May 1, 2024

One Question for 2024: Can the Bombers stay atop the West?

Daniel Crump/

As the 2024 season approaches, each team has a question that looms over it that will shape its season. asked players across the league about that question. Our series starts with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and their quest to stay atop the West.

WINNIPEG — Everyone wants a piece of success.

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers have been a model of competence in the CFL over the last quinquennia, reaching four straight Grey Cups (2019, 2021-2023) while winning two (2019, 2021).

That type of success in the salary-cap era usually leads to difficult decisions having to be made by front offices trying to keep the gang together. That’s because other teams are looking to drink from the same well by signing some of the prominent names away in free agency.

Running back Brady Oliveira knows that part of being on top is having to deal with the added attention.

“Everyone wants a piece of us,” said Oliveira. “When you’re at the top people want to get there and knock you off. Right?”

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All that inevitable turnover raises the question of what can a team do to remain on top despite losing key players on each side of the ball every off-season.

The Bombers had to say goodbye to names like offensive lineman Jermarcus Hardrick, who signed with the Saskatchewan Roughriders and defensive back Demerio Houston, who departed for the Calgary Stampeders in free agency.

Keeping everyone together for a long period is only one of the issues a team that stays on top for too long faces. Another one, according to Brady, is that teams will never take a fight against Winnipeg for granted.

“Every single game we get everyone’s best,” said the Most Outstanding Canadian. “That’s the one thing we talked about in the locker room. We know that (it doesn’t) matter what the team’s record is, when they are playing Winnipeg, we’re gonna get their best and have to bring our A-game every single week.”

The Bombers have gone 51-17 over the last four seasons, propelled by an explosive offence led by quarterback Zach Collaros, with Oliveira bursting over the scene to become one of the best players in the league during that stretch.

Winnipeg rewarded their tailback with a new contract that showcases his value to the organization.


“I’m really thankful for getting another opportunity to be with Winnipeg for another two years,” said Oliveira. “The fact that Winnipeg showed so much interest in me and the value being at that price point means a lot to me, and just means that I’m going to continue to do my best and, and put even more work in now. Continue to be the best version that I can and make sure this team wins a lot of football games for years to come.”

Another challenge that Winnipeg faces to stay on top is their current ongoing rivalry with the Lions. BC dueled with Winnipeg for the West Division crown all the way to the end of the 2023 season, ultimately falling short of their goal both in the standings and in the Western Final.

That doesn’t mean that Oliveira doesn’t recognize how much of a threat the Leos pose to the Blue and Gold’s dominance over the West.

“You can tell the last couple of years, whenever we have BC on our schedule, it’s going to be a battle. We know it’s going to be a fight,” said the 2023 rushing champion. “Which is exciting. It’s great for the league. It’s great for the fans. People want to watch two good football teams go out there and battle it out. And that’s what you’re getting when we play against BC.”

An important differential that the Bombers have been able to boast over the last four seasons is their stability at the quarterback position. Since taking over the starting job in Winnipeg in 2019, Collaros is the only pivot that remains entrenched as the starter for the same team.

The fact that Mike O’Shea’s squad will have their signal-caller still in place once again, alongside key pieces like Oliveira, Willie Jefferson, Dalton Schoen and Kenny Lawler is a possible answer to the question this article poses.

“That’s pretty crazy that in this league (only) one quarterback has stayed the same (since 2019),” said the running back. “The most important position on a football team is the quarterback position. And the fact that (Collaros) has been the starter since 2019 and onward, I think it does a lot to a football team, right? Especially getting chemistry with certain players on the receiving corps. Me and him, just having that relationship now. If he needs to dump the ball down to me, he knows I’m always there. He knows he can rely on trust me.

“It does a lot to a football team. I think you see the success that we’ve had over the last couple of years. And a massive part of that is also the continuity and having (Collaros) being our leader and the face of that football team for the last couple of years.”

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