed making the pro big leagues in the States, probably owing to the fact that down there unless a tackle weighs about 235 and up they throw him back as the saying goes in angling circles. He is a driving competitor and a deadly tackier, somewhat along the cut of Christman the A merk who played with Ottawa last year, or perhaps more reminiscent of Ernie Hempey when that hard rock was the defensive ace with M.A.A.A., or of Martin Gainor, the former Blue Bomber. The Ottawa football connections in and around Philadelphia have paid off this year in the point of making the Ottawa line a power. We

do not think th°y were quite as strong as the Argo infantry of the past three years, or the Beaches of two seasons back, but they were good.

The surgical skill of a great fan Dr. Andy Davis is responsible for the outstanding efforts of our third OttawaAinerican-All-Canadian, the nimble Howard Turner. A college flash in Carolina, a star in an Orange Bowl game, he had one of those numerous knee injuries that plague pigskin performers. It almost finished his football career. His lack of two good legs made it possible for the Riders to obtain him a year ago. In 1947 he gave flashes of the form that had made him a Dixieland dasher but it is difficult to concentrate on kicking or cutting a corner when a knee may lock at any moment. A cartilage operation that “took” gave this slim-looking speed boy a new lease of football life. His punting ability— he is one of the four or five best kickers

in Canada—plus his running and forward passing—gave the Riders a triple threat to go with the rest of their flashy rear guard.

Tony Golab needs no further space extolling his football ability. The powerful Polish boy from Windsor has been a tremendous plunger, tackier and team player for a decade, although he is still a young veteran. This year with more attention given to plays that would set him crashing over the w'ide side, and with less of the bull work to do by himself, Tony seemed to suffer less from his war wounds or from the football injuries that have dogged his hardhitting career. He is still one of the surest defensive backer-uppers in the sport, throwing his speed and 215pound, six-foot body especially well from the side to stop end sweeps or open field breaks.

In choosing three Calgary players we realize the argument might well be advanced that the unfortunate schedule arrangements in the West, whereby each of the three teams plays the other two until all sides are practically in step, hardly gives a full test to a team such as the Stampeders who took 12 consecutive wins in their league. But here again the selection of Woody Strode, Paul Rowe and Keith Spaith can be backed up by their past performances. Spaith and Strode, one a youngster, the other a veteran, were stars in a strong minor American league for the Honolulu Warriors last year. Rowe is a holdover from the powerhouse Calgary teams of prewar days when, time and again t hey looked to be the class of the West, only to lose out to mighty machines out of Winnipeg.

Piston Paul is having his best year. Like Golab, he has been pepped up by having better interference to lead him and more help in his tireless defensive work. Like Tony, he is showing no ill effects of his war-service years and the pair of them, with their size and speed, would make the ideal left and right secondaries and the double-line smashing threat. Rowe is very fast, weighs around 210 and is a flaming competitor.

A Nod for Big Jake

Spaith is a slightly larger edition of Ah Box, the triple-threat who played with Beaches and Argos and talked for a while about coming back to play for the Double Blue this fall. Spaith does not kick quite as well as Box did but is nevertheless a great punter with the easy swinging motion that can get a heavy ball or a quick kick away equally well. He is an adept ball-handler in the T-formation. He has not, under the unlimited interference rules (which in some ways spoil an all-round game), been forced to show much defensive power, but rates with the finest passers we have had in Canada. He throws a fast short one of the rainbow type for easy catches. Russ Rebholz. one of the first and most versatile of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ importations in the 1930’s, comes to mind when we think of Spaith’s work.

Strode is a big colored man who has an uncanny way of working into the clear to take forward passes. He is adequate defensively, but hardly the sort of ankle-clutching end who is typical of the Canadian game. But he ranks with Marquardt „of the Blue Bombers, Copeland, Thornton, Haigh, Don Young and a few more among the best pass receivers, past and present. He is heavy enough to look after himself along the formations.

He and Spaith are a sort of Krol to Cope combo and their split-second timing has given more than one scribe a chance to knock himself out with cracks about time and Spaith.

