Turncoat or soccer patriot?

John
John Browne
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Former St. Lawrence star Rudy Norman has found changing teams isn’t so easy

Rudy Norman (9) moves the ball for Mount Pearl That Pro Look/Molson against his former St. Lawrence Laurentians squad in a Molson Challenge Cup soccer game last Sunday at Centennial Field in St. Lawrence. The teams played to a 1-1 draw. — Photo by Travis Parsons

Rudy Norman is a warrior. Always has been. Always will be. Soon to turn 35, the future hall of famer has nothing to prove to anyone.

Yet, after 16 seasons with St. Lawrence Labatt Laurentians, he finds himself something less than a hero in his hometown.

Such is life when you decide to play your last couple of season in the city where you live, work and are raising your family and are building a new house instead of the town were you were raised and played like a champion for more almost two decades.

Norman is a midfielder with a thundering shot and passing skills among the best who ever played the game in this province. He also possesses the sort of leadership that produced championship teams. He also had a knack for scoring crucial goals under pressure. With the Laurentians, in combination with striker Richard Kelly the duo was almost impossible to stop.

It was a devesting combination and Norman, like Kelly, was a hero in St. Lawrence where soccer is everything.

Norman played on a dozen provincial Molson Challenge Cup teams with the Laurentians.

 

Best of the decade

He was chosen Newfoundland and Labrador Soccer Association’s male player of the decade (2000-2009). A Challenge Cup all-star nine of the those 10 seasons, Norman captured two scoring titles, finishing with 97 goals for decade.

But as far as some Laurentian fans are concerned, it’s all about ‘what have you done for me lately?’

Norman, who switched to Mount Pearl That Pro Look/Molson this season after a long career with the Laurentians, got a “mixed” reaction when he played his first game against St. Lawrence against his former team Sunday.

“It was tough,” Norman said about playing at Centennial Field as a member of the opposition.

The teams had also played Saturday in St. lawrence, but Norman, who has scored seven goals this season, sat out that contest with a one-game suspension after picking up three yellow cards.

He said some fans are “set in their ways” and will never let him forget he’s switched teams, while he talked to some people Saturday who understood his situation “and were the best kind.”

“Some said they were disappointed they didn’t get to see me play Saturday or else they came to see me get beat up,” he added with a laugh.

“A lof them understand but don’t like it and I can live with that. But others…well, I heard the (last) weekend that everying I did (for St. Lawrence) is all for nothing now. I can’t believe that mentality,” said Norman who, for years, helped oganize practices for the Laurentian players living in St. John’s.

 

Tough decision

The school teacher and former Memorial Sea-Hawks star said deciding to play with Mount Pearl this season was “the hardest decision” he’s ever had to make, but he said there was no pressure from the community to play with the team in the city where he had been living the past 10 years.

“Absolutely not,” he added. “It’s not the same playing in Mount Pearl as it is in St. Lawrence. There’s no pressure here whatsoever.”

Norman said the option to play in Mount Pearl was the logical one.

“Either that or I would have retired,” said Norman.

Retiring would have been extremely tough on the veteran because he still loves the game and believes he can still contribute as long as he’s healthy.

“I’m not ready to walk away from the game yet. And playing in Mount Pearl allows me to keep playing the game I love.

“I gave everything I had to St. Lawrence. I can’t look back and I regret nothing.”

Well, almost nothing.

What may have turned some of the fans against Norman, he admitted, was the fact he had indicated to a few people prior to the start of the season that while he would play for Mount Pearl, he didn’t think he’d be able to suit up against the Laurentians.

Norman said Mount Pearl coach Walt Mavin was very understanding of his circumstances and even suggested he’d go along with an initital suggestion of holding the player out of games against St. Lawrence during the regular season.

“But as I began practising with the (Mount Pearl) guys, I realized it was soccer that I loved. I gave everything I had when I played with the Laurentians and I owed the same to my new teammates.”

In fact, Mavin asked Norman if he wanted to sit out last Sunday’s game knowing the pressure the player was under. The Mount Pearl coach said it wouldn’t be a big deal.

Norman said that while he initially felt he couldn’t play for any other team, he got to know the Mount Pearl players during the indoor season and found out “they weren’t as bad as I thought they were,” he said with a laugh.

Second-place Mount Pearl will meet third-place St. Lawrence in the semifinals and Norman has been thinking about that for some time.

And while he began the season wearing his former No.10 jersey he wore with the Laurentians, he soon switched to No. 24 and is now wearing No.9. His blue No. 10, it seems, is still special to him.

Norman appears to be torn by his decision to switch sides even now.

He said he still has friends on the Laurentians and the first time he played against them earlier this season in Mount Pearl  was “kind of tough. But we got things out of the way.

“St. Lawrence made me what I am, but I’m wearing a different color now,” said Norman. “My true friends in St. Lawrence kind of understand. Some people think I left St. Lawrence because the team has gotten weaker in recent years, but that’s not true.

“There are times though,” he admitted, “when I wonder if I did the right thing.

