Brett Lauther believes ‘golden years’ of the Riders are nigh thanks to Corey Mace, Jeremy O’Day

Photo courtesy: Saskatchewan Roughriders

It has been a couple of difficult seasons in Saskatchewan, but veteran kicker Brett Lauther had no qualms about re-committing to the Roughriders after the major changes the franchise underwent this offseason.

“I can’t put into words enough how great the new staff’s been in the building and the buzz around the team. Everything’s just kind of new but having some former players that are coaches, I think it’s going to serve the guys really well,” Lauther said in an appearance on 620 CKRM’s The Sportscage this week.

“We had a really good free agency, probably going to have a really good draft here coming up. I really think the golden years of playing Rider football are going to be the next three to four years. That’s why I wanted to get a long-term deal done. I truly believe in what JO (general manager Jeremy O’Day) and the rest of the organization are putting together and planning here.”

The 33-year-old inked a three-year extension with the Riders in January — a veritable eternity by CFL standards. While the reigning Tom Pate Award winner would have had difficulty leaving as a fixture in the local community, his decision to attach himself to the club through 2026 was buoyed by the hiring of new head coach Corey Mace the month prior.

The 38-year-old first-time bench boss has brought a refreshing passion and renewed vigour to Riderville, which made it an attractive destination for new players. Though the moves came after he had already re-upped, Lauther’s belief in the team has been backed up by their impressive talent acquisition.

“We have to still go out and do the job as well, but right now it’s better to look good on paper than not look good on paper,” he said, citing running back A.J. Ouellette and right tackle Jermarcus Hardrick in particular.

“Every one of the guys was either an all-star at their position or coming from a team where they had a big year last year. I think that this has really set the tone for each and every free agency coming up, what Mace is able to do and what he’s able to bring in here.”

However, the team’s biggest addition may have come from within. After missing the majority of last season with a tibial plateau fracture, franchise quarterback Trevor Harris will be back in the saddle in 2024. His presence provides a whole different type of hope for those in the locker room.

“We were 3-1 until he went down, so obviously that changed a lot about the season. I don’t think we were nearly as bad as our record showed but in pro sports when the ball is rolling one way really good or one way really bad, sometimes it’s hard to stop,” Lauther explained. “Without him, I think it showed on the field how much we were lacking a little bit of leadership, on and off the field.”

Those leadership issues will be addressed by the return of a “true pro” like Harris, as well as by the culture changes imposed by both O’Day and Mace. But a firm hand from the top will not be enough to restore Rider pride, as there needs to be buy-in throughout the entire organization to avoid a third straight non-playoff finish.

“They obviously have a major part in everything going on here, the GM and the head coach have a lot of responsibility and can really shape and mould the team. But at the end of the day, I think especially now it’s going to be on the players in the room setting the culture of how things need to be done,” Lauther insisted. “I think things are in place that we can actually do that.”

“It takes everyone, it’s not just one person. I know they would say the same thing too. It’s gonna take everyone in the whole organization, all the fans, the whole community-owned team aspect. We’ve all got to be rowing in the same boat this year and the next few years going forward.”

With that mentality instilled and the right key additions, Lauther is certain that the days of seven-game losing streaks are behind the team.

“It’s going to be a big year here in Sask,” he vowed. “I don’t want to get too ahead of myself and predict some stuff, but I know that it’s going to be a really good season and we’re going to be right back to where we should have been.”

The Riders will open their 2024 regular season on Saturday, June 8 when they visit the Edmonton Elks at Commonwealth Stadium.