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Ticats linebacker Simoni Lawrence wants everyone back to build on 2018 season

HAMILTON — Simoni Lawrence says a consistent roster and coaching staff is a big reason why the Calgary Stampeders are headed to a third consecutive Grey Cup.

"They don't have a lot of turnover," the veteran Hamilton Tiger-Cats linebacker said. "They find a way to keep the same guys, the same staff and stuff like that. I feel like that's a big reason of why they're so successful all the time."

Speaking at the Tiger-Cats' locker cleanout two days after Hamilton's 46-27 loss to the Ottawa Redblacks in the East Division final on Sunday, Lawrence said he would like to see his team take a page from the Stampeders' book and keep as much of the team together as possible for the 2019 season.

The 29-year-old Lawrence, who just finished his fifth season in Hamilton, is one of several pending free agents the Ticats will have to make a decision on this off-season.

"I feel like in the years of being here, I feel like we had one of the most complete groups as far as coaching staff, players and just camaraderie," Lawrence said. "I feel like there was a certain type of culture here where it wasn't just like smoke and mirrors, it was real, you could feel it, you could feel everybody's energy and people genuinely liked each other, which is very hard to do on a massive football team like this where everybody really likes each other."

Ticats quarterback Jeremiah Masoli echoed Lawrence's sentiments.  The East Division's nominee for most outstanding player had a CFL-leading 12 300-yard passing games, was second in passing yards (5,209) and was third overall with 28 touchdowns during his first season as the Ticats starter.

"Every team has got that cliques and some guys are closer than others, just naturally, but this was one of the teams that it didn't matter where you were at," Masoli said.

"We were all pretty tight and pretty cool and had no problem with hanging out with whomever on the team."

June Jones, who took over the reins as head coach of the Ticats in August 2017, guided Hamilton to an 8-10-0 record in his first full season at the helm.

"I'll be reflecting on we didn't get to where we wanted to go, most definitely," Jones said.

"I learned that this game took me a little bit, just like the (third and one) decision (on Sunday) - I was way more aggressive down there (in the States) in those situations. Everybody had coached me up that it's so vital — field position and all this stuff — you know what? Screw the field position, go score a touchdown. That's how I've always played the game and I feel that I didn't do that this year in a couple situations and so that will live with me a little bit, but I won't make those mistakes again."

Jones also addressed persisting rumours that assistant coach Orlondo Steinauer could move on, with both the B.C. Lions and Toronto Argos looking for a new head coach.

"Orlondo and I have had a conversation about his situation," Jones said. "Any time a guy has an opportunity, I'm happy for them. Anybody that wants to leave, I'm happy for them too to get to where they want to go, that's just the way I've always been.

"Everybody wants to come back, everybody believes we can make the changes internally from what we're doing offensively and defensively and tweaking it and getting better that way as coaches - the players have to do the same in their given areas of expertise. I feel comfortable where we're at."

Dhiren Mahiban, The Canadian Press

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