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Rugby on the Rock
Rugby has come a long way in a relatively short space of time here in Newfoundland. Noel Browne has been credited with the resurgence of the game on the Rock in the early 1970’s, last seen around WWI. A group of dedicated, determined (some would use other words such as crazy) individuals laid the foundation for the product we see on the field today.
To bear witness of the caliber of this group here are some excerpts from early NLRU minutes, recorded by Trevor Hall (Secretary) –
Thursday, September 8th, 1972, held at the Newfoundland Brewery, depicting true devotion to the sport are as follows:
“This meeting was postponed due to the excellence of the hospitality of the brewery and the resulting general intoxication of club members. However, the meeting did see some excellent singing and the presentation of 15 very fine club badges by the Newfoundland Brewery. The President, assured The Brewery that the team would wear them with distinction.”
Thursday, January 25th, 1973, held at Memorial University, room S387:
“Finally , in a hushed and silent atmosphere Mr. Luke announced that he was stepping down from office. A sigh (Relief or disappointment?) came forth from the members and then Mr. Luke sat down amidst tumultuous applause interjected by the quickly amounting excitement of the forthcoming libations.”
Thursday, January 11th 1974, held at Noel Browne’s house:
“#8 Finance – Dr. Hall thought that with our $500 provincial grant we might just be in the black. This ray of hope was soon dispelled when Mr. Hefferman said the club owed him about $1,350 as a result of trying to obtain a liquor license for the new clubhouse. Amidst stunned silence there was no other business and the meeting adjourned to Dr. Browne’s dartboard at 11.22pm.
Correction - The Honorable Secretary was subsequently informed by the Honorable Treasurer that the club’s debit to Mr. Hefferman was in fact only $13.50. The Honorable Secretary appologises for not hearing properly and thanks Dr. Hall and Mr. Hefferman for saving the club $1,336.50.”
The Rock has had it’s fair share of characters over the last 3 decades or so, with particular note to Frank Deacy, Noel Browne and Tom Jacobs, but none could have foreseen the advent and impact of one Dr. Patrick Parfrey (OC)!!! Pat’s quality coaching, drive, ambition, foresight and commitment have led the Rock to the brink of National Champions 3 out of the last 4 years.
At the inception of the Super League in 1998 Newfoundland made a conscious decision to select the young up and coming players in the province with long term development in mind. A very large percentage of the initial Rock squad still form the core of the team today. Peter Densmore, Frank Walsh, Dale Pike, Chris Mooney, Ken Goodland, Brendan Parfrey, Dean Blanks and Steve Hubley have all been involved with the team for the entire 8 year history of the Super League. Brian Cook Captained the side for 7 out of 8 seasons only passing the armband over to Densmore at the beginning of the year due to work commitments. Many of these players were teenagers when they first donned the maroon and white of the Rock and have matured into a well established cohesive unit, who will fight for each other to the death! Their development into one of the most potent Super League teams in the East is born out by their Eastern Conference playing record below:
In both ’02 and ’04 the Rock faced the Tide in Newfoundland and finished bridesmaids both times. Both games were won by just one score and we expect a similar situation in Regina.
Total Games Played 42 (inc 2 finals)
Total Games Won 32
Total Games Lost 8
It is the inherent toughness of Newfoundlanders to overcome adversity. There is no way in hell that we should be in the final or even competitive based on the numbers of players in the province (only 4 senior clubs), but here we are again. All but 3 members of the squad are Newfoundlanders born and bred - Dean Blanks, Mike Webb and Tyler Wish. Do not doubt their commitment to this province… as an 18 year old Dean lived on the Rock for a full year to gain the necessary qualification required to represent Newfoundland in a National tournament and he has been back every year since, with the intent on living permanently here with his future wife (who just happens to be from the Bay-Pearl). Webby committed to go to school here and has spent a full year on the Rock with the possibility of more if he gets into medical school and Tyler turned down the opportunity to play with the Tide, where he scored in last year’s final, choosing instead to move to Newfoundland and try out for the team. The rest of the squad are born Newfoundlanders and fiercely proud and loyal to their province, many of them making huge sacrifices to fly in from all over Canada, using up holiday time and often much money just to represent the Rock… it means that much to them. And not to mention Rod Snow! After a marvelous 10 year professional career and with absolutely nothing left to prove to anyone in world rugby, Rod chose to play for Newfoundland one more season, not for the love of the game, but for the love of his province and the chance to do something that has never been achieved before.
The future of Rock rugby is looking brighter each week with the introduction and growth of mini rugby. Last week (July 25th) the first ever U14 match played with a full 15 a-side and full rules took place in Mount Pearl, with some potential for the 2009 Canada Games squad clearly identified. This season has also seen the Rock in a position of choice, due to the ability and talent of the junior players coming through the ranks pushing for first team places, we are spoiled for choice and but for a few injuries would have had to make some really hard selections.
All in all we are in a strong, but fragile position until we develop real depth. However the team has a good chance of winning the RCSL. We have put in the hard work, we have progressed as a team, we have more talent available throughout the bench than ever before and we have the experience of playing in 2 finals. We will not underestimate the Fire, after all they have done something we have yet to achieve in defeating the Tide, we will not underestimate the value of playing in Regina to the home team and we will not underestimate the weather and the effect it could have on us fairer skinned Newfie’s. We are here and we have a chance in a 2 horse race. A couple of lucky bounces and a few 50/50 decisions are all it’s going to take to win this match… we just hope they go our way!