Rugby Ontario celebrates Hall of Fame Inductees, Award Winners

November 28, 2017


Rugby Ontario celebrates Hall of Fame Class of 2017 and Annual Award Winners

(MISSISSAUGA, ON) - In an evening that celebrated decades worth of Ontario rugby excellence, six worthy individuals and one team were inducted into the Rugby Ontario Hall of Fame this past Saturday. On top of the Hall of Fame inductions, Rugby Ontario celebrated our 2017 Annual Award winners.
Held at a ceremony in Mississauga, Bob Barrow, Barb Relton Di Nardo, Steve Grey, Pearse Higgins, Kyle Nichols, Bill Stuart and Balmy Beach Sr. Men 1st XV 1980-1981 were honoured as the Rugby Ontario Hall of Fame’s Class of 2017. The six inductees represented the fifteenth group of provincial enshrinees, joining 77 previous inductees into the Hall of Fame.



Bob Barrow

  • Established the Brock Rugby Football Club in 1978
  • Coached U17 and U19 Club teams from 1980-2000
  • Won numerous titles at Brock High School, coaching both boys’ and girls’ rugby from 1975-1997
  • Led 6 UK rugby tours for Brock HS and 3 Brock RFC club tours from 1975-1997
  • Co-founded the AA Rugby Festival, which has grown into an OFSAA event
  • Won Barbarian Cup in 1980 with Brock HS; large accomplishment for a smaller school

Barb Relton Di Nardo 

  • Started playing the game in 1989 with the Toronto Saracens
  • Started the Queens University program in the fall of 1991 with 150 girls at tryouts in the first two years
  • Helped establish the process that would result in women’s rugby becoming an OUA and very quickly a CIS sport
  • Started the first women’s rugby team in Saudi Arabia while living there between 1993-96
  • Was a coach, player and administrator with Gaye McPherson in the Toronto Barbarian women’s founding year in 1996
  • Served on the RO Board of Directors leading junior development in the 1990’s and helped organize the early incarnations of minis rugby in the province
  • Through her work at Newtonbrook Secondary School starting in 2009 she helped establish the early foundations of the TIRF program
  • Barb started the first minis program in Toronto in 2006 which became the Toronto Saracens minis
  • Barb worked with Dave Williams on the Saracen/Scottish minis rugby collaboration in 2009-10 which resulted in the founding of Toronto City Youth Rugby Club in 2012 where she continues to be an executive

Steve Gray 

  • Totals: 47 international caps, three World Cup appearances (87’, 91’, 95’), one 7s World Cup appearance (93’)
  • Captained both the Canadian XVs and VIIs team on numerous occasions
  • In 1986, Gray set the Canadian record for most tries in a game with three
  • In 1984, Gray played for the Canadian 7s team in Hong Kong and earned his first Senior Men’s cap with Canada against the USA
  • In 1982, Gray represented Canada on the Under-19 team
  • In 1983, Gray represented Ontario’s Senior Men’s team
  • Member of the Ottawa Irish 1st XV 1986-1992 which was named to the Rugby Ontario Hall of Fame in 2015

Pearse Higgins 

  • In 1970, made entry into refereeing after a career with the Toronto Irish (now Markham)
  • Member of the Ontario Referee panel in 1980, refereed many games at the branch and provincial level
  • Refereed provincial titles including:Carling Cup,McCormick Cup, and OUA Finals
  • Promoted to the Rugby Canada Referee panel in 1983 – officiated National Championships at various age grade levels
  • Officiated at the international level including World Cup qualifying games for Japan and Uruguay, as well as Australia in a friendly match
  • Past member of the Rugby Canada Board of Directors, Rugby Ontario Board of Directors, Rugby Canada Referee and Laws Committee
  • Also served as North America representative for NACRA (now NAWIRA), as well as various advisory roles for coaching and selection of match officials in Canada

Kyle Nichols 

  • Kyle was a member of the Canadian National Senior Men’s team from 1996-2002, where he played in the 1999 World Cup
  • Was a co-captain with Al Charron in 2000 and scored four tries in one game vs. Japan
  • Played with the Senior Men’s National 7s team from 1995-1998
  • Represented Ontario in various age grades from U16 – Senior Men’s in the early 90’s
  • Member of the Balmy Beach RFC (1989-1991, 1996-Present; 2004 and 2005 McCormick Cup Champion), member of the Ajax Wanderers Rugby Club (1991-1996)
  • Member of the Guelph Gryphons Men’s Rugby team from 1994-1996 – named Division 1 All-Star in 1995-96

