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December 31, 2019

Year in Review | The Grey Cup Victory & Celebration

Andrew Harris (33) of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers after winning the 107th Grey Cup game between the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers at McMahon Stadium in Calgary, AB, Sunday, November. 24, 2019. (Photo: Johany Jutras/CFL)

Ed Tait takes a look back at the 2019 Blue Bombers season with his Top 10 stories of the year…


#1 – THE GREY CUP VICTORY AND CELEBRATION

It’s hard to put into words, truthfully, what one single win after 28 years of waiting can mean to a franchise and a city.

Most certainly, there are the emotional reactions, like the pure joy and euphoria the comes with the moment. There’s also an obvious pride and sense of accomplishment.

And so maybe the best way to describe it is simply as a cathartic concoction of all of the above.

Officially, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ 33-12 victory over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the 107th Grey Cup in Calgary on the last Sunday of November was the 11th championship in the franchise’s 89-year history.

But for the players and coaches who had endured such a dramatic season and for a frustrated fan base that had seen a generation pass between Grey Cup titles it was much, much more than that. And obviously, that win and the reaction to it comes in at #1 on our list of the Top 10 Bombers stories of 2019.

We saw the meaning of it all in the stands as the final seconds ticked away and the Bomber fans who had made the trek hugged and cried tears of joy, with the same reaction coming from the players, coaches and staff that had gathered on the field in celebration.

And we most certainly saw it in the days that have since followed, from the 10,000 fans who lined the streets from downtown Winnipeg to The Forks for the championship parade, to the Grey Cup social, to the ‘2019 Champions’ merchandise flying off the shelves at The Bomber Store, to families proudly flying Bomber flags, to dropping off items of blue and gold on the tombstones of loved ones, and to the simple act of toasting a squad that got it done when it mattered most.

It would be more than overly dramatic to say that Winnipeg and Bomber Nation needed this. But it sure as heck still feels good, doesn’t it?

“I’m just so proud of this team, so proud of this organization for fighting through all the tough years and the years that we were really close,” said Bombers offensive lineman Pat Neufeld while soaking in the scene unfolding around him on Grey Cup Sunday.

“I’m just so happy for all the guys who were wearing white and blue on the sidelines today and for Bomber fans everywhere. We had this in the back of our minds, how long it’s been and we knew we had a legitimate chance today we came out and we proved it.

“It’s been nine years for me, seven years as a Bomber and you could just feel it. You could feel the pressure that was mounting… hats off to Wade (President and CEO Miller) and (GM) Kyle (Walters) and Osh (head coach Mike O’Shea) for building what they built and getting us to this game. It’s hard to put into words. I’m just so happy for this team.”

The Bombers run to glory wasn’t without its bumps and detours. A 5-0 run to start the season was temporarily derailed by a season-ending shoulder injury to quarterback Matt Nichols, and a two-game suspension served by the team’s best player, Andrew Harris.

There were epic meltdowns, an astute trade at the deadline, and a couple of veteran pieces added to the secondary that all helped get the championship train back on the tracks.

Ultimately, this team that finished third in the ultra-competitive West Division would become champions with a twice-traded quarterback under centre, with a limping No. 2 pivot running over defenders and a defensive dozen – so often maligned – playing its best ball in a November to remember.

Winnipeg forced seven turnovers in the Grey Cup win, got two touchdowns from Harris, more solid quarterbacking from Zach Collaros and Chris Streveler, game-changing efforts from Willie Jefferson and Jackson Jeffcoat and a host of others on defence on a day in which they positively owned the line of scrimmage.

“These last four games total and last five-six weeks of football have been a lot of fun,” said Collaros, who was 4-0 in his starts for the club after the trade deadline. “I can’t remember the last time I had this much fun playing the game, practising and going to meetings. It’s just been an amazing time.

“Everyone I’ve been in the town it’s been cool. Saying hello to people and having people wishing me luck. It’s been great. I’m happy the drought is over for all the fans.

“It’s amazing. We’re really excited to bring the cup back to Winnipeg.”

And if folks want to revel in all that into the new year after waiting since 1990 to celebrate, well, how about we let them have at it a little longer?

“It still seems so surreal,” said right tackle Jermarcus Hardrick almost three weeks after the championship and on the day his contract extension was announced. “Every day I wake up and go look at pictures from the Grey Cup. I go to You Tube and Google ‘Grey Cup 2019.’ Man, I never want this feeling to leave. I know we’ll have to put this season behind us sooner or later and go on, but this has been amazing.

“I wasn’t there from the start (of the Wade Miller-Kyle Walters-Mike O’Shea regime), but to be there for four years and to work and grind to get there… I’m just so happy.

“Honestly, it took a while for it all to hit me because we put so much into it. It was like I had used all my emotions up in the four years leading up to that moment and then it hit me like a rock.

“The support we had, the support we still have… I mean, coming back to the airport, going to the parade and just going everywhere I was trying to hug every fan I could to show them how much appreciate them. I want to do it again because I love that feeling.”


This is the 10th and final installment in a series recapping the Top 10 Bomber stories of 2019.

Previously:

#2 – GETTING TO THE BIG DANCE
#3 – SLAYING A DRAGON IN CALGARY
#4 – ANDREW HARRIS: DISAPPOINTMENT AND GLORY
#5 – C’MON DOWN TO WINNIPEG, WILLIE
#6 – THE COLLAROS TRADE: UNEARTHING GOLD AT THE DEADLINE
#7 – STABILITY… AND CHANGE
#8 – ADVERSITY HITS
#9 – BURSTING OUT OF THE STARTING BLOCKS
#10 – RELOADING AFTER 2018