No. 4 Rod Snow

Brendan McCarthy
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Rugby's finest warrior has represented Canada more than any other Newfoundland athlete

Out of sight of Newfoundland for the better part of his rugby career, Rod Snow nonetheless was never really out of mind for folks in his home province.

Therefore, the level of local appreciation of his accomplishments on the pitch - at the professional level and for Canada internationally - is such that Snow stands at No. 4 on The Telegram's list of Newfoundland and Labrador's top 10 athlete.

Rod Snow drags tackler Oliver Brouzet of France during a test match in 2002. Snow has played 61 international matches for Canada and has been a part of this country's entrants in four world cups. Photo by The Associated Press

Out of sight of Newfoundland for the better part of his rugby career, Rod Snow nonetheless was never really out of mind for folks in his home province.

Therefore, the level of local appreciation of his accomplishments on the pitch - at the professional level and for Canada internationally - is such that Snow stands at No. 4 on The Telegram's list of Newfoundland and Labrador's top 10 athlete.

"As tough as old boots and equally long-lived, Rod Snow is the rock around which Canada is built," proclaimed the BBC in it's preview of the 2003 World Cup of Rugby.

That description was added to a couple of years later in a Telegram profile on the player, who was listed at 5-11 and 250 pounds during his playing days with the Newport of the Welsh Rugby Union.

"If granite blocks were stacked and turned into a human form, Snow would likely be the end product."

And old favourite in Newport

But while Snow was - and is sill is - a notable physical presence on the pitch, it was his uncompromising use of that presence, combined with tenacity and often unsung skill, that made him Newfoundland's greatest rugby player, a Canadian icon in the sport and hero in Wales, where rugby is akin to hockey in Canada.

Snow played for a decade in Newport, the high point coming in 2001 when he helped the Black and Ambers win their first Principality Cup (formerly the Welsh Cup) national championship in 24 years.

"Rod's a hero in Newport," said former teammate Joe Powell while visiting Mount Pearl in 2001. "He's very popular and was named player of the year. Because he was on the club through the thin times, the fans appreciate him even more."

An article by Stephen Jones, one of the most respected rugby writers in Britain, described Snow some years ago as, "one of the great running props of the era" and "one of the most striking and respected and beloved players" on the Welsh rugby scene.

"At Rodney Parade (where Snow played)," wrote Jones, "there is no noise like the noise that rises when Snow gets the ball. It is typical of him that he was so consistent and passionate in his play when Newport was so dreadful (in the past).

"It is no exaggeration to say Snow will go down in Newport's history as one of the heroes ... perhaps not in terms of sheer rugby class, but for heart and passion."

Jones's conclusion to the piece?

"There is no finer warrior playing the sport," he stated.

And the scope of those finishing lines didn't stop at the Welsh border. Snow's reputation as an relentless gladiator extended world-wide and saw it's first development during the 1995 World Cup in South Africa.

Snow scored a try for Canada against Romania in his very first World Cup game - one of his favourite memories in the sport - but is perhaps best known for being sent off - along with teammate Gareth Rees and a South African player - for his part in an all-out brawl during a game against the host Springboks.

Snow had no part in starting the brouhaha, but did not hesitate joining the battle.

South Africa marked the first of four appearances for Snow in the World Cup of Rugby, which is the third largest international sporting event in the world, exceeded only by the World Cup of Soccer and the Summer Olympics.

He also participated in World Cups in 1999 (Wales), 2003 (Australia) and 2007 (France), coming out of a three-year international retirement to play in the latter tourney. In fact, at 37, Snow was the event's oldest player.

By the time the 2007 World Cup was finished, Snow had 61 caps, representing more international appearances than any other prop in Canadian rugby history and any athlete - in any sport - in the history of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Pat Parfrey, the godfather of Newfoundland rugby and coach of Canada's 1999 World Cup entry, summed up Snow's career succinctly.

"Rod played 10 years of pro rugby with the same team, which tells you a lot about his ability and character," said Parfrey. "He's not only this province's best rugby player, he's one of the best rugby players Canada has ever had."

Born in Bonavista, Snow moved with his family to Labrador City in 1974 and Mount Pearl 10 years later. He graduated from Mount Pearl senior high in 1988 and later earned a physical education degree from Memorial University.

He started playing rugby with the Dogs club in Mount Pearl - although his first sports love was hockey.

"Hockey was my passion when I was a kid, but I wasn't a great player," he said in an interview for The Telegram's 20 Questions feature.

"I knew what I was good at and I went out and got the job done. But I was a mediocre player."

