Pictou Advocate sports

The top dynasty: ’70s rugby club


Statistics don’t lie. One plus one is always two.

Those are mathematical facts I learned when I was in elementary school in New Glasgow way back in the post-war days. I’ve been fascinated with numbers ever since.

In a much more recent explanation, I read an online definition that statistics “can be used to determine the potential outcome of thousands of things where the human mind alone wouldn’t be able to.”

Few issues in life rely more heavily on stats than sports. Just check the sports pages and you’ll see what I mean.

When I challenged myself to name the three top sports dynasties in Pictou County in my lifetime, it was good old arithmetic that convinced me I was making the right selections.

By applying simple math to such details as championships accomplished, along with won-lost records, I couldn’t find any franchise that came close to what the Pictou County Senior Rugby Club achieved in the 1970s.

That’s why I picked the ruggers number one.

Begin with the winning – and what’s more important in competitive sports than the winning?

In the eight-year period from 1971 to 1978, the rugby crew won seven Nova Scotia championships – three in a row starting in ‘71 and, after a one-year miss, four more in succession between ‘75 and ‘78. It didn’t stop with provincial titles either. They went on to capture Maritime crowns in 1971, 1976, 1977 and 1978.

What a record! What a decade!

Making the ruggers even more dominant, they garnered three more Nova Scotia titles in 1981-83 and two additional Maritime victories in 1981 and ‘82.

Losing count?

Over the full 1971-82 era, the Pictou County franchise collected 10 provincial crowns in 12 seasons and six Maritime championships in that period.

Want more stats?

Observe the club’s won-lost records, especially in the 1970s. This is what they produced: a 13-0 unbeaten season in 1971, an 11-1 mark in ‘72, a 12-1 campaign in ‘73, a 9-1 bottom line in ‘74, another 12-1 showing in ‘75, a 12-0 undefeated year in ‘76, another 12-1 total in ‘77, and a 10-1 margin in ‘78.

The grand total: 91 wins, six losses.

I doubt very much that you’d find a better result by any franchise, at any level, in any year, in any sport, anywhere.

Even in the pros, you won’t match what the rugby guys did. Not baseball’s New York Yankees. Not basketball’s Boston Celtics. Not hockey’s Montreal Canadiens. Not football’s New England Patriots. Not anybody.

You have to admire the rugby story, even if you weren’t around to watch it unfold.

It’s now 48 years since it began. That’s when some former high school rugby players got together with a few rugby enthusiasts who came from Europe to work at the Michelin plant in Granton.

The statistics tell the story – a great story – but I think the most amazing things that happened were the Nova Scotia and Maritime championships in the club’s inaugural year.

When I consider the sports successes I witnessed in the county, the biggest disappointment was that I had left New Glasgow two years before the rugby reign started.

I saw only a handful of the games in person. Nonetheless, I followed the team’s activities through media accounts. It was hard not to be interested.

There were different reasons why the rugby group was so successful through so many years. The biggest, I think, was the dedication of the players involved. I’d like to identify each and all the guys, but there were more than 50 that wore the uniform.

I found the following in my files: “The organization of the club was handled by the older players who took the different positions on the executive. They looked after everything from the starting lineup, to putting the lines on the field, to securing the referees for the home games. For away games, the older players looked after the transportation. As sponsorship was not allowed, much of the expense for travel and accommodations or equipment came out of the players’ pockets, with some fund-raising like bake sales and raffles to ease the burden.”

With teamwork like that, how could it not have been an impressive undertaking?

Despite the decades that have passed, there’s still a missing chapter – a final chapter – to this grand story.

It leaves me puzzled and disappointed.

In 2006, the Pictou County Senior Rugby Club was officially nominated for induction into the Nova Scotia Sport Hall of Fame – the highest award a team can receive in this province.

I was on the hall’s selection committee at the time. I thought the nomination would be rubber-stamped the first time it was presented. You may recall what actually took place – the club, to this day, has not received the hall’s blessing. To make a long story short, it was one of the reasons why I eventually decided to quit the selection committee.

A dozen induction ceremonies later, you still won’t find the rugby club listed among the hall’s hundreds of inductees.

Fortunately, the same mistake wasn’t made closer to home. The team was inducted into the Pictou County Sports Heritage Hall of Fame in 2005.

After deciding to choose what I believed were the top three sports dynasties in the county’s history, I weighed a number of facts before revealing the selections.

Making the 1958-61 Trenton Scotias softball team the third pick, and the 1951-53 Stellarton Albions baseball franchise number two, I recounted wonderful memories because I was there – almost every game – to see those two clubs in their days of glory.

When I weighed the facts – and the statistics – about the 1970s Pictou County Senior Rugby Club, there was little hesitation in making the number one pick.

Not only was the rugby squad a super dynasty, it was also an impressive display of longevity.