By By Brandon Astle
Rhys Duch and Corey Small are one of the most feared tandems in the lacrosse universe, no matter which league they play in. The two have been summer teammates in the Western Lacrosse Association (WLA) with the Victoria Shamrocks since 2011 and have put up very impressive numbers together.
In the past couple of seasons, they have finished in the top two in league scoring, and even finished the 2014 campaign with the exact same amount of points with 76. In the past five years, the Duch and Small combination has amassed an eye popping total of 641 points in the regular season and 252 points in the post season. The combined points total between the two in regular and post-season play may have reached over 1000, but Duch did not suit up for the Shamrocks in 2012.
“We have been playing together for a while now and seem to feed off one another pretty well. Rhys is a guy that draws so much attention out on the floor and is one of the toughest players to defend. His ability to create space makes him easy to play with that’s for sure. Sometimes I will just throw him the ball and let him do his thing,” said Small.
Their success together has helped the Shamrocks to three straight WLA titles. This past summer was a memorable one with a Mann Cup victory over Peterborough, which was a big relief for the duo after losing the previous two years to Six Nations. Small finished first in playoff scoring with 20 goals and 20 assists for 40 points in just eight games and put up another 25 points in six Mann Cup games earning MVP honours. Duch, the Victoria native, was right behind him with 19 goals and 17 assists for 36 points and added 15 more against Peterborough.
“It was an awesome experience to finally win the Mann Cup. Success breathes motivation in my opinion, and after losing the previous two Mann Cup finals and missing out on the NLL playoffs in 2015, it really fueled both of our fires,” said Duch.
It was no secret what Duch and Small were accomplishing year in and year out in the summer with Victoria in the past handful of seasons. Stealth President and General Manager Doug Locker definitely took notice and was able to unite the potent one-two punch in the NLL after acquiring Small in January 2015 from Edmonton.
“Rhys and Corey are two of the best there is in the NLL and have great chemistry together. Because of that chemistry, we made it a very high priority to bring Corey to the Stealth last season,” said Locker.
In their first season together in Stealth colours, they did what they normally do: Finish one and two in team scoring. It was no coincidence that both had career years, as Duch led the way with 41 goals and 62 assists for 103 points, while Small finished with 31 goals and 40 assists for 71 points. Individual success is always nice, but it means nothing if the season ends after the last regular season game.
“Losing in our last game to Calgary in a win or go home situation still stings. There are a lot of guys in the locker room that will be motivated by that going into this season and hopefully we have learned from it and will make us stronger,” continued Duch.
Two weeks of training camp is in the books for the Stealth, and Corey Small has liked what he has seen from the group and feels 2016 could be a special year.
“I can’t say enough about how competitive it’s been so far. There are going to be some players with NLL backgrounds that there won’t be a spot for. The guys that management have brought in are very talented and will definitely make us stronger this season, and I think we are going to be an exciting team to watch.”