The Telegram (St. John's)
The Rock will have to roll quickly this season
Atlantic Rock rugby team opens CRC season today; then they will play remaining three games in seven days in August
They only played .500 rugby last season, but Atlantic Rock co-coach Simon Blanks still deemed the team’s 2016 Canadian Rugby Championship showing a “massive improvement” over previous years.
Too bad the Rock won’t be given an honest-to-goodness shot at expanding on that growth this summer.
The four-team CRC got under way last Friday night with the B.C. Bears trouncing the Prairie Wolf Pack 43-0 in Vancouver. The Rock kick off their season today in Truro, N.S., against the Ontario Blues.
Then all four teams play three games (two remaining regular season tilts, and a playoff contest) in seven days in mid-august in Calgary to put a wrap on the season.
“Yeah, it’s brutal,” said Atlantic Rock co-coach Simon Blanks of Mount Pearl. “Four games is not a season.”
Each team only played four games last year, as well. In 2015, the CRC was a one-weekend tournament, because of the Rugby World Cup. The four teams played six games in 2014.
The reason for the abbreviated schedule, Blanks says, has everything to do with finances. World rugby contributes funding to all the major international rugby unions, and when you take into consideration a relatively weak Canadian dollar, coupled with the fact Canada’s senior men’s team is ranked a middling 23rd in the world rankings, Rugby Canada isn’t taking in a pile of money.
“We’re prepared to get off our ass and raise the money required, but the big provinces (Ontario and British Columbia), if it’s not laid on their plate, they’re not prepared to do the same,” said Blanks, who is handling The Rock’s coaching reins along with Pat Parfrey of St. John’s.
“But there is a move afoot to have a proper season.”
The Rock have won four Mactier Cup titles as CRC, or Rugby Canada Super League, champions and part of the season, Blanks said, for the team’s success was its off-season and in-season training.
“Now you’re asking guys to train like a pro athlete for four games,” he said. “Who wants to do that? I get it.
“But we’re trying to resurrect a proper CRC season.”
The Rock improved last year after going 0-6 in 2014. Though 2-2, Blanks contends the team could have easily posted a 3-1 record if not for a 21-20 loss to the Prairie Wolf Pack with no time left in the last game last year at the Swilers Rugby Complex in St. John’s.
“We’re hoping to capitalize,” Blanks said, “but it’s hard to say at this point. We’ve only had two training sessions heading into the Ontario game, so we haven’t been able to practice in the fashion in which we’d like.
“Things should be better for the Calgary games (Aug. 13 vs B.C., Aug. 16 vs the Wolf Pack and playoffs Aug. 19).”
The Rock have all their key personnel back, including Canadian international and team
captain Patrick Parfrey. Ageless, but effective, Frank Walsh
One newcomer is Liam Carter
of Toronto, son of former provincial team player Rob Carter.
In the meantime, the 2017 season will mark the first time in CRC play, and the Rugby Canada Super League prior to that, that Swilers has not played host to a Rock game.
That’s because there were plans to resurface the Swilers pitch — at a cost of $600,000 — in early July. However, those plans were scuttled when Swilers did not secure enough funding to support the project.
The current surface has been in place for 30 years and needs to be replaced. It is critical, Parfrey said, to ensuring Swilers remains an internationalclass rugby facility, capable of playing host to varying degrees of national and international events.
Parfrey said Swilers did look at a Field Turf surface, “but it’s not great for contact sports.”
A long-term plan is to put Field Turf on the lower pitch closest to Wishingwell Park, leaving natural turf on the primary pitch.