Still, his size got him noticed by hockey scouts - there were even some offers of tryouts from Ontario junior teams, ones he regrets not taking up. But he did progress in rugby, in large part because he heeded the advice of mentors.

From back to front

"I started out in the back row, but I soon realized I wouldn't make the switch to international rugby playing in that position," Snow told The Telegram. "With the advice of Pat (Parfrey) and other Canadian coaches, I switched to the front row and learned to play a new position.

"I trusted those people, and using the physical skills I had, I was able to take that advice and it worked out for me."

He made his Canadian debut in 1995 against Argentina. His third game internationally was that World Cup match against Romania. The try he scored was Canada's first of the game in what would turn out to be a 33-12 victory.

"I went there not knowing if I'd play a single game. I was inexperienced, young, and didn't see the coaches selecting me to play," recalled Snow during the 20 Questions interview. "After hearing the national anthem, I remember looking up at the flag and thinking, 'God, how lucky am I?'

"I'm always thankful for what I've got, because lots of people do work as hard as me and don't have the same success. So, I've been very fortunate."

In 1996, he was back in South Africa, having left his job as a personal trainer in St. John's to take up an offer with a pro team in Port Elizabeth. That experience wasn't a great one, but his fortunes soon changed as a result of a meeting in London with Rees, his teammate and good friend, who was teaching at Eton College.

It was Rees who suggested Snow look into playing for Newport.

That conversation led to Snow's decade-long stay in Wales, one which ended in 2005, with the Newport side dedicating that season to Snow's career and giving him the rare honour of a testimonial game and dinner.

That year, he returned to Newfoundland, where he helped the Rock to two Rugby Canada Super League championships.

Snow always insisted it was an honour to play for Newfoundland, just as it had been to play for Canada, in large part because it gave him a chance to repay and honour those who helped him early in his career.

"People like Tom Jacobs and Pat Parfrey have put their life and soul into rugby here, and if I get opportunity to help local rugby out, it will all be worth it," he said.

Still, his best work in the giving-back department may have come off the pitch, as project manager during development and construction of the recently-completed provincial training centre, the PowerPlex.

Today, he's the centre's high-performance director and facilities manager.

It's a job, for sure, but for Snow, there's some duty involved, too.

"When I went to Wales, I quickly learned that to be part of the community, I had to do more than play rugby on Saturday. I had to give something back to the community," he said.

bmcc@thetelegram.com




Selection criteria

The object: To select the 10 best athletes Newfoundland and Labrador has produced. Seven prominent individuals with an impressive sports background, together with Robin Short, Brendan McCarthy and John Browne of The Telegram's sports department, were chosen to make the selections.
The criteria: Athletes must have been born in Newfoundland and Labrador and spent a large part of their development years within the province. The field was open to amateur and professional, and male and female athletes.
The selection panel
John McGrath: A former Newfoundland soccer president, McGrath is chairman of the board of governors for the Newfoundland and Labrador Sports Hall of Fame.
Brian Brocklehurst: A two-sport star in St. John's during the late 1960s and '70s, Brocklehurst was the 1969 St. John's athlete of the year.
Don Johnson: A former president of both the Canadian and Newfoundland amateur hockey associations, Johnson was also head of the St. John's Senior Men's Softball League and Royal St. John's Regatta Committee. He has served on the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame and Canada Games Council.
Roger Grimes: Otherwise known as a former premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, those in sports know him as an erstwhile Grand Falls Cataracts senior hockey player and Grand Falls Beothuks senior baseball player.
Terry Hart: Another Grand Falls-Windsor native, Hart has broadcasted local sports for over 30 years. He continues in radio today at VOCM.
Glenn Stanford: He's known most recently as the man who ran the St. John's Maple Leafs for 14 seasons. But before that, Stanford was a two-sport star - basketball and soccer - with Holy Cross and Memorial.
Alan (Tex) Seaborn: Seaborn has had a long-standing involvement with the Corner Brook and Newfoundland baseball associations. He served as vice-chairman and vice-president of sport for the 1999 Canada Winter Games in Corner Brook.



