Rough role on sideline

TY PILSON -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 11:42 AM ET

Taylor Wray, the Calgary Roughnecks' superstar-in-the-making, is used to playing many roles for the defending National Lacrosse League champions. Whether it's defending the other team's top scorer, playing the short man or running the floor and potting goals on offence, last year's rookie and co-defensive player of the year dominated in all aspects of the game in his first NLL season.

However, nothing could prepare him for his current role on the sidelines, cheering his teammates on as he balances on crutches.

The 23-year-old Edmonton native broke his leg in a training accident Dec. 6 and is expected to miss the first half of the 2005 campaign.

"Hopefully, in eight-to-10 weeks, I'll be playing again," said Wray at the Riggers practice Friday night at the Soccer Dome. "I'm definitely hoping for the second half of the season.

"I just have to come out and support the guys right now and hopefully I'll be back sooner rather than later."

Wray, Calgary's first-round pick last year (2nd overall), is an assistant coach with the men's field lacrosse team at Queen's University of Charlotte in North Carolina, where he's finishing his master's degree.

While doing some routine agility training around cones -- he takes part in most drills with his charges while getting ready for the NLL season -- he fell.

"I was doing a drill I'd been doing for eight weeks," said the Roughnecks' defensive anchor.

"It wasn't anything new, anything crazy. It was just bad weather and poor luck, I guess," said Wray, adding it was raining hard when he slipped.

For Wray, whose team opens the season Jan. 1 against the Colorado Mammoth in Denver, the injury has been difficult to swallow.

"The frustrating part is that I've been training and working so hard for the last eight weeks," said Wray. "This is a big setback but there's nothing you can do at this point."

Wray was listed at 225 lb. in the Roughnecks press guide last year but was close to 10 lb. shy of that by the end of the season.

However, an intense weight-lifting regime has helped him put on 15 lb. of muscle in preparation for the upcoming season.

"I run the training program for the team and I do it all with the guys," said Wray. "We were lifting weights four days a week. It was as intense a weight program as you can find anywhere."

Wray is back in Alberta for the Christmas break to visit family -- including his older brother Devan, a fellow Rigger -- and isn't due to return to North Carolina until Jan. 9. He's planning to visit with a specialist while here and hopes to have a soft cast on soon.

The last thing he wants is to lose muscle in his leg. While he's limited in the gym, he has been hitting the weights as hard as ever.

A scary proposition for the opposing forwards he'll be checking in a couple of months.


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