Who is British Columbia’s all-time Rugby ‘Tough Man’?


BC Rugby partners with Georges St-Pierrie RUSHFIT

VANCOUVER (ISN) – As the XVs club season in British Columbia winds down BC Rugby has teamed up with RUSHFIT – Georges St-Pierre’s Ultimate Home Fitness Workout program – to make sure rugby players maintain their elite level of fitness over the summer months. As part of the new partnership BC Rugby wanted to know who was the all-time rugby ‘Tough Man’ to come out of our province?

Forming a selection panel comprised of some of the region’s most accomplished rugby players, panelists sent in their top ten votes. The panel set out with one question in mind – who would have been able to handle themselves against the likes of St-Pierre, the UFC’s top star and current welter-weight champion?

Sitting on the panel was Rugby Canada’s National Men’s Program Manager and Canada’s all time leading scoring Gareth Rees. The IRB Hall of Fame inductee played alongside several ‘Tough Men’ during his four Rugby World Cup appearances in 1987, ’91, ’95 and ’99. Also on the panel was three-time Rugby World Cup participant and former Canadian captain Morgan Williams who still plies his trade for the always tough James Bay Athletic Association. Spence McTavish has seen plenty of the province’s top players in action having played for UBC, the UBC Old Boys, British Columbia and Canada. A fellow UBC Old Boy and 2011 Rugby World Cup standout Ed Fairhurst also provided his thoughts during the voting process. Also on the panel was Meraloma, BC, and Rugby Canada standout John Lecky. Providing insight into the 1950s and ’60s rugby landscape was Ted Hunt, a member of the BC Sports Hall of Fame (1972) and the BC Rugby Hall of Fame (1993).

Gord MacKinnon received two first place votes for the all-time ‘Tough Man.’ First place votes also went to Jamie Cudmore, Nils Carlson and Dennis Quigley. Compiling the analysis from our panelists we came up with 10 of the all time ‘Tough Men’ to have ever played rugby in British Columbia.

Bianco, Al ‘Alby’ (Kats RFC)
On September 14th, 1966 the British Columbia senior men’s provincial team staged one of the most memorable upsets in Canadian history, defeating the famed British Lions 8-3 at Empire Stadium in Vancouver. A key member of that squad was Kats RFC standout Al ‘Alby’ Bianco. “His shoulders were an axe handle across, and he was fast,” said panelist Ted Hunt. ” Playing with the lead in the last five minutes against the British Lions, the Lions threw everything they had with a series of forward rushes – like the old flying wedge from football. Alby ran full speed at the front of the rush and stopped it dead. They tried twice more. Dick Layzelle of the Meralomas stopped the second rush, and Alby returned for the last, hitting the front of the wall like an explosion. It was all over, and an out-of-the-way Provincial side from BC had beaten the best of England, Scotland, the two Irelands and Wales.”

Cudmore, Jamie (ASM Clermont Auvergne/ Capilano RFC)
Arguably Canada’s most high profile player of the professional era, Cudmore is an established figure in the second row for French Top 14 club ASM Clermont Auvergne. Planet Rugby recently referred to the Squamish, BC native as “a hard hitter in every sense of the word. Cudmore is an aggressive player… and has the rather ironic nickname of ‘Cuddles'”. One would only need to search for Cudmore on YouTube to find an abundance of clips of the towering forward dropping the gloves with the likes of Irish lock Paul O’Connell. Cudmore has suited up for Canada on numerous occasions including the 2003, ’07 and ’11 Rugby World Cups and in 2010 won the Top 14 Championship with Clermont beating Perpignan 19-6 at Stade Francais.

Carlson, Nils (Kats RFC)
Panelist Ted Hunt listed Kats RFC standout Nils Carlson as his all time BC Tough Man. “Nils Carlson played second row for the Kats RFC during their golden years when they won the city championships 15 years in a row,” Hunt said. “He was strong and not often polite, but he kept things honest. When he was on the receiving end, he said not a word of complaint. The New Zealand All-Blacks played BC Reps soon after BC had beaten NZ Universities in a two game series. A knee in the back broke two [of Carlson’s] ribs and they pounded what they considered to be a weakness by crashing the engagement of the set scrums. White from pain he played on.”

