In an evening that celebrated decades-worth of Ontario rugby excellence, five worthy individuals – including former McMaster Marauders coach Phil White – were inducted into the Rugby Ontario Hall of Fame Saturday (Dec. 6).
Held at a ceremony Scarborough, White, Robert Jenkins, Ian MacMillan, Karl Svoboda, and Mike Williams were honoured as the Rugby Ontario Hall of Fame’s Class of 2014. The quintet represented the twelfth group of provincial enshrines, joining 58 previous inductees into the Hall of Fame.
“The contributions and achievements made by these five individuals throughout the lengthy time they spent building the sport of rugby in Ontario make them an integral part of our history,” said David Nelson, Rugby Ontario President. “The Rugby Ontario Board of Directors was proud to unanimously approve the Selection Committee’s recommendation for their induction into the Rugby Ontario Hall of Fame.”
Rugby Ontario also recognized the inaugural class of Provincial Recognition Awards winners, with recipients honoured for their outstanding accomplishments in rugby throughout 2014.
Few coaches have been as woven into the fabric of Canadian post-secondary rugby as Phil White, and fewer still have known as much success.
As head coach of the Marauders’ men’s rugby team for 25 seasons (1987-2013), White built a tradition of excellence. He guided the McMaster program to its first-ever OUAA Rugby Championship in 1993, and the Marauders raised the Turner Trophy as league champions six more times under his direction (2003, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011).
White has been named the OUA Coach of the Year on six occasions. A member of the faculty in the McMaster Department of Kinesiology, White also spent time working with Rugby Ontario and Rugby Canada, seeing several of his McMaster graduates earn spots on national and provincial teams.
White coached numerous Ontario provincial teams between 1988 and 2004, including Senior Women, U19 Women, U21 Men, and U14 Boys, and earned many national championships in the process. He has also served as a selector for many additional Ontario provincial sides.
At the club level, White coached the Brampton Rugby Club to multiple senior and junior championships between 1986 and 1991.
Throughout his playing career, White took to the pitch with the University of Waterloo (1977-1982) and served as the school’s captain (1981-1982), before playing with local clubs Kitchener-Waterloo Pirates (1982) and Hamilton Hornets (1983-1984), as well as for the NRU (1983-1984).
White lives and breathes the sport of rugby, and has tirelessly spent decades promoting the game at all levels.
Robert Jenkins has been a key member of the Ontario rugby community for well over 40 years. As a member of Toronto Scottish since the early seventies, Jenkins also represented Ontario on the provincial team several times at hooker throughout the mid-seventies.
After his playing days, Jenkins became Toronto Scottish first team coach in the late ’80s, and under his direction, guided the side back into Ontario’s senior league.
Jenkins assumed presidency of the Ontario Rugby Union in 1993, and was president for six years. During this period, Jenkins was instrumental in the growth and development of Fletcher’s Fields as a primary rugby facility.
This development led to a number of notable international matches held at Fletcher’s Fields in the 1990s and 2000s, including Wales in 1994 and 1997, USA in 1995 and 2002, Japan and Ireland in 2000, England in 2001 and Scotland in 2002. In 1996 and 2001, Fletcher’s Fields also hosted Pan American tournaments involving USA, Argentina, Uruguay and Canada.
In 1999, Jenkins was elected to the board of Rugby Canada and served as treasurer until 2001.
He assumed responsibility as president of Fletcher’s Fields in 2011, and has worked tirelessly to contribute to the stability and growth of the rugby facility. Under his vision, Fletcher’s Fields has established a working partnership with the 2015 Pan Am Games Sport Organizing Committee, overseeing improvement measures that will allow Fletcher’s Fields to be a proud participant in the 2015 Pan Am Games as the official practice facility for Rugby Sevens, setting another foundation for growth of rugby in our community.
Throughout his illustrious playing career, Ian MacMillan was a pillar of rugby for the Toronto Barbarians, the Ontario provincial team, and the Canadian national team.
