Editor’s note: This is the third of a four-part series
Really, Wayne Walters could have hung up the cleats in any of the later years of a championship drought that stretched over two decades.
He certainly wouldn’t have been blamed for going out on top after the West Side Monarchs exorcised that ghost in 2016, with their first Corner Brook Molson Senior Men’s Soccer League championship win since 1994.
“No,” he said matter-of-factly, when asked if that thought ever crossed his mind.
“We’re having too much fun.”
Hard to argue with that — especially considering the Monarchs have rode the momentum of that slump-busting title to a three-peat in the years since.
“It’s too bad it happened as late as it did,” he did say of the 2016 championship. “I would’ve liked to have been playing more at the time.”
The 47-year-old was once a fixture on the fullback line of the gold and black, but as they say, Father Time is undefeated, so Walters has seen his minutes reduced over the past few years. At times it’s due to injury, but sometimes it’s just to make way for youth.
“I’ve had my time playing soccer,” he said. “I don’t mind sitting back and watching the young fellas have their time at it.”
He’s still a solid contributor when he gets in the game, however, which is what keeps him coming back year and year. He wouldn’t do it if he didn’t think he could play.
He was relatively late getting involved with the sport. He had played basketball, volleyball and pretty much everything else in junior high, but it wasn’t until high school that he picked up soccer.
Doug Sweetapple, now a prominent member of the Corner Brook Minor Soccer Association executive, was teaching at Herdman Collegiate then and coached the high school team. He played his part in luring Walters to the game, but even more so did his peer group. Pretty much everyone Walters knew played soccer.
“It was just a natural fit I picked it up,” he said, as he reminisced about kicking the ball around after school, either in someone’s back yard or at the pitch on Atlantic Avenue, known now as the Monarchs Complex.
Walters has an appreciation for the game — the beautiful game — that he knows some people think is boring.
“It’s what happens away from the ball,” he explains. “You’ve got 11 guys working for the same goal. It’s a beautiful sport.”
He’s always been a fullback and appreciates the vantage point of the position, seeing the entire field and directing traffic.
“It’s a good starting point to control the game,” he said, acknowledging he probably lacked the goalscorer’s touch to line up elsewhere.
Walters has noticed a change in attitude among his Monarchs teammates in the past few seasons that was missing for the majority of those 22 years between titles. Instead of walking on the field thinking they might be able to win, now they know they can. Other teams now view games against the Monarchs as red-circle games on the calendar.
Walters truly enjoys all of that.
So much so, that despite the potential for more playing time on the men’s league’s Masters squad — a team for the league’s older players — he doesn’t want to leave the Monarchs for a less competitive atmosphere when he’s still got plenty of fight left in him.
Regardless of whether he’s on the field or the sideline, Walters wants to win, but he’s also not particularly known as a guy who would do so by any means necessary, either. He is well-liked and respected around the league.
Some fierce competitors can do it with a smile.
“Depends on who you’re playing,” Walters says with a laugh.
“Some guys and some teams you just want to beat. Other times you go out and just enjoy playing the game.”