New West native steers Swiss hopes at worlds

It may not be the international game that soccer is, but lacrosse has most of the corners of the globe covered, at least going by the competition at the world indoor lacrosse championships, which begin Thursday at the Langley Events Centre.

Countries like Australia, Serbia, Israel and Costa Rica are among the 20 nations challenging for some form of victory – moral or otherwise. Peppered among those teams in pursuit of defending champion Canada are Lower Mainlanders chasing the dream.

But there are at least two schools of thought on building a national program, with some courting those with ancestry backgrounds to their locales, and others going all-in with home-built rosters.

New Westminster’s Brian Tyacke has spent more than three years helping prepare Team Switzerland for its second go-round at the world championships. Living in Germany the past eight years, the 32-year-old accepted the coaching duties with an eye on getting his all-Swiss squad at a level to compete against the unknown.

“We have 23 players, including two from the U.S. and one Canadian, but all the players live in Switzerland,” noted Tyacke. “The Swiss requirements are that players must live in Switzerland and be involved with their Swiss community.”

He took on the volunteer role – with his travel reimbursed – after helping push the game in places like Germany and Finland. The roster, with players as young as 22 and as old as 36, have been keen attendees to the monthly practices, and put up their own funds to attend the tournament.

“For me, I want to show how far lacrosse has come over the past three years in Switzerland,” he noted. “It’s about growing the game and (the players) have put in a lot of time and developed their skills.”

They’ve been in Canada since Sept. 9, training and seeing the sights, but the self-funded team is focusing on representing their nation with pride.

Tyacke, who played for Germany at the 2015 world championships in Syracuse, N.Y., said many on the Swiss squad have a good basis of experience in the sport, through camps and games. With hockey Switzerland’s most popular sport, the team has some of the fundamentals that translate well to the box, plus the arenas to practise in.

Getting game experience, however, has been a hurdle.

“That’s the biggest challenge,” he conceded. “That game experience is how you build your lacrosse IQ. (The players) are quick studies and are hardworking, so everyone’s excited for the tournament to begin.”

Their first opponent on Thursday is Serbia, which has bolstered its lineup with some local additions – including Burnaby’s Alex and Ilija Gajic, Nik Bilic and Marko Konjevic. England has added the Burnaby Lakers’ Sam Clare and is coached by former Burnaby Cablevision star and ex-New West junior ’Bellies coach Dan Perreault.

Tyacke, who grew up playing against Alex Gajic in minor lacrosse, said that first test will be a terrific opportunity for his charges.

“The Gajic brothers are really good, but our guys are excited and dedicated. It’s a team game, so I think all the training we’ve done together should be a benefit,” said Tyacke, who is joined on the bench by brother Neil, who plays goal for the New West senior Salmonbellies.

Other locals involved in the tournament include New West-raised Iain Murray, who lives in England and will be playing for Scotland. Unlike the last world championships when Scotland sought out Canadians with Scottish heritage, including New West’s Daniel McQuade, to pad their lineup, this time the team will be composed of players from the United Kingdom and primarily Scotland.

Other names familiar to local boxla fans include Salmonbellie legend and lacrosse hall-of-famer Rod Banister, who will be coaching Hong Kong, while brothers Rick and Rusty Wills lead the Netherlands’ training staff.

The tourney starts Thursday when Australia plays Costa Rica, and Scotland takes on Slovakia at 10:30 a.m.

The schedule and info on tickets can be found at www.wilc2019.ca.

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