Bill Stuart 

  • Worked tirelessly to develop rugby in the Niagara region for the past 45 years, both in Hamilton and Grimsby, and for the Branch Union
  • Director of the Niagara Rugby Union from 2011 to present
  • Coach with Grimsby from 1992 to present and with EC Drury High School from 1984-1990
  • President of Hamilton Hornets RFC from 1982-1984
  • Played provincial rugby with Ontario from 1976 to 1979
  • Captained the Hamilton Hornets from 1973 to 1978

Balmy Beach 1st XV: 1980-81

  • 1980 – Unbeaten regular season
  • 1980 – Carling Cup Champions
  • 1981 – Unbeaten regular season
  • 1981 – Carling Cup Champions
  • The Balmy Beach team from these two years helped to build the foundation of the current program – Men’s teams in the Premiership, Academy teams in the Toronto Rugby Union, Women’s program and Junior rugby program


Senior Provincial Player of the Year (Female) – Natasha Smith (Barrhaven Scottish)

Natasha Smith of the Ontario Blues Senior Women’s team led the Women’s team to a strong Canadian Rugby Championship campaign, where they won Gold. After narrowly missing out on making the Canadian Women’s World Cup roster, she joined the team shortly ahead of the 2017 Canadian Rugby Championship. She recorded two tries in the Championship, while starting at outside-centre for the Blues.

Senior Provincial Player of the Year (Male) – Peter Milazzo (Toronto Saracens)

Peter Milazzo had a strong season with the Ontario Blues Senior Men’s team. At 21 years of age, Peter Milazzo of the Toronto Saracens became the youngest captain in Blues Senior Men’s history to lead the team onto the field. He captained the side in Game 3 of the Canadian Rugby Championship against the British Columbia Bears. During the tournament, Milazzo recorded two tries (including one in the Finals) and was a mainstay at the flanker position.

Junior Provincial Player of the Year (Female) – Taylor Black (Crusaders)

Taylor had arguably the most successful season of any junior player in the country. Starting the year with the Ontario U18 sevens squad, she led the girls to the National final. She then joined the Canadian junior sevens team for tours to Tropical 7s (Gold), Youth Commonwealth Games (Silver) and Euro 7s Championships (Plate Winners). Between her work with the sevens team, she led the Canadian U18 fifteens team – at flyhalf – in their Can-Am series in Ottawa, winning both games. She has attributes of a team leader, naturally leading while on the pitch and also working as an Assistant Coach for the Crusaders junior program.

Junior Provincial Player of the Year (Male) – Robert Eliadis (Oshawa Vikings)

Rob has been a member of the provincial program since Under-15. He was a dominant force for the Ontario Junior Blues Under-18 team in their series against the Eagle Impact Rugby Academy (EIRA) at the University of Guelph. He was Man of the Match in Game 1 of the series and was one of Ontario’s strongest players. His defensive and offensive abilities stood out during the series, as well as at the Junior Cup Day, where his club – the Oshawa Vikings – won the Gold Medal in the Under-18 division. On a personal level, Eliadis has overcome a recent personal tragedy, as he lost his father in a motorcycle accident prior to the EIRA series.

Senior Club Player of the Year (Female) – Candace Scholten (London St. George’s)

Candace joined the London Senior Women’s team after a four-year hiatus from rugby. She proved to be a natural athlete, an excellent communicator and a team player in all respects. Candace exhibited a natural affinity to all aspects of rugby – both defensively and ball in hand. She chalked up 127 points in the NRU regular season from her position at full back and was routinely selected as ‘woman of the match’ by the opposing team. With her humility and team focus, Candace would credit her achievements to those around her before taking recognition.

Senior Club Player of the Year (Male) – Shawn Windsor (Stoney Creek Camels)

Shawn has been a part of the Stoney Creek Rugby Club since he was 16 years old. Now 31, he can look back on his rugby career with great pride. He is a product of McMaster University and played a season in England to develop his game. Year after year, he leads the small-town club against larger clubs in the Marshall Premiership and is often the most effective player on the field. Teams craft their game-plan around stopping Windsor, but he always finds a way to succeed. Shawn was nominated for this accomplishment because he excels both on and off the field, leading by example. On the field, he scores tries and plays tough defense. Off the field, he embodies the rugby culture of the Stoney Creek Camels. On top of his club play, Shawn represented the Ontario Blues Senior Men’s team on many occasions in 2017, including at the Canadian Rugby Championships in Calgary.

