Riggers sign veteran defenders

WES GILBERTSON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:55 AM ET

The Calgary Roughnecks are turning back the clock.

The reigning National Lacrosse League champions announced yesterday they've signed defenders Rob Kirkby and Craig Gelsvik, a couple of blasts from the Roughnecks past.

"We were smiling all weekend after we got those two guys signed. It was just unbelievably lucky," said Riggers GM Brad Banister. "During the Mann Cup, the word got around and other teams were coming up to us saying, 'Holy crap, you guys just got a lot better.' And we did.

"We're going to be a lot better just having those two guys in the lineup."

Kirkby, 30, hasn't suited up in the professional ranks since 2006, while the 35-year-old Gelsvik has been out of the NLL for the past two seasons.

But Banister isn't worried the indoor game has passed them by. In fact, he's been trying to convince both for years to return to the Riggers.

Banister referred to Kirkby yesterday as a "lean, mean super-athlete," and noted Gelsvik "hits like a ton of bricks."

Question is, who comes out of the lineup to make room for the veterans?

The Riggers snagged their second Champion's Cup title in May, thanks in large part to an in-your-face defensive unit anchored by Andrew McBride, Jeff Moleski and Bruce Codd.

Every key member of last year's defence corps is expected to return. In addition to Kirkby and Gelsvik, top prospect Curtis Manning and dispersal draft acquisition Luke Forget will also be trying to earn full-time jobs.

"In 2004, when we won it, we kind of sat back and said, 'We're the defending champions' and we didn't do a whole bunch of stuff -- and we got beat," Banister said. "We know we have to improve ... and it's going to be even more competitive this year, and we'll be better for it.

"And we just got a lot better."

In 29 games with the Roughnecks, Kirkby has four goals and 17 assists and scooped up 138 loose balls. Gelsvik has 12 assists and 182 loose balls in 49 outings with the Riggers.

The club also announced yesterday they've signed third-round selection Carlton Schuss to a one-year deal.

WES.GILBERTSON@SUNMEDIA.CA


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