Dr. Pat Parfrey - Inducted 2015
Pat Parfrey’s name is synonymous with rugby in Newfoundland and Labrador (where the local press have dubbed him Dr. Rugby), across Canada and around the world. For over 30 years Pat has given his all to Canadian rugby from the development of the game, to the coaching of players, to becoming one of the sport’s most prolific fundraisers and builders. Pat has raised millions of dollars for rugby which has led to the building of world class facilities, the training of countless athletes and the global pursuit of top flight competition. He is the only person to have served as Coach of Canada’s National Senior Men’s Team and President of Rugby Canada and is currently Canada’s representative on the World Rugby Board.
Pat’s long list of achievements for rugby are equally matched with his academic and professional accomplishments. An internationally renowned scientist and clinical epidemiologist, he has been named a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and an Officer of the Order of Canada among other distinguished awards.
Pat started playing rugby at the age of 13 in his native Cork, Ireland progressing to the University College Cork RFC while studying for his medical degree. He went on to represent the Province of Munster, playing in all its games from 1970-77 and highlighted by the 1973 match when Munster drew 3-3 with the New Zealand All Blacks. He claimed his Ireland cap, again versus New Zealand, in 1974. Incidentally his only memento of the match was a pair of All Black socks (which were unwittingly used by the author of this biography to clean stain brushes when Pat hired some players to update his house one summer for tour credits!)
To further his academic career Pat moved to England and played with the London Irish from 1976-1981 assuming the responsibility of player coach from 1977-1982 guiding the team to its first ever RFU Cup Final in 1980. He arrived in Canada in 1982 to work at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal and then moved to Memorial University of Newfoundland to become an assistant professor of Medicine.
Head of his department he now holds the position of Professor of Medicine (Nephrology) and continues his ground breaking research in genetic and epidemiology of inherited diseases, nephrology and healthcare delivery systems.
With limited financial and player resources Pat single handedly transformed how we played rugby and where we played the game. His ability to inspire and motivate were not confined to the pitch as he reached out to the business community and government to help finance and realize his vision of creating a world class rugby facility in the centre of St. John’s. Soon we were welcoming competitive teams from all corners of the globe and embarking on regular tours ourselves. These were not social trips but tours that tested our developing abilities against stiff opposition. Under his direction this group of ‘bog’ rugby players would rise to become national contenders. His steadfast belief that players can only improve by playing better opposition and that you can achieve greatness if you reach beyond what you think you are capable of has served us well.
Having placed Newfoundland on the Canadian rugby map he soon set his sights on increasing Rugby Canada’s position on the global scale. From his impressive player/coaching days at London Irish, guiding Canada’s national team in
the late 1990’s, and winning four national titles with the Newfoundland/Atlantic Rock, he has displayed his incredible ability to mould winning teams from scarce resources. He has led two of Canada’s historic clubs; the Montreal Irish and Swilers RFC to cup winning success. Pat has mentored and coached athletes of all ages in numerous Canada Games, National Festivals, the Canadian Rugby Championship, its precursor the Super League and even prior to that the Tier 1 and Tier 2 National Championships. Even today he finds time to guide the Atlantic Rock’s senior men’s team and various age grade sides. His voice has been heard motivating and inspiring thousands of Canadian rugby players. In fact his voice has been heard by tens of thousands of rugby fans around the globe! Prior to guiding Canada’s team at the 1999 World Cup, Pat coached the Canadian team against Ireland at Lansdowne Road before 20,000 fans. Hearing him ‘coaching’ the players from the upper stands will be a memory not soon forgotten. His love of the game and the players he coached is best summed up from a response Pat gave to a reporter who asked how it felt to coach the Canada team in RWC 1999 - “It was a pleasure to coach Canadians who are tough, proud and great friends”. Not only did he teach his players how to be better at the game of rugby, we came to hold ourselves to a higher standard and became lifelong friends through the process.
Although his coaching success may be his most visible work, it is the behind the scenes planning, goal setting, lobbying, fundraising, orchestrating, and ultimately getting things done on the grandest of scale that will trump his many achievements. He is acknowledged as an intellect that combines his own resources with his innate ability to organize and harvest other resources to achieve results for the betterment of our society and in particular our youth.
Away from the field the Parfrey home is legendary for its rugby hospitality. Pat along with his late wife Dr. Benvon Parfrey, a recipient herself of Rugby Canada’s Chairman’s Award, have hosted and seemingly housed the planet in the spirit of the game. They also managed to raise four fine men, all of whom have played rugby at the top level including two who have been capped by Canada. It is a family that lives and breathes rugby.