With four Rough Riders and three

Stampeders we are beginning to wonder if we are getting together a rugby team or a rodeo. So let’s add a couple of Hamilton Tigers, two Montreal Alouettes and one Indian (a Beaches-Indian that is) and you have the line breakers’ dozen.

At centre, most difficult of all football spots, we go back to another selection of other years: Big Jake Gaudaur of the Hamilton Tigers. Tall, hefty, fast and a keen diagnostician of plays, this large son of a famous oarsman has the educated feet of the lacrosse player and the reach of a sculler. He is adept at both those sports. Jake also has a peculiar knee that stood up remarkably well this autumn. Playing on a club that was somewhat sensational on the attack but not too strong along the wing line defensively, he had to play plenty of roving centre and his clutch, tackling and sound work on pass defense stood his team in good stead. Battle-scarred snapbacks, no strangers to all-star teams in the past (Loney, Doug Turner, Cosgrove), were still among the more effective at this thankless football post. That’s another indication that it takes a long while to develop a centre in Canadian football. Even the experienced Amerks at that job need at least a full season to get accustomed to the amount of motion going on in the attacking backfield. (Note: Don’t

raise your boy to be a snapback.)

Big Year for Frank

The Hamilton Tigers, a team that by a change of sweaters could almost pass for the Calgary Stampeders, so much alike were they in style and personnel, may have had an easier schedule than some of the Big Four clubs—or even than the Calgarys—but Gaudaur, as he journeyed from Argos to Air Force to Indians to Alouettes to Hamilton, has played in all company. The same can be said of Frank Filchock, the other Tiger taken on this mythical 12. A great professional in the U. S. National League when he came to Hamilton last year with a terrific buildup, and over the protests of many of the opposing teams, he played good, steady, hardhitting football but hardly set the Big Four ablaze. That his teammates realized his value, however, was demonstrated when the Tigers’ players committee agreed to share the wealth co-operatively as long as the executive would rehire Filchock as playing coach. Spurred by this confidence and working from a system of plays that gave him full scope for the passing ability that made him a marksman with Washington Redskins and New York Giants, and helping as coach to develop one of the fastest breaking backfields in the land, Filchock had a great and heart-warming season. A strong runner, he could fake a throw and come hightailing through the open. A sturdy competitor, he never spared himself and was almost as important on the defense, on the tertiary, as he was on the attack.

So, with Filchock crouching at quarter, we have a backfield made up of the Tiger star Golab at flying wing and Spaith, Rowe, and Turner halfbacks.

Among the kickers Turner is the best runner. And, among the runners like Harper, Hamilton Tigers; Sokol, Sarnia Imperials; Bass, Cunningham, Pal of Alouettes; Patterson, Saskatchewan Rough Riders of Regina; Hiney of the Blue Bombers; Charlton of the Rough Riders, Turner is the best kicker and passer.

Spaith and Filchock are the best forward passers with the exception of Porter of Beaches-Indians and Krol of

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Argonauts, who were out much of the season with injuries, or Grant of Saskatchewan Rough Riders of Regina, and Coulter of Montreal Alouettes, who has yet to develop his talents fully. Paffrath of Ottawa Rough Riders is a fine all-round player and a good passer but he has not the crashing defensive strength of Golab or Rowe. The same is true of the overworked Sandberg of the Blue Bombers.

And there was that potentially great quarterback Frankie Dunlap of Argos, who sat out a good part of the season but caught fire late in the term to display the kind of ball he can play.

The Alouettes Wagner, who can lug a ball with any of them, would be, on a recount, the most likely to fit into the mythical 12, if you decided to drop Spaith or Turner and left the passing to Filchock. Kijek of the Alouettes ranks with the best as a kicker. Walsh of Hamilton Tigers is a powerful plunger and Hazel of Toronto BeachesIndians is a gent who can play anywhere on a club and still do some of the booting. You could go on like this down an impressive list, but we still have to take those two outsize Canadian citizens, Golab and Rowe, for those secondary defense slots.

