April 8, 2020

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'It was pandemonium outside': Walby

Bombers legends recall past glory

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Former Bombers (from left) Chris Walby, Joe Poplawski and James Murphy got together to discuss their playing days during an event at the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame on Wednesday.</p>

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Former Bombers (from left) Chris Walby, Joe Poplawski and James Murphy got together to discuss their playing days during an event at the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame on Wednesday.

The script for Sunday’s Grey Cup showdown between the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats almost feels like a sequel, except for the fact most sequels don’t come out 35 years later.

The Bombers head into the game with the longest Grey Cup drought in the league, as it’s been 28 years since the CFL’s top prize has made an appearance at Portage and Main.

"I don’t think we really understood the reward it was going to give us. Especially for me... people are still talking about 1984." — Former Winnipeg Blue Bomber James Murphy on winning the Grey Cup

Sunday’s tilt also features an interesting storyline at quarterback, with veteran Bombers pivot Zach Collaros going up against a team he enjoyed some of the best years of his pro football career with.

In a way, this year’s edition of the Grey Cup shares some similarities to the 1984 championship game. The Blue and Gold had gone 22 years without hoisting the silver mug when they entered the ‘84 Grey Cup against Hamilton at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton.

To earn a date with the Ticats, the Bombers had to hit the road to beat the B.C. Lions in the West Division final. The Bombers upset the Lions 31-14, before making sure their dry spell didn’t make it to Year 23 by dismantling the Tabbies 47-17 to win the Grey Cup.

Former Bomber player Chris Walby has a laugh during the panel discussion at the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame in Winnipeg on Wednesday.

Former Bomber player Chris Walby has a laugh during the panel discussion at the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame in Winnipeg on Wednesday.

But just like this year, one of the biggest talking points leading up to that game was at the quarterback position. In 1983, the Bombers swapped quarterbacks with Hamilton, with Winnipeg exchanging Dieter Brock for Tom Clements. A year later, they squared off against their former teams in the biggest game of the season.

So, if there’s anyone who can relate to what this current Blue Bombers group is going through, it’s legends from the ‘84 team, such as offensive lineman Chris Walby and receivers Joe Poplawski and James Murphy. The CFL Hall of Famers were at the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame on Wednesday afternoon for a hot-stove panel, where they shared stories from their playing days.

"We’re very fortunate to be where we are and have the Cups that we’ve won, but I think it’s time for us to pass the mantle to the new club." — Chris Walby

Murphy said if today’s Bombers are anything like the ‘84 team, they’re not dwelling on the fact it’s been nearly three decades (1990) since the club has won the big one.

"At that point in time, we’re not even thinking about it, because we’ve heard it so much and knew how important it was to win it," said Murphy, named the league’s Most Outstanding Player in 1986, on the team’s mindset going into the game.

"I think we were just so focused on discipline, and even the coaches and management, that we understood what was going on and didn’t want to add pressure. But at the same time, in the back of our minds, we knew. I don’t think we really understood the reward it was going to give us. Especially for me... people are still talking about 1984."

Unlike this year’s contest, the Bombers were heavily favoured in ‘84. They had a 11-4-1 record that year, while Hamilton snuck their way into the big dance despite being a 6-9-1 team. But in the early moments of the game, it looked like the Bombers were cursed as the Ticats jumped out to a 17-3 lead.

Former Bomber players James Murphy, right, and Joe Poplawski during the panel discussion.

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Former Bomber players James Murphy, right, and Joe Poplawski during the panel discussion.

"One of their touchdowns in the first quarter was by Dieter Brock. He scrambled for a touchdown. Dieter never scrambled," said Poplawski, a two-time Most Outstanding Canadian award winner. "Being a teammate of his for a number of years, he was a drop-back passer. He would roll out occasionally, but he never ran over the line of scrimmage. But here he scores on a six- or an eight-yard run to give them that lead and I’m thinking, ‘Are you kidding me? He’s going to beat us with his legs instead of his arm?’ But, of course, the second quarter was a different story and things worked out."

The Bombers rebounded to go on a 44-0 run, including a 27-point second quarter. Walby said the team didn’t realize the importance of what they had accomplished until they returned to Winnipeg

"At the end of the game, it started snowing and I felt like I was in a snow globe. Like one of those magical moments," said Walby, who, along with Murphy, won three Grey Cups with the Blue and Gold.

"And I remember coming back, but I never anticipated what it was going to be like in Winnipeg. When we got there and I remember (punter) Bob Cameron goes ‘They’re turning cars over. They’re jumping on buses. They’re crazy!’ It was pandemonium outside. It was just nuts and I thought, ‘Whoah, so this is what it’s going to be like’ and it was. The parade was lined (with people). We gave Santa Claus a good run for a parade. That’s when I appreciated it."

While Walby, Murphy and Poplawski love revisiting their gridiron glory, they’re all hoping there will be a more recent Grey Cup story to tell soon. There’s nothing they’d like to see more than Sunday’s game having the same result as ‘84.

"We’re very fortunate to be where we are and have the Cups that we’ve won, but I think it’s time for us to pass the mantle to the new club," said Walby.

 

taylor.allen@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @TaylorAllen31

Taylor Allen

Taylor Allen
Reporter

Eighteen years old and still in high school, Taylor got his start with the Free Press on June 1, 2011. Well, sort of.

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History

Updated on Wednesday, November 20, 2019 at 9:38 PM CST: updates photo

11:57 PM: Adds photos

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