De Goede, Hans (James Bay / Cardiff)
Referred to by former opponents as ‘The Dutchman’. “The little bit of hurt directed to Hans was inversely proportional to the hurt that he put on the opposition,” said panelist Spence McTavish. De Goede, a member of the BC Rugby Hall of Fame (2007) was renowned for his dominance in the lineouts and front up approach. The James Bay standout captained the Canadian national team at the inaugural Rugby World Cup in New Zealand and from 1974-87 represented Canada 24 times in international matches. De Goede could have handled himself against St. Pierrie according to his BC Sports Hall of Fame profile which reads, “Besides club commitments, the loyalties of top Canadian rugby players in the 1970s were split three other ways – regional, provincial and national. The game was still strictly amateur demanding a huge commitment from players who were forced to take large amounts of time off work unpaid. De Goede actually fought in a number of “So You Think You’re Tough?” boxing tournaments doing quite well and bringing home some extra cash.”

MacKinnon, Gordon (Pocomo Rugby Club)
Born in Glasgow, Scotland, ‘Gord’ MacKinnon was a standout flanker for the Pocomo Rugby Club in New West Minster and a stalwart for several years on the Canadian national team. “He was hard and fit on a world class level,” said panelist and BCRU President John Lecky. MacKinnon battled several lengthy injuries during his career but still played 28 games for Canada from 1985-1995. MacKinnon is still receiving accolades for his conditioning – years after retiring from rugby and in 2011 won the Master’s Category for the 50-54 age grade division at the annual Crossfit games in California.

Peace, Wayne (Cowichan Rugby Club)
So legendary and respected was Wayne Peace that Cowichan and Nanaimo now hold the annual ‘Wayne Peace Game’ to play in his honour. Wayne was a fixture on the successful Crimson Tide and BC Men’s teams of the ’90s splitting club duties between Nanaimo and Cowichan. He anchored the Piggies’ front row during the two Rounsefell Cup years in ’97 and ’98 and was a terror to many young players in the local BC leagues for years. “Wayne was a hard as nails prop from Cowichan and we always hated playing the “Piggies” because they seemed to have a hate on for us young guns who played CCSD,” said Morgan Williams. “One place I never wanted to go with Wayne was at the bottom of a ruck!”

Puil, George (Vancouver Rowing Club, UBC Thunderbirds)
A member of the UBC Sports Hall of Fame, Puil was an All-Star football and rugby player at UBC during his university career, followed by 10 years of representing BC and Canada in international rugby matches while also playing for the Vancouver Rowing Club. “Pound for pound, George Puil of the Rowing Club was one of the toughest/hardest men I had the pleasure of playing with (and against). At 140 pounds he was not so much a physical obstacle, as he was a formidable mental presence. His strength was centred in an almost fanatical competitive determination that would not permit losing or quitting,” said Ted Hunt.

Quigley, Dennis (UBC, Ex-Brits)
Referred to as ‘Elf’ by some of his university team mates, Quigley was a part of the the 1970-71 UBC Rugby team inducted into the UBC Sports Hall of Fame for winning 21 of its 22 games. With Quigley providing the muscle and play making, the UBC squad were Vancouver, BC and Western Canadain University Champions as well as World Cup victors over previously unbeaten UCLA. “Dennis Quigley had more fight in him than a pack of wandering pit bulls,” said McTavish, a fellow member of the 1970-71 inducted team.

Honorable mentions: Wayne Bickerton, Rick Bourne, Mike Burak, Pat Dunkley, Glenn Ennis, Peter Grantham, John Hutchinson, Gary Johnston, Mark Lawson, Rob Robson and Tony Scott.

Any athlete that requires interval training, plyometrics, functional strength or just wants to raise their conditioning would benefit from RUSHFIT. The program is available for players in any position whether they are full backs, wingers, fly halves, flankers or props. Being in elite shape is crucial to controlling power, speed, agility and mental focus – all necessities to prevent injuries and ensure domination. Prepare yourself for the late game scrum that requires every bit of sweat and pound of force your body can generate by training at the highest level possible.

The eight-week DVD RUSHFIT program is broken down into seven home workouts titled; Explosive Power, Strength and Endurance, Abdominal and Core Strength, Full Body Strength, Fight Conditioning, Balance & Agility and Stretching for Flexibility. The DVDs are currently available at most Canadian sports and equipment retail stores for $79.99 and online through www.gsprushfit.com for $89.99 (includes free shipping). Use the exclusive BC Rugby promo code RUSHFITRUGBY at checkout and receive 10% off until June 30th.

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Christian J. Stewart
Christian is a professional photographer and media professional based in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. Currently working as the Assistant General Manager for Victoria HarbourCats Baseball Club, a Senior Contributing Editor and photographer at Independent Sports News (ISN) and operating his own freelance photography and media/pr company.