Former Canadian Rugby International Norm Hadley Passes Away
Norman (“Norm”) Hadley (born 2 December 1964 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada) is a former professional rugby union player. “Stormin’ Norman” was a massive 6 foot 7″, 21-stone (150-kg) lock. He played professionally first for London Wasps and then Bedford Blues in the 1990s. In Canada he played for James Bay and UBCOB Ravens (British Columbia Rugby Union). He earned an M.B.A. degree from UBC in 1991. Previously he played for Western Suburbs in Wellington, New Zealand. He played for quarter-finalist Canada in the 1991 Rugby World Cup. In total he earned 25 caps for Canada between 1987 and 1994.
Hadley captained his national side five times in 1992-3, including on October 17, 1992 at Wembley Stadium, a 13-26 (1 try to 4) loss to England. On that day Hadley eclipsed his English counterparts Wade Dooley and Martin Bayfield, and rallied an understrength Canadian side to a respectable outcome. Many however point to Canada’s narrow quarter-final defeat to the New Zealand All Blacks in the 1991 World Cup as Canada’s finest hour, where Hadley and a big, tough forward pack clearly had the upper hand over New Zealand. That highly regarded 1991 World Cup Canadian team made a big impact defeating Fiji and Romania and giving both France and New Zealand such a torrid time. Always outspoken, a dispute with national team management saw him not play the 1995 World Cup, where his team desperately needed him in the tough pool that included South Africa and Australia.
Following a dominant performance in the 1991 World Cup, he was named to the World Team (as selected by Rugby World magazine), and was subsequently chosen to play for the world selection Barbarians against the World Champions Australia at Twickenham in 1992. His locking partner for the Barbarians that day was All Black Ian Jones. He went on to represent the Barbarians another four times. He was named Athlete of the Year in his home town of Victoria, B.C. following the World Cup in 1991.
While working in London and playing for Wasps, he gained perhaps his greatest notoriety for roughing up two hooligans on the London Underground, an act which not only earned him praiseworthy column inches in the British broadsheets and tabloids, but even gained him a mention in the House of Commons by then Prime Minister John Major. Already a well-known pundit on BBC TV’s Rugby Special live weekly program, offers for more TV appearances followed. Stormin’ Norman was later named in Britain’s glossy Total Sport Magazine (August 1997 issue, “The Blood and Guts, Hard Issue”) as one of the World’s 12 Toughest Sportsmen alongside Lance Armstrong and F1 racer Johnny Herbert. (Among the “Sporting Sissies” were boxers Roberto Duran and Riddick Bowe).
In Australia’s Inside Sport Magazine – “Rugby World Cup 2003 Issue” (Inside Sport November 2003 # 143 pg. 70), Aussie Captain and legend John Eales named his Top 5 World Cup “Bolters from the Blue”. “Stormin’ Norm Hadley, the impressive Canadian from 1991” (playing in the same position as Eales) was #3 on the list. All Black phenomenon, Jonah Lomu was #1 for his exploits in 1995 and the entire Western Samoa team came in at #2 for their efforts in the 1991 tournament. (Ivory Coast came in at #4 for making it to the 1995 event. World Cup (1991) winning Australian Wallaby winger Rob Egerton was #5).
A no-nonsense player’s-player, who played a tough, aggressive, uncompromising game on the field, he was openly critical of the inability of Canadian management to adapt to the new professional environment. He seemed to walk away from the game when he still had more to offer, either as a player, coach, administrator or commentator, having once claimed on TV that if he weren’t playing sport he could find many other things to do with his time than watch it or talk about it.
He is the grandson of celebrated Academy Oscar Award-winning Hollywood cinematographer Osmond Borradaile.