Top 10 best athletes

1. TBA -Aug. 23, 2008
2. TBA -Aug. 16, 2008
3. TBA -Aug. 9, 2008
4. Rod Snow
5. Carl English
6. Daniel Cleary
7. Frank Humber
8. Paul McCloy
9. Colin Abbott
10. Michael Ryder

Organizations: Eton College, The Telegram, BBC Welsh Rugby Union Newfoundland and Labrador Sports Hall Softball League and Royal Regatta Committee Canadian Sports Hall Fame and Canada Games Council Maple Leafs

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, Newport Wales Mount Pearl South Africa St. John's Romania Britain Australia France Bonavista Ontario Argentina Port Elizabeth Corner Brook London Grand Falls-Windsor

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Comments

Comments

Recent comments

  • Don
    July 02, 2010 - 13:35

    To what about the women ....sorry but I can't think any woman that have made an impact like any of the top seven. Maybe Mag Davis or Sue Ann Bartlett did O.K. but neither will be in the top three. Gushue, Faulkner, Mike O'Leary, Ross Crocker, Andy Sullivan, Tolson Chapman, Colbourne are all left.

  • David
    July 02, 2010 - 13:30

    Rod is certainly deserving of a top 10 placing but I'm not sure I'd have Carl English and Michael Ryder in my top 10. A lot of great ahtletes left including Darren Colbounre, Brad Gushue, Andy Sullivan, any one of the Faulkners.... It will be inteesting to see who the Top 3 are.

  • What about the Women
    July 02, 2010 - 13:30

    Hey Guys.. your now down to the top 3 and not one women has made your list, there are a number of great female athletes in our province too. .... But what you expect from an all Male selection committee and an all Male editorial sports department.

  • Funky
    July 02, 2010 - 13:28

    If Brad Gushue makes it, the guy that won that big poker tournament a few weeks back should also be given consideration. The show poker on TSN, so it must be a sport. They showcase spelling bee's on TSN as well. I got 100% on all my spelling quizzes in grade 6, I wonder will crack the top three. I deserve it as much as Brad Gushue with my impressive speeling resume.

  • Jonny
    July 02, 2010 - 13:27

    If BRAD GUSHUE cracks the top three I WILL LOSE my lunch!!!

  • Chris
    July 02, 2010 - 13:25

    I remember well trying to catch Rod Snow in the finishing funnel of the Harbourfront 10K a week or so after the South Africa Rugby World Cup. The best 250 lb runner I have seen! A well deserved position in the top ten athletes of Newfoundland & Labrador. To be honoured in the #1 sport in Wales is magnificent.
    I hope that Brad Gushue is in the top three. An Olympic Gold Medal is the pinnacle of sport. Brad guided his team to that electifying moment for the province & the country. Yes, there should be women in the top ten. My vote goes to Nicola Will. The greatest female runner. Her dad, Ray, was a superb master's runner along with Art Meaney.
    Newfoundland has been blessed with outstanding athletes. Let's not forget the Regatta rowers. The Ring family and others have brought distinction to that first Wednesday in August.

  • Wonderin'
    July 02, 2010 - 13:23

    Surely curling does not make on an elite athlete!! If so then maybe darts should also be considered.

  • m
    July 02, 2010 - 13:22

    Jonny you will lose your lunch if Brad Gushue cracks the top 3 Imagine if George or Alex Faulkner make it. Where are the Multi sport athletes who represented the province in more than one sport at the national level. Why have they not cracked the top ten yet.

  • Carl
    July 02, 2010 - 13:18

    Since others have pushed the pannic button on behalf of their favorites, I think you're going to see (on merrit) three of Brad Gushue, Meg Davis, George Faulkner, and Tols Chapman fill out the top-10. They all have the credentials in pure athleticism (yes, curling successfully today demands the physical preparation and sacrifice of other top sports and Gushue's accomplishments, albeit as a team member, rank with Mike Weir's had he won the Masters at 25) and in International acomplishments (except Chapman who came from an era without the opportunities).

  • stuart
    July 02, 2010 - 13:18

    Any ideas on the top 3. I have this feeling that their going to throw Brad Gushue in there somewhere (which gives me shudders, because there's no way he's a better athlete than English, Cleary, or Snow). I'm not sure about the other 2 spots though.

    @ David, have you followed English's career? The guy is trying to get into the NBA. He's made all-star teams in Europe, plays for Team Canada, and is rumored to be attending another NBA tryout in August. And you want to put Brad Gushue ahead of him....ick.....if it wasn't so easy to win here in Newfoundland, Gushue wouldn't be constantly heading to the Brier, etc..

