Newfoundland team seeking record third straight national rugby title
Rock rugby team member Jason Picco passes off the ball during team practice Thursday at the Swilers Rugby Complex in St. John's. The 2007 RCSL season opens Saturday. Photo by Gary Hebbard/The Telegram
The Rock has won the last two Rugby Canada Super League championships, but the team still feels it has something to prove this season.
The Rock is out to show the rest of the RCSL that it is the dominant rugby program in the country and the club hopes to deliver this message Saturday afternoon when it plays its 2007 season opener at home against the Quebec Caribou.
We still have a huge sense that were being disrespected by the rest of the country, The Rocks Rod Snow said.
Weve won back-to-back Canadian titles, but our players are routinely ignored by national team selectors.
Its frustrating and it shows a lack of respect. We cant wait to get back out there to prove people wrong again.
After winning the last two RCSL titles, the Rock could hardly be blamed for walking around with bloated egos.
But head coach Pat Parfrey insists his team has avoided this problem thanks to the national team snubs and because the Rocks players realize how lucky they are to be part of a team enjoying this type of success.
You only get the chance to play on a really great team once in your life. You have to take advantage of it, said Parfrey.
The Rock returns to action with a lot of familiar faces Saturday, taking to the pitch with a roster very similar to the one that won the national title in 2006.
The only two regulars from last seasons squad not on the 2007 team are Brian Cook and Brandon Parfrey, who have both retired from the sport.
Brian is retiring because of old age, Parfrey said with a laugh, taking a jab at one of his former players. Brandon is retiring due to injuries and hes moved away to concentrate on school. But Im optimistic their replacements will be just as good.
Two Rock newcomers to watch this season are Matt Clarke and Stu Ault. Clarke is a born-and-raised Newfoundlander who spent a number of years living on the mainland before recently returning to his home province, while Ault is an Ottawa native that moved to St. Johns just a short time ago.
Theyll give us additional depth, Parfrey said of the newcomers.
The Rock will need big contributions from their new and returning players this season if it is to win a third consecutive Canadian title, which would be a provincial sports team record.
The RCSLs East Division is stacked with strong teams this year, with The Rock, Toronto and Niagara all capable of advancing to the league title game on Aug. 18, according to Parfrey.
He also said New Brunswick is an up-and-coming club capable of upsetting one of the big boys, while Vancouver appears to be the class of the west.
This year will be the most competitive year in the RCSL as most of the teams have improved, Parfrey said.
Snow agrees with Parfreys assessment and added the whole season could come down to a pair of road games against Toronto and Niagara. Judging by Snows tone, its safe to say the Rock has July 21 and Aug. 4 marked on its calendar, the dates it visits Toronto and Niagara respectively.
Those will be our toughest games, Snow said. Toronto is going to be much stronger this year and historically theyve been tough to play at home. We play them up there, so the heat will be an issue.
As for Saturdays season opener against Quebec, theres no doubt the Rock is the favorite to win, but it wont be a matter of simply taking to the pitch and walking away with the victory, according to Parfrey. He said Quebec is a lot better than it was last season and played very well in a loss to Toronto last weekend.
Theyve got a strong scrum and they respond to turnovers. If we make mistakes, they could easily score on us, Parfrey said.
Saturdays game against Quebec begins at 3 p.m. at Swilers Rugby Park in St. Johns.