Victoria Shamrocks take pride in team effort (From the Times Colonist)

It was not a Mann Cup season, nor was it a fourth-straight league championship year. But in a sense, the 2016 Western Lacrosse Association campaign was just as gratifying for the Victoria Shamrocks.

“It was rewarding, for all of us,” head coach Bob Heyes said. “It really bodes well.

“We were criticized last year that we had bought a Mann Cup or brought all the name players in. We showed that, hey, we can do it another way, too. You get those local guys who want to be there with all that heart. It may not be just as good as the name players, but it’s just as satisfying for the organization.”

Together — minus big-name players such as Dan Dawson, Aaron Bold, Ryan Dilks, Steve Priolo, Scott Ranger, Rory Smith, Dan MacRae, Daryl Veltman, Mitch Jones and key locals Karsen Leung and Tyler Hass — the Shamrocks managed to piece together the same 14-4 regular-season record from 2015.

Then to lose players such as Jesse King, Ian McShane, Doug Langlois and Josh Fagan within the first few playoff games and still get to the sixth game of the championship series was an incredible result. It came to a close in Friday’s 10-9 loss in Maple Ridge as the injuries compounded further, with Jeff Shattler’s groin injury not allowing him to even run anymore. Greg Harnett was also at a point where, if a Game 7 had been necessary, he might not have played. “I was just looking at the journey we’ve been down,” general manager Chris Welch said. “In the last 29 days, we had 15 games — our final two regular-season games and then 13 very physical, very intense playoff games. I’m burned out, I can’t even imagine how the players are doing. “I have never seen a team so banged up that played with so much heart and effort. We were pretty wrecked coming out of that [seven-game] Burnaby series and, by Friday’s game, we were hanging on by an absolute thread. “If we had been fortunate enough to get by Maple Ridge, I don’t know how we would have done it going out East,” Welch said. “Shattler was done for the year. King and McShane were done for the year. Langlois and Fagan should have been done for the year. Greg Harnett should have been done for the year. The list goes on. There were a bunch of guys taking a big risk by playing for us.” Related Burrards bounce Shamrocks for good It was a team which back in the off-season was unknown. Sure, it had its core — with Rhys Duch, Corey Small, Cory Conway, King, Chris Wardle, Tyler Burton, Greg and Jon Harnett, Matt Yager, Ben McCullough and Ethan Garland — but the other half was an experiment in the making. “In February and March, forecasting and looking ahead, we were seriously questioning what type of team we were going to have and how we would put a full team together. We were in a desperate situation,” Welch said. “With the incredible amount of turnover we had from last season, if you would have told me then that this team we put together would finish first in the regular season and would go to Game 6 of the WLA finals, I would have said: ‘You’re out of your mind.’ “Full credit to them and full credit to this coaching staff,” he said of Heyes, Art Webster, Dave Lowdon and Terry Dennett. “How this coaching staff does not win a coach of the year honour — we only did a three-year run as league champs and won a national title, and capped that off by completely rebuilding a team that still finishes first. “How it gets no recognition is an insult to Bob Heyes and his staff, who do a remarkable job, year-in and year-out. They deserve more recognition than they get.” As does Welch, for bringing back Shattler and adding the likes of McShane, Taylor Northway, Paul Brebber, Langlois, Tom Arsenault, Steve Higgs, Thomas Moffat, Max Cullen and Fagan. Then there were the junior call-ups such as Braylon Lumb, Marshal King and Cole Pickup, who did fine jobs with all the injuries. [email protected] Twitter/tc_vicsports