If Strode is the pass-catching, or southwestern style of end, made so useful by formations such as the T that stress the pitch and catch, young Ralph Toohey, the Alouettes’ battling outside wing, is a throwback to the days of Harold Starr and the Ottawa Irish, who flew into every play with a breakneck disregard for the health. A Montreal product and a second-year man, Toohey is a fair pass receiver but has been mainly valuable as a fighting member of a team that looked as though it might bog down completely in the early part of the season. He is no giant but is bigger than Cutler, the former Argo, whose dynamic tackling is recalled by this young man, who seems to be in for a short life but an exciting one as a driving end.

Want an Argument?

The third Canadian on the line to keep company with Gaudaur and Toohey is inside wing Don Shanty MacKenzie, Toronto Beaches-India ns, a repeater from my last year’s all-star selections. Lacking some of his former weight, he still packs 210 pounds of quick-breaking speed, can tackle in the open, play the backfield, submarine or run interference with the best of them. One of the best team men it has ever been our pleasure to see on a squad, this game, ex-sergeant-major helped to hold together a team plagued with injuries throughout the autumn. Not quite as good as he was the previous season he still has the youth which, as we said before, is a trifle hard to find along wing lines today.

Rounding—and possibly that is the right word—rounding out the squad is Bronco Reese of Montreal at middle wing. A giant of a man, a former Chicago Bear, carrying experience as a fullback and an alderman’s chest, it seemed as though he might pass away of heat prostration in the fierce temperatures of our early season before he drove his big frame into condition. It seemed as though Coach Hayman might have prostration also as his imports either bogged down or were injured one by one, but Reese finally found himself and was the gent who really revived the Larks when they were at their worst. Doubling at tackle on the attack and centre secondary on the defense he also took a turn at the ball carrying. Still somewhat confused at his defensive post by the Canadian wide swings and cutbacks and men-in-motion, he is very

punishing when he hits. His great size, 1 fair speed and ferocious drive make him I one of the old-type linemen of the Í Wadsworth, Gelhaye stature. We i

could get lots of argument here for ( middle wings like Trawyck of Alouettes i who has not quite shown as much i hurry-up as of old, or Ascott the t Argos’ hard battler who was one of the 1 Scullers still holding his own along the t front wall this year. t

i This, then, is how the front wall c would line up: Gaudaur, centre;

Mackenzie and Michaels insides; Reese c

and Waggoner middle and Toohey and r Strode ends. r

After all, arguments are what Allt Star teams are supposed to start. s

Actually the old-fashioned 12 iron t men All-Star idea of a team is giving \ way all too rapidly to local improvei ments. I

The unlimited substitution rule this £

year has brought out such a flock of 1 specialists that the team should, of f course, include the man who comes on v to run back kicks, the gent who trots in r to boot placements and his friend who a holds the ball for him and the hardd working Big Shoulders who takes the t scat back’s place when there is some i

tackling to be done, to say nothing of the chap from the players’ committee s

who stands up in the huddles and a counts the customers. c

Even the undermanned or more r

conservative clubs have taken advanc

tage of the sub-at-any-time notion to r

have a punter rushed in on last down to kick and be subbed immediately by some pass defense speeder who in turn is replaced by the ball-toter type when Our Side gets possession again. So that as the match progresses these chappies and part-time employees of the other team form quite a claque on the sidelines as they run up and down field with the yardstick officials until one gets the feeling that one is back on the jolly old towpath at Putney.

Thus our 1948 All-Stars lack, we confess, a really capable blocking or mousetrapping quarter such as the redoubtable Hamilton Wildcat Gnup, or a hard, slanting six-foot-three specialist such as John Lake of Beaches-Indians to play wingback for reverse plays which demand a certain type of running or move in over centre for high toss passes, or a wet-ball booter. Dug Smith of the Tigers, for example, or a halfback such as the pro baseball player Harper, also of the Bengals, who was Filchock’s favorite target for running passes from the spread. Or again the likes of Grant and Lee, who despite their Civil War monikers combine so well for Regina on short flips into the flat.

In case you are one who demands the same next year we will pick the modern all-star team of defenders, attackers, delayers, pinch hitters and customers’ men. And, in doing so, will have to demand a bigger bench and a larger magazine. -fa