“I love St. Lawrence and I’ll always be a Laurentian in my heart.”

 

jbrowne@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Laurentian, Molson, Newfoundland and Labrador Soccer Association

Geographic location: Mount Pearl

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Recent comments

  • realist
    August 25, 2011 - 21:18

    Good for Rudy...he gave everything to St.Lawrence for years...it is his decision...and at days end it is a game,a sport, and an amateur sport at that...were not talking about Larry Bird going to the Lakers or Gordie Howe joining the Canadiens...for those all worked up about his decision...give it a rest...and Dock Rookie pointed out some other examples of well known local soccer players going elsewhere and the world didn't come to an end when they changed teams....maybe he scores the game winner Friday on a PK.

    • Realist
      September 05, 2011 - 21:15

      To further Dock Rookies thoughts...Challenge Cup All Star and MVP Rod Drake left the Shamrocks in Lawn the further soar to another two c. cup titles and MVP and all-star awards with the Eagles in Burin.

  • Wow
    August 23, 2011 - 23:38

    Rudy lives 10 minutes from Mount Pearl & teaches in Mount Pearl. He's been playing soccer all his life. Why would he join a team in the building stages (CBS) at this point in his career?? He can still spend loads of time with his expectant wife & son while playing with MP. He's just as close to the MP complex as he is to the field in CBS. Everyone needs to get over the decision that Rudy has made. It's done, it's over. He's done more than enough for soccer in St. Lawrence. He has said that he's always a laurentian at heart. He didn't turn his back on anyone. AND.....Rudy is giving back to minor soccer in the province. He is part of a soccer coaching camp. He coached his high school soccer team to win the 4A banner for both field and indoor ball this past year. And it won't be much longer before he has his hand in coaching his son who is already playing the sport that his father loves. There are a lot of people out there who don't know the whole story......unless you get a little more insight into the whole situation, perhaps you should stop calling the man down and sit back to look at the big picture and commend him for what he has done and will continue to do for soccer in this province.

  • Well wishes
    August 17, 2011 - 13:40

    St. Lawrence's loss is Mount Pearl's gain... and the community of St. Lawrence should wish him well. Rudy is a grown man with a family, career and now a small business in Mount Pearl. Let him play on whatever darn team he wants to play on and stop being so sulky.

  • J. Burt
    August 15, 2011 - 17:34

    It is not the critic who counts, nor the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows great enthusiasms, great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat. - Theodore Roosevelt JB

  • J. Burt
    August 15, 2011 - 17:32

    It is not the critic who counts, nor the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows great enthusiasms, great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat. - Theodore Roosevelt JB

  • Dock Rookie
    August 15, 2011 - 15:29

    I think you people are all too close to being insane. He wants to play where he wants to play. He is not paid. He loves the game and wants to go out on top. Perhaps with another title shot. Whatever the reason, that is his choice and his alone. Where were all you critics when Bob O'Leary went to play for the Lawn Shamrocks? Remember them. Coach Gord does. Or how about Bob Spearns playing for Fieldians. Hmmm....must have forgotten about that too. Maybe when Alex Turpin went to play for Mount Pearl? What about the Edawrds brothers from Marystoen....they both played in behind the overpass as well. You people need to get a life. Good for you Rudy!

  • Brad
    August 14, 2011 - 13:36

    foghorn, hows that any different from randy peircy's hockey school, bob thompsons advanced ice hockey training, any of the mun basketball summer camps. you dont see any of these people volunteering all their time to volunteer coaching. soccermom, he works in mount pearl, he knows alot of the players playing in mp, these same young players go to his school or have gone to his school. mp gave him a team to play with in the new indoor league at pleasantville this year thats why he is playing there, get over yourself.

  • Foghorn
    August 14, 2011 - 08:35

    If he was a true "soccer patriot" he would be volunteering his considerable knowledge and experience entirely to minor soccer instead of trying to turn a buck on it with "Elite Soccer".

  • Soccer Mom
    August 13, 2011 - 18:45

    There's one question Mr. Browne and also Mr. Dunphy in his Coach's Corner that you both must have forgotten to ask Rudy.....How come you decided to play with Mount Pearl and not CBS, seeing that you are now living in the CBS area and they also have a CC team? Rudy you mentioned that one of your reasons for switching to Mt. Pearl this year was to spend time with your wife and child, but you have to travel from CBS to Mt. Pearl for games and practices. A Rudy, you being a teacher have so much time of to spend with your family.....poor excuse when this year the team are on a downturn and could have used your leadership........

    • Wince
      August 14, 2011 - 10:32

      CBS to Mount Pearl takes less then 3 minutes. Soccer Mom needs to get a life.

    • Agree with Soccer Mom
      August 14, 2011 - 19:36

      Perhaps it is the writer of the article that messed up but although he may work in Mount Pearl, he lives, is raising his family and building a new house in CBS!!

    • Clem
      August 15, 2011 - 09:56

      Soccermom! A wise man once said "It is better to keep your mouth shut and have people think you are a fool, than to open it and remove all doubt". This really applies to you, me thinks!!!