The Burnaby Lakers’ Matt Beers is anticipating that initial moment wearing the Canadian jersey as he and his teammates take to the floor Thursday in the opener of the World Box Lacrosse championships in Langley.
If there are butterflies as they line up across the U.S. (7:30 p.m.), Beers expects the focus of trying to defend a world title to take control quickly.
“It’s been pretty exciting and something I’ve been looking forward to,” said Beers. “I haven’t had a chance to represent my country before, but talking with the guys (who have), I know that it’s a pretty special opportunity and responsibility that happens to very few people.
“I was thrilled to be (selected), and I can say it was on my bucket list. This is just the first hurdle, because once you are chosen now we have to play the games. It’s going to be pretty intense; there are a lot of games in a quick span, and when you’re the defending champion the bar is set.”
Team Canada hasn’t practiced together yet, due to the Mann Cup just wrapping up and players scattered across the country.
“I’ve had a lot of surreal moments playing lacrosse at a high level, from winning a Minto Cup to playing pro (in the National Lacrosse League),” he said.
“You get that rush of adrenaline those first moments as you get onto the floor and you’re excited, but once the whistle goes, it becomes a game you’re familiar with.”
One of the reasons why he rejoined the Lakers late in the season was to help get in game shape for the tournament. During the winter months, Beers is one of the top defenders with the National Lacrosse League's Vancouver Warriors.
He’s joined on the national squad by fellow Laker Eli McLaughlin, while Sam Clare will be wearing England’s colours.
Other teams will also be coming in with their share of Canadian talent, including Serbia, which counts a handful of Burnaby natives among its ranks.
Helping the team in its quest to improve on its 2015 debut, when it posted a 1-2 record, are brothers Alex and Ilija Gajic, Nik Bilic and Marko Konjevic. Burnaby Lakers coaches Julian Kolb and Kyle Sorensen, meanwhile, are helping Team Austria, while lacrosse hall of famers Dave Evans and Dan Perreault are working the benches for Costa Rica and England, respectively.
The Netherlands has drafted siblings Rick and Rusty Wills as their training staff, while Naomi Gillian is doing the same for Team Sweden.
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.”
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 last 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 products Bilic, Konjevic and the Gajics.
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.
The schedule and info on tickets can be found at www.wilc2019.ca.