Tough as nails

SCOTT ZERR -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:16 AM ET

The first thing that GM/head coach Paul Day saw in Daryl Welsh was a surprisingly strong ability to play his position.

In the first weekend of the Edmonton Rush's training camp for the 2007 season, Welsh impressed with his hustle, a determined work ethic, a willingness to improve and a hard-nosed style of protecting his net.

By the time the first pre-season game rolled around, Welsh was nearing a point where he could safely assume he would make the team. Following the exhibition game against the Calgary Roughnecks, the six-foot-five, 245-pounder was cemented on to the roster.

Welsh so completely won his fight with Roughnecks tough guy Ryan McNish that his position on the Rush was firmly intact. And in just four years of indoor lacrosse, Welsh had gone from playing Senior B in Ontario to the professional ranks of the NLL.

But he's with the Rush not solely for the reason that he knockout opposition enforcers.

"He is a very focused person who is always aware of what other people are thinking about him," explained Rush assistant coach Jim Milligan who played a large role in Welsh coming to Edmonton. "If someone on our team is getting pushed around, Daryl has no problem with playing his tough role. But he doesn't just want to fight and he doesn't want to be a liability. He's worked hard on his stick skills, on picking up loose balls and moving the ball in transition.

"Fighting is a niche for him but he fell in love with the game. He has strength in his role, but he has a genuine love for the game and that gives him an edge."

At times in 2006, the Rush did get pushed around and without a formidable physical presence, opponents, like McNish, were able to take significant liberties. That will change in 2007.

"Not every team has a guy like that," noted Day. "He's very important to the other guys because he makes them feel comfortable and that he'll be there to protect them from cheap shots. And he's gotten involved, he's looked good on defence and not looked out of place at all."

Welsh's fast climb to the NLL began with gaining a "tough as nails" reputation on the Ontario Senior B circuit. A year later he moved up to the Ontario Lacrosse Association's Senior A ranks with the powerhouse Peterborough Lakers whose coaching staff includes the Rush's Milligan. While the Lakers' all-star roster didn't often include room for Welsh, he quickly gained the acceptance of his far more experienced teammates.

"A number of guys took him under their wings and he wanted to learn everything he could from them," said Milligan. "Daryl was often the first guy on the floor for practice and the last guy off. He wanted to be more than just the tough guy and took that opportunity to develop."


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