  • G-Money
    July 02, 2010 - 13:17

    Athletically, the bar has been set pretty high with Rod Snow. Rugby, Soccer, Hockey, Lawn Bowls...he could do it all. I also question the omission of such all-rounders as Tols Chapman. Isn't this list called Top 10 ATHLETES ? If the Telegram would like to change the name of it's list to Top 10 Sporting Achievements , then go ahead and name TEAM GUSHUE's Olympic gold number one. A gold medal trumps Snow's four World Cups and Cleary's Stanley Cup. There's nothing bigger than Olympic gold....period. But it's not. We're searching for the BEST ATHLETE. Gushue over the likes of Snow, Colin Abbott, and Tols Chapman. I'm sorry.... I'm not buying it. If Gushue is number one, I hope the word TEAM is in front of Gushue. If not, you're telling me Brad is the best athlete in Newfoundlands history, but the best curler on the team (Mark Nichols) can't crack the top ten.

  • Lisa
    July 02, 2010 - 13:16

    I just can't believe the utter lack of respect for Brad Gushue and the entire sport of curling. Trying to compare curling to rugby (for example) is like comparing apples to oranges. Obviously you have to be in supreme physical shape for certain sports, whereas others require a mix of good fitness as well as intelligence, and mental toughness, etc. How about we stop trying to put one above the other and just support the wonderful accomplishments of our Newfoundland athletes. I also can't help but wonder if Gold at the Olympics in any sport would be put at the top of the list without question. This double standard is getting old!

    And as for the lack of females...what can I say, except that it's disgraceful and certainly takes away from the credibility of the whole idea.

  • David
    July 02, 2010 - 13:13

    To Stuart Jackson: As far as being ahtletic goes, Brad Gushue is in tip top shape, trains year round, and oh, I almost forgot, beat the best in the World. He is an Olympic Champion! Carl's story is incredible and I hope he does make the NBA, but at this point he is an undrafted basketball player who plays plays minor pro ball. He would be in my top 12 or 13 but not this high. There are only 3 spots left and as mentioned before there are a lot of guys who should be in the top 10. Gerry Basha, an incredible athllete in his day, Darren Colbourne, who dominated provincial hockey and baseball,and played pro in his second best sport most people will tell you. Had he got a break like Ryder with Claude Julien he would have had a better career, bigger, better shot better skater than Ryder. Faulkner, who played in the NHL when there were 6 teams, not as good as Ryder, yeah right! And there are plenty more.

  • wally
    July 02, 2010 - 13:11

    Congratulations,Rod! Glad to see that your athletic accomplishments have not been forgotten. You were definitely one of the most powerful athletes that I have ever seen in my life. I'm sure that there are many thirty-something former athletes in this province who take great pride in having played with you and against you in the past.Many of us still have the lumps to show; even us teammates. Way to go!

  • Don
    July 01, 2010 - 20:25

    To what about the women ....sorry but I can't think any woman that have made an impact like any of the top seven. Maybe Mag Davis or Sue Ann Bartlett did O.K. but neither will be in the top three. Gushue, Faulkner, Mike O'Leary, Ross Crocker, Andy Sullivan, Tolson Chapman, Colbourne are all left.

  • David
    July 01, 2010 - 20:19

    Rod is certainly deserving of a top 10 placing but I'm not sure I'd have Carl English and Michael Ryder in my top 10. A lot of great ahtletes left including Darren Colbounre, Brad Gushue, Andy Sullivan, any one of the Faulkners.... It will be inteesting to see who the Top 3 are.

  • What about the Women
    July 01, 2010 - 20:19

    Hey Guys.. your now down to the top 3 and not one women has made your list, there are a number of great female athletes in our province too. .... But what you expect from an all Male selection committee and an all Male editorial sports department.

  • Funky
    July 01, 2010 - 20:16

    If Brad Gushue makes it, the guy that won that big poker tournament a few weeks back should also be given consideration. The show poker on TSN, so it must be a sport. They showcase spelling bee's on TSN as well. I got 100% on all my spelling quizzes in grade 6, I wonder will crack the top three. I deserve it as much as Brad Gushue with my impressive speeling resume.

  • Jonny
    July 01, 2010 - 20:15

    If BRAD GUSHUE cracks the top three I WILL LOSE my lunch!!!

  • Chris
    July 01, 2010 - 20:11

    I remember well trying to catch Rod Snow in the finishing funnel of the Harbourfront 10K a week or so after the South Africa Rugby World Cup. The best 250 lb runner I have seen! A well deserved position in the top ten athletes of Newfoundland & Labrador. To be honoured in the #1 sport in Wales is magnificent.
    I hope that Brad Gushue is in the top three. An Olympic Gold Medal is the pinnacle of sport. Brad guided his team to that electifying moment for the province & the country. Yes, there should be women in the top ten. My vote goes to Nicola Will. The greatest female runner. Her dad, Ray, was a superb master's runner along with Art Meaney.
    Newfoundland has been blessed with outstanding athletes. Let's not forget the Regatta rowers. The Ring family and others have brought distinction to that first Wednesday in August.

