Nate Hirayama is at the Dubai Sevens this week in preparation for the Tokyo Olympics. The two men that helped get him there, his former University of Victoria coaches, conducted their final practice half a world away with the current Vikes on Thursday at Wallace Field following more than a quarter century guiding the program.
UVic head coach Doug Tate is retiring after 27 years at the helm and manager and assistant-coach Rick Farrally after 26 seasons at Tate’s side.
After three Canadian university championships and two B.C. Premiership Rounsefell Cup titles in XVs, six national university titles in sevens and several World Cup players and Olympians produced, it all ended with a final practice in a season without rugby.
“It’s a difficult year to go out — I really feel for the graduating university and high school players — but everybody stayed in good spirits,” said Tate, 64.
What came before was epic on the field and off.
“You look at [Vikes graduate and 2003 World Cup player] Mark Lawson, who is now a doctor at Royal Jubilee Hospital, and [Canada-capped Vikes product] David Spicer, who is an internal medicine doctor. And at least 10 engineers, and you realize it has been worthwhile on so many levels,” said Tate.
“People have asked me to name an all-star UVic top-XV from my time.
“But from [Canada sevens greats Nathan Hirayama and Sean Duke to [two-time World Cup player and 2011 Canada World Cup captain] Pat Riordan, where would I start?” You could throw in former UVic star Adam Kleeberger and his flowing beard that made global headlines at the 2011 World Cup.
Even with his lengthy tenure, Tate retires as a relative neophyte among UVic coaches. Peter Vizsolyi has coached the Vikes swim team for 39 years, former Olympian Lynne Beecroft the field-hockey team for 37 years and former Canada World Cup captain Bruce Wilson the UVic men’s soccer team for 33 years.
Brent Fougner retired in 2019 after coaching the Vikes track and cross-country teams for 31 years and Rick Crawley in 2018 after guiding the women’s rowing team for 35 years.
All produced national team athletes, including numerous Olympians.
“You would need a bus to wheel us all out of here after all these years,” Tate quipped.
For Tate, it has always been a partnership with Farrally, including seven years together as head and assistant coaches, respectively, with the Canadian sevens team
“Doug said he needed some help at UVic more than 25 years ago and it meshed perfectly,” said Farrally, 77.
“It’s the best job I’ve ever had. Doug made it so easy to coach alongside him. He is so creative and the ideas just flowed out of him.”
UVic will name a new head coach before September.