Kimberley native Van Pratt – a former Barbarian

Kimberley native Van Pratt – a former Barbarian

A hooligans game played by gentlemen

The final part of the Bulletin's feature on rugby in the East Kootenay

By Brian McKenzie

Given the English origins of rugby, it is not surprising that many of Kimberley’s 1960s-era players were British or Australian. Peter Moody, Don and Tony Davies, Roger Hewitt, Don Salmon, Ross Pierce, Steve Waterhouse and Rob Edmunds brought not only the necessary field skills to the game but also a vast knowledge of bawdy rugby songs, some of the lyrics to which can be found on the web, at the reader’s peril!

These ex-pats were joined by born-and-bred Canadians like Dave Lynn, Russ Reid, Van Pratt, Bill Gooding, Hugh Town and Graham Abbott, who later coached a Selkirk School side.

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(Chris Goodwin coached the Selkirk team when Graham left.)

Some local alumni had distinguished backgrounds in the sport. Dave Ure, a burly prop forward, played for Canada. Steve Riley was a winger who had played second division with the Vancouver Meralomas. Randy Lucas, a later player from the 1990s, was in the BC Lions organization.

Cominco provided many engineers, geologists and technicians to the fold, including Brent Cross, Rob Edmunds, Bruce Reid and Alan Day. One player, lawyer Doug Stewart, went on to become Member of Parliament for Okanagan Kootenay. Mountaineer Pat Morrow, who played for the Barbarians, was the first person to summit the highest peaks on all seven continents.

A bearded surveyor from Cranbrook named Alan Grant, at 6 feet 5 inches and over 280 pounds in weight, was valuable to the team not only for his considerable skill, but also for the fear his imposing appearance instilled in the other team.

A number of families were represented by more than one player.

The Nonis brothers, Ray and Dario, were fearless on the three-quarter line – Ray as a fly-half and Dario as a scrum half. All four of the Berglund boys played. Eric, who played for both the Barbarians and Trail Colonials, also piped the team on and off the field. Rick (Bosco) was a formidable forward, while Gene and Kari (since passed away) were fleet-footed running backs.

Three of the Reid family from Blarchmont played: Ken, a biologist and burly forward; Russ, a retired teacher and ski patroller, also a forward; and Bruce, a geologist and BC Mines Inspector, who is still playing the game five decades later.

Some of the high school students introduced to the game in the 1960s played for a number of years after. They included Randy Marchi, Ralph Tyson, Dave Ekskog and myself.

Cranbrook native Dennis Daniels – who had the dubious nickname of “Dank” – was famous for a type of tackle known as “clotheslining” where a defender held out his arm and the opposing player’s advance was slowed, considerably, by the meeting of his throat with the defender’s arm.

Injuries were a part of the game and forwards like Bob (Lulu) Wright often used their first aid skills on and off the field. Sadly, one training exercise in the late 1960s left Kimberley native Gerry Corriveau a paraplegic. While Gerry was in traction in the Foothills Hospital, the team visited and his mates were able to administer some rugby field tonic through a straw to aid in his recovery. With his indomitable will, Gerry went on to become an accountant and is still a rugby devotee.

The team travelled to Invermere, Trail and Nelson regularly, and to Lethbridge and Calgary on occasion. Visiting teams from Pullman, Washington carried with them an American football background that could be bone crushing.

Some of them were ex-footballers who had exceeded their four-year college eligibility and were playing rugby to stay in shape, while others truly enjoyed the game and the freedom from “set-plays” that football lacked. Their habit of group or gang tackling was hard on the receiver but left gaps in their lines that could be exploited. The Pullman team was named the “Washington State Pigs,” a reference to the fact that their alma mater was a well-known agricultural university.

On one trip to Lethbridge, the home team had the bad habit of letting one of their scrum forwards slip his arm out of the scrum and use this free hand to block the eyes of Kimberley’s hooker, thus preventing him from hooking the ball back to his three-quarter line. After a few of these occurrences, the hooker – who shall remain nameless – asked his prop forwards to allow both his arms to slip out of the scrum.

When the offending player’s fingers emerged to cover his eyes, Kimberley’s hooker used his two free hands to pull the offending fingers in opposite directions. After a great hue and cry, the wishboning had the planned corrective effect and Lethbridge discontinued their practice of trying to disadvantage the Kimberley side.

The last word.

“Rugby is a hooligans game played by gentlemen.” – Winston Churchill