  • Wonderin'
    July 01, 2010 - 20:08

    Surely curling does not make on an elite athlete!! If so then maybe darts should also be considered.

  • m
    July 01, 2010 - 20:06

    Jonny you will lose your lunch if Brad Gushue cracks the top 3 Imagine if George or Alex Faulkner make it. Where are the Multi sport athletes who represented the province in more than one sport at the national level. Why have they not cracked the top ten yet.

  • Carl
    July 01, 2010 - 20:00

    Since others have pushed the pannic button on behalf of their favorites, I think you're going to see (on merrit) three of Brad Gushue, Meg Davis, George Faulkner, and Tols Chapman fill out the top-10. They all have the credentials in pure athleticism (yes, curling successfully today demands the physical preparation and sacrifice of other top sports and Gushue's accomplishments, albeit as a team member, rank with Mike Weir's had he won the Masters at 25) and in International acomplishments (except Chapman who came from an era without the opportunities).

  • stuart
    July 01, 2010 - 19:59

    Any ideas on the top 3. I have this feeling that their going to throw Brad Gushue in there somewhere (which gives me shudders, because there's no way he's a better athlete than English, Cleary, or Snow). I'm not sure about the other 2 spots though.

    @ David, have you followed English's career? The guy is trying to get into the NBA. He's made all-star teams in Europe, plays for Team Canada, and is rumored to be attending another NBA tryout in August. And you want to put Brad Gushue ahead of him....ick.....if it wasn't so easy to win here in Newfoundland, Gushue wouldn't be constantly heading to the Brier, etc..

  • G-Money
    July 01, 2010 - 19:57

    Athletically, the bar has been set pretty high with Rod Snow. Rugby, Soccer, Hockey, Lawn Bowls...he could do it all. I also question the omission of such all-rounders as Tols Chapman. Isn't this list called Top 10 ATHLETES ? If the Telegram would like to change the name of it's list to Top 10 Sporting Achievements , then go ahead and name TEAM GUSHUE's Olympic gold number one. A gold medal trumps Snow's four World Cups and Cleary's Stanley Cup. There's nothing bigger than Olympic gold....period. But it's not. We're searching for the BEST ATHLETE. Gushue over the likes of Snow, Colin Abbott, and Tols Chapman. I'm sorry.... I'm not buying it. If Gushue is number one, I hope the word TEAM is in front of Gushue. If not, you're telling me Brad is the best athlete in Newfoundlands history, but the best curler on the team (Mark Nichols) can't crack the top ten.

  • Lisa
    July 01, 2010 - 19:56

    I just can't believe the utter lack of respect for Brad Gushue and the entire sport of curling. Trying to compare curling to rugby (for example) is like comparing apples to oranges. Obviously you have to be in supreme physical shape for certain sports, whereas others require a mix of good fitness as well as intelligence, and mental toughness, etc. How about we stop trying to put one above the other and just support the wonderful accomplishments of our Newfoundland athletes. I also can't help but wonder if Gold at the Olympics in any sport would be put at the top of the list without question. This double standard is getting old!

    And as for the lack of females...what can I say, except that it's disgraceful and certainly takes away from the credibility of the whole idea.

  • David
    July 01, 2010 - 19:51

    To Stuart Jackson: As far as being ahtletic goes, Brad Gushue is in tip top shape, trains year round, and oh, I almost forgot, beat the best in the World. He is an Olympic Champion! Carl's story is incredible and I hope he does make the NBA, but at this point he is an undrafted basketball player who plays plays minor pro ball. He would be in my top 12 or 13 but not this high. There are only 3 spots left and as mentioned before there are a lot of guys who should be in the top 10. Gerry Basha, an incredible athllete in his day, Darren Colbourne, who dominated provincial hockey and baseball,and played pro in his second best sport most people will tell you. Had he got a break like Ryder with Claude Julien he would have had a better career, bigger, better shot better skater than Ryder. Faulkner, who played in the NHL when there were 6 teams, not as good as Ryder, yeah right! And there are plenty more.

  • wally
    July 01, 2010 - 19:47

    Congratulations,Rod! Glad to see that your athletic accomplishments have not been forgotten. You were definitely one of the most powerful athletes that I have ever seen in my life. I'm sure that there are many thirty-something former athletes in this province who take great pride in having played with you and against you in the past.Many of us still have the lumps to show; even us teammates. Way to go!