The V.I. Raiders think they can get back on top, because they’ve been there and they know what it takes.
The Vancouver Island Raiders junior football club has its new board in place and is looking forward to what will be another season of change, after firing head coach Brian Ridgeway last month.
Back as a board member is Hadi Abassi, who was suspended from Canadian Junior Football League sidelines all last season after an unpopular rant at the previous year’s Canadian Bowl national championship.
Abassi argues with Ridgeway’s contention of negativity within the franchise, saying the Raiders’ winning tradition was as positive a story as could be written. Abassi and Ridgeway were at odds for most of the coach’s one-year tenure.
“I did not agree with some of the decisions he made, but that wasn’t the primary factor [in his firing],” Abassi said. “Nobody more than me wanted to have this relationship work with Brian here as our head coach, but as a franchise, as a team, we all decided, no, it was good for the team to take a different direction.”
That direction could have a retro feel.
“We have a winning formula that we had for nine years as a franchise, so why would we want to change that winning formula?” he asked. “We’re going to do whatever we did in the past under coach [Matthew Blokker]’s direction and we should learn from him and move in that direction.”
Abassi said no fan is satisfied with losing, and he wasn’t, but he said he was “very happy” with the coaching staff’s on-field results. However, the franchise’s long-term vision, Abassi said, requires greater stability.
The Raiders hope they will have that with a new coach. The club received immediate interest in its coaching vacancy and could be close to an announcement.
The new candidate might find himself with an experienced support staff – Abassi said he will ask former assistant coaches, alumni and others to consider coming back in some capacity.
“Yes, they all retired or they moved on because of family life and everything, but I’m going to ask them to come back and be a part of the organization again…” Abassi said. “It’s a team, it’s a family and we’re going to bring that unity back.”