Club Coach of the Year (Female) – Jo Anne Robinson (Belleville Bulldogs)

Jo Anne ‘Jo’ Robinson is the Head Coach of both the developmental and competitive Under-16 Women’s teams (2017 Rugby Ontario Junior Cup Champions). She also stepped up to help coach the Under-14, Under-18 and Senior Women’s teams whenever needed. Jo balanced her role as a player on the Senior Women’s team, coach of the Under-16 team, Director of Junior Rugby, photographer/videographer, event planner and so much more! She is a proponent of growing the game in the Quinte area as a club coach, Bayside Secondary School Coach (2017 OFSAA AA Champions) and Loyalist College Women’s Rugby Coach.

Club Coach of the Year (Male) – Dave Neill (Brantford Harlequins)

Dave Neill has led the resurgence of the Brantford Harlequins Senior Men’s program from the front with outstanding commitment and leadership in the 2017 season. By the numbers, Dave led the Harlequins to a Marshall Premiership regular season record of 13-0-1, which saw the Harlequins score 692 points, while only conceding 250 points. The 2017 season marked the second year in a row in which the Quins captured both the Marshall Premiership regular season crown and the McCormick Cup Championship. Dave’s focus on fundamentals and improving rugby for everyone has been a cornerstone in the success and resurgence of the Brantford squad in recent years.

Junior Club Program of the Year (Female) – London St. George’s

The London St. George’s Rugby Football Club has seen an immense amount of growth in their junior women’s program. Their junior women’s program has expanded from one Under-18 team in 2010 to an Under-14, Under-16 and Under-18 program in 2017 – with a total of 64 registrants. In minor rugby, they fielded a girl’s only group – a huge accomplishment at a level where most rugby is played in a mixed environment. The culture of the women’s program has allowed the club to grow, which includes initiatives such as the Senior Women’s players acting as guest coaches, Junior Women’s players helping out in the minor program and coaches involving themselves in high school rugby across the London area.

Junior Club Program of the Year (Male) – Kingston Panthers

The Kingston Panthers have shown tremendous growth, as a club and in the development of high performance players and coaches. They have recently seen a 37% increase in club membership and double the number of club coaches. They have created an internal sevens league and an Under-14 domestic league in order to develop their players. In provincial rugby, the Panthers had four players on the Under-17 Junior Blues, one player on the Under-18 Junior Blues and two coaches working with Rugby Ontario’s hub program.

Minor Club Program of the Year – Barrie RFC

Barrie increased minor registrations over the past two seasons from 59 players in 2015 to 142 players in 2017 – an increase of over 140%. The minor program has flourished under the leadership of Andrew Davies and his team of volunteers at Barrie RFC. This is reflected in the significant increase in number of minor registrations, a testament to all of their hard work in engaging local schools and community groups.

Volunteer of the Year – Lisa Watkins (Oshawa Vikings)

Over the past many years, Lisa has been the person behind the scenes who ensures that the Oshawa Vikings is running smoothly, in an operational standpoint. She has spent many Sundays and Mondays cleaning up the clubhouse, after a weekend of rugby. Over the past couple of years, she has taken an active role in running the club’s snack bar and barbeque. In 2017, she started the Viking Battle Axes, a women’s touch rugby team. The team has gained a great momentum and excitement as the number of participants grew throughout the year. Lisa has been the Club Administrator for a number of years, where she manages club’s registration, as well as liaisons with Rugby Canada, Rugby Ontario and Toronto Rugby.

Match Official of the Year – Daniel Gana

Daniel Gana has been heading up the Referee Education portfolio this year, helping to oversee and coordinate the educator team, materials and implementation of courses across the province, often running the courses himself for students and adults on evenings and weekends. Dan has a selfless commitment to helping more people get certified to be a referee as well as the learning progression of current referees. He will often put together video clips to help demonstrate areas that need improvement and provide good examples that our referees should strive to emulate. Dan's "holidays" often consist of him giving Referee courses in the Caribbean nations or even places further. He does these all these things while continuing to be one of the province’s best referees, and continuously striving to improve his own skills and challenging himself to be better.


Rugby Ontario is the provincial sports governing body responsible for the organization of rugby in Ontario. Our mission is to establish a stronger identity for rugby in Ontario by promoting the sport’s core values and by fostering a culture of inclusiveness and excellence on and off the field of play.

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Kevin Baxter

Communications Coordinator - Rugby Ontario

647-560-4790 x 1006