Schedule change puts Whiskey Jacks into playoff game Friday night

Lucas Punkari/Daily Herald Jacques Flemming of the Prince Albert Whiskey Jacks works his way past a member of the Saskatoon Kradgers last Wednesday night at Max Clunie Field.

Life comes at you fast in the world of rugby in Saskatchewan.

Following a victory over the Saskatoon Kradgers at Max Clunie Field last Wednesday night, the Prince Albert Whiskey Jacks were gearing up to wrap up their regular season slate on Saturday against the Regina Highlanders.

However, things would change on Monday as the team found out that game was canceled and they would instead be playing in a Division II provincial semifinal game on Friday night in Saskatoon against the Saskatoon Gophers.

“Our schedule this year has been interesting to say the least,” Whiskey Jacks player Darcy Murphy said during the team’s practice Wednesday evening.

“We found out pretty late in the day on Monday that we would be having our first playoff game this weekend. Obviously, we had to change up our game plans a little bit, but we’re ready to go.”

This will mark the first time this year that the Whiskey Jacks will take on the Gophers, who finished at the bottom of the North Saskatchewan Rugby Union Division I standings but moved down to the Division II provincial playoffs in a crossover format that’s similar to the one that is used in the Canadian Football League.

“We’ve matched up against some of their players already this year, but it’s always different when you have the variations that come with them being on a team,” Murphy said.

“We’re focusing on our game and not what they bring to the field. We’ve been working hard on getting our team play all set for Friday and putting together a few plays that will help us out.”

Although they had a 1-3 record in the regular season, the Whiskey Jacks are entering the playoffs with some momentum on their side following their 45-17 triumph over the Kradgers last week.

“We really used the physical aspect of our game to pull away in the second half as we were able to wear the Kradgers down,” Murphy said.

“That’s pretty similar to what our teams were like in the past. We’ve always had some tough boys up front and some flash in the back with the Fijian players, who really took things over last year. Now we’re back to being a meat and potatoes type group that’s tough to play against.”

The winner of Friday’s contest will advance to the provincial final, which the Whiskey Jacks won last year for the first time.

The opponent for that game, which is expected to take place in Saskatoon during the second week of September, will be the winner of a provincial semifinal contest between the Regina Highlanders and the Regina Condors.