MacMillan played for 14 seasons with the Barbarians (1973-1986), serving as club captain for eight years between the late seventies and early eighties. Under his captaincy, MacMillan guided his Barbarians to back-to-back Ontario Sevens titles in 1980 and 1981.
He represented Ontario from 1979 to 1984, making 35 appearances for the U19, U23, and Senior provincial teams, as well as serving as provincial team captain in 1983. The scrum-half was also a key member of the Ontario provincial side that won the National Provincial Championship in 1982, a momentous victory that is widely regarded as an event that helped open the door for more Ontarians to be considered for the Canadian national team.
At the national level, MacMillan made 25 appearances for Canada, including nine caps, in a five-year span throughout the early eighties. His time on the national team was highlighted by serving as Canada’s captain in 1983 – the first Ontario-born player to receive the honour. MacMillan participated in five tours with the Canadian national team: Argentina, Hong Kong, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
MacMillan also served as an U21 national team coach in 1989 and 1990, the first two years of the program’s existence.
MacMillan now serves as Chairman of the Aurora Barbarians’ Black Sheep Fund, helping to raise funds for junior player development, and will always be considered one of the first Ontario-born rugby standouts.
Few Ontario rugby players have amassed as many achievements on the national and international rugby stages as Karl Svoboda. Upon the completion of his playing career in 1995, Svoboda was the most-capped hooker (24) for Canada and had appeared in the first three Rugby World Cups: New Zealand and Australia (1987), Britain, Ireland and France (1991) and South Africa (1995).
Svoboda not only played for the national team for 10 years (1985-1995); he also played for the Ontario provincial team throughout the eighties and early nineties, and served as captain for multiple years in that time frame. Most notably, Svoboda captained Canada to a shock win over England XV in Vancouver in 1993 – a first for Canadian rugby.
Svoboda began his rugby-playing career with the Belleville Bulldogs, starting at hooker on the men’s first team as a 16-year-old. He later cracked the Ontario junior provincial team lineup, touring in 1980 to England where the provincial side became the first-ever Canadian team to win the prestigious Preston Grasshoppers tournament title.
At the club level, Svoboda represented the Belleville Bulldogs, Ottawa Irish, Toronto Saracens, and Toronto Barbarians before settling in with the Ajax Wanderers, where he has been a member for the better part of 25 years.
Today, Svoboda coaches rugby at Sinclair High School in Whitby, as well as Ajax Wanderers’ youth sides. He was inducted into the Belleville Sports Hall of Fame in 2000.
As well as being an exceptional player for his province and country, Svoboda is a walking ambassador for the game and continues to contribute to its growth in Ontario through coaching and mentoring young players.
Mike Williams has been an integral part of the sport of rugby in Ontario for well over four decades, serving the game as both a standout player and a passionate ambassador.
As a player, Williams was a rare ‘late-bloomer.’ After playing a few matches for Kingston RFC in 1972-1973, he only began to regularly play the sport upon joining the Ottawa Beavers in 1974, the year he turned 26, and would play for the club for two seasons.
Following his time in Eastern Ontario, Williams would go on to play a remarkable 18 years with Toronto Scottish’s first team. In 2013, Toronto Scottish’s 60th anniversary season, Williams was honoured by his longtime club when he was not only selected to the club’s All-Time First XV, but was also named captain of the honourary side.
At the provincial level, after two seasons of representing Quebec, Williams became an Ontario provincial team standout: he suited up for Ontario for seven years throughout the late seventies and early eighties, captaining the provincial side in his final two seasons and leading Ontario to a National Championship in 1982.
Williams featured on the Canadian national team from 1978-1982, with the wing forward earning four caps and four appearances in the process. The lineout specialist notably captained Eastern Canada against England in 1982.
Upon the completion of his playing career, Williams has stayed active within the sport, having served as the Ontario Rugby Union’s treasurer (2003-2004) and president (2005-2006).
Williams currently serves as the Chair of the Sport Organizing Committee for Rugby Sevens for the 2015 Pan Am Games, a position that embodies his dedication to the sport.