BY GORD DUNPHY
Just as most kids back in the older days, Winse started playing soccer in the meadows as a young boy. I know each meadow in St. Lawrence had its own team and it was no different in Lawn.
Lawn had the ‘Strang Siders’, ‘Cross the Brookers’ and ‘Down the Harbours’.
These teams would compete with each other daily, have a scattered fight with each other and after the game, one team would trot around the harbour with no more than having local bragging rights.
Winse Strang started playing competitive soccer at a senior level in 1962. From 1962 to 2000 he never missed a year of competitive soccer.
He played 1st division and was named an All-Star. In 1987, he was a member of the Lawn Challenge Cup team that won the Provincial Title. At that time Winse was 43 years of age!
During times when Lawn didn’t have a 1st Division club, Winse would play with the hometown Lawn Intermediate team. Winse was just three months shy of his 50 birthday when he won the MVP at the All-Newfoundland Provincial Intermediate tournament in St. John’s.
He played Masters soccer with the Laurentians and later played with the Lawn Shamrocks. In 1993, Winse Strang was inducted into the BPSA Hall of Fame. In October of 2011, he became the first Lawn Shamrock to be ever inducted into the NLSA Soccer Hall of Fame.
Winse will now reflect on and share with us some great moments and memories of his remarkable career.
1. You must have some great old stories about soccer. Would you mind sharing a few of those stories with us?
Well I started playing in 1962 when our team made a trip to St. Pierre. During the trip Ted Edwards and Mr. Peter Haley made an offer to me. They would give me $5 each for every goal I scored. I scored three goals and I received $30, which was a lot of money back then.
When I started playing I had a good shot, the goalie couldn’t hold on to any of my shots. That same year, Alex Faulkner the hockey player, played two games with us. One of them was against St. Lawrence and we tied 1-1. That game was in Lawn. Although St Lawrence had strong teams, we always gave them close battles.
Another time I took a shot and broke Sam Tobin’s wrist with it. He still talks about it to this day. In 1968, us and St, Lawrence travelled to St. Pierre together for exhibition games ... that was a good trip and I don’t forget the great party we had.
2. Would you mind sharing some of your memories from the 60s, 70s, 80s games when Lawn played their arch-rivals St. Lawrence and Holy Cross?
St. Lawrence and Grand Bank always had strong teams. Being a member of the 1966 BPSA All-Stars, with my brother George, was very special to me. That was a strong team. Bow Collier, Red Fizzard, Norm Kelly and Wils Molloy were on the team to name a few.
In 1968 I can still remember the Lawn Juniors defeating the Holy Cross Juniors in a game played in St. Lawrence. Fox Reddy was on the Holy Cross team.
One game in St. Lawrence in 1973 we beat the Laurentians 4-3. I scored three goals in that one, playing on the left wing. When we played St. Lawrence, Junior Edwards was the man who was assigned to try and mark me but I was too fast for him.
Being a part of the 1987 Lawn Shamrocks that won the Provincial Challenge Cup was a big thrill for the team and the town. After that victory the players were all treated like heroes.
Prior to 87, I had played Masters with St. Lawrence in 1985 and 1986 then in 1987 I went back to Lawn to play with our Challenge Cup team. We beat Holy Cross right on their home field at KGV on penalty shots. Our goalie, Rod Drake, was the star of the game but we had a real good back line too and a extremely solid team.
3. Want to give us a little insight on the Lawn fans and especially the ones that were situated on ‘Critic Hill’?
The Lawn fans were very loyal and plentiful. The field would be jam-packed for all of our home games and it was great privilege for a player to play for them. The fans that were situated on Critic Hill were really what I would call “die hard fans.”
They treasured their home team and simply put, they hated the opposition. To get a ‘top seat’ on critic hill, you had to get there early. Once they had a few sociable, they really gave it to the officials.
4. Name three of the greatest players that you ever played with?
Rod Drake would have to be #1. Then I would have to say Colin Edwards, Rod Roul and Bruddy Edwards. I know that’s four but that’s the way I got to tell it. Joe Edwards, and my brother George, are up there too. Forty-eight years of playing soccer, I played with a lot of good Shamrocks.
5. Name three of the greatest players that you ever played against?
Bow Collier would be #1.He was like Jagr playing hockey ... you just couldn’t move Bow. Mink Haskell from St. Lawrence was a good player and he was terrific on the head and very hard to beat. Bucky Warren from Burin was very solid as well.
6. What is the biggest change in soccer you have seen in the last 50 years?
Biggest change would have to be the format from five forwards, three halves and two backs to four backs four mid-fields and two forwards ... we had no tap tap tap ... we were full speed ahead.
7. In general, what do you feel the future holds for soccer in Newfoundland and Labrador Soccer?
As for the future of soccer, I would say it is very bright in the St John’s area ... there are more kids playing minor soccer than ever before. But in Lawn, it is dreadfully sad to go down the harbour and look at the field. No players! No fans!
Just a meadow of memories.
Lawn was one of the hotbeds for soccer but here, like in a lot of other towns on the Burin Peninsula, it is just dying. I don’t think we’ll ever see a team again in Lawn and that is “sad.”
Gord Dunphy is a former Challenge Cup 1990s All-Star coach of the St. Lawrence Laurentians and National Bronze Medalist. He can be followed on Twitter ‘@GordDunphy’ or be reached by e-mail at ‘email@example.com’.