GP Centaurs squander a 17-point lead to Knights in first loss of ERU season

Grande Prairie Centaurs number eight Nolan Laderoute plunges across the try line in Edmonton Rugby Union Division 2 play against the Leprechaun Tigers at Macklin Field on July 27. The local club dropped its first game of the season,a 31-17 loss to the Fort McMurray Knights on Saturday. Gordon Anderson / Daily Herald Tribune

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And then there were no more.

The Grand Prairie Centaurs dropped their first game of Edmonton Rugby Union (ERU) Division 2 play with a 31-17 setback to the Fort McMurray Knights in Fort McMurray on Saturday afternoon.

The Centaurs became the last team in the second division to lose a game—joining the ranks of the once beaten Knights—both with eight wins in nine games played

“We had them in the first half, leading 17-0 but they got a quick try right off the start of the second half and used that momentum to carry them right to the finish,” Centaurs Captain Tyson Gejdos said. “We just ran out of gas with a short bench.” The Centaurs went to Fort McMurray with 16 players.

 Smokey the Bear

The rumour around the rugby pitch denotes Centaurs number eight Nolan Laderoute as a nice guy with a mushy main. From an impersonal sideline perspective, the 25-year-old appears intimidating with a massive, brawny frame, a shaggy brown mane and a shoulder to wrist tattoo on the right arm.

But off the field? What’s the real deal?

Perhaps, he doesn’t want that side of his personality released for general consumption—keeping his tough guy exterior can have benefits on the field of play—but the captain was OK with sharing. No doubt, the rest of the squad know the truth too.

“His nickname is Smokey the Bear,” Gejdos said. “He’s a big teddy bear. He’s a big guy but he’s real lovable and soft when you get to know him.”

Besides his general rugby appearance, a large part of the intimidation factor comes from his play on the pitch. Man, he doesn’t mess about.

“He plays with a lot of passion and he leaves it on the field,” Gejdos said. “He’s a very emotional guy.”

Maybe it’s the nature of the position he plays, but the former resident of Comox, B.C., has a real go for it, aggressive style.

Two games ago he scored a first-half try against the Leprechaun Tigers, knocking over three or four players like bowling pins before breaching the try-line with a head first dive, eating turf in the process. He simply wasn’t going to be denied his five points, legs driving and churning like pistons. He’s also quite vocal on the field, not afraid to mix it up in the smack talk department.

“Eight man works well for him because he’s got quite a bit of speed for a big boy,” Gejdos added. “He’s got a real strong skill set. He used to play for the Vancouver Rowing Club. He’s from Vancouver Island so he played a high level of rugby as a kid. When he came out to the Centaurs he played mostly in the back for the first four years. As he got older, we transferred him to the forwards and it’s more beneficial with his size.”

Laderoute works for Aureus Energy Services as a Hot Oil Operator. In 2013, Laderoute played the hooker position on the B.C. Under-19 team that won gold at the Canadian Rugby Championship at Calgary Rugby Park.

The city of Grande Prairie is an economic destination for many people looking to improve their lot in life. Some of the opportunities in town don’t exist in other places.

“The main reason (I moved here was work),” Laderoute said. “After I got done high school, I spent a year in Vancouver and played rugby there. I ended up going home but there’s no work down there unless you go to school for four years.”

Ask anybody who’s moved here on their own, sacrifices have to be made and personal bonds severed. There is no other way.

“Everybody needs a change at some point. It was hard the first year, that’s for sure. Once I started with the rugby group (along with) some other friends I connected with from high school, who were up here too, it became home quite quickly.”

 Speaking of home

Gejdos and Laderoute have been roommates for three years with rugby, once again, providing for those attached to the club.

“We just met at rugby. We didn’t really know each other all that well,” Laderoute said of Gejdos. “I posted in one of the rugby chats that I was 19 or 20-years old and my dad was kicking me out of the house and I needed a place to live with a roommate. (Gejdos) said, ‘Yeah, I live with ya.’ I didn’t know him much then and he was kind of a weirdo. We’ve lived together for three of the last five years and it’s been pretty good.”

On short notice

The Grande Prairie rugby club lost its first game of the Edmonton Rugby Union Division 2 season following a 31-17 setback to the Fort McMurray Knights on Saturday afternoon in Fort McMurray.

The game was originally scheduled for play in Fort McMurray but was moved to the Edmonton area for scheduling purposes, only to be moved back to the northeast Alberta town without a lot of prior warning for the locals. The team found out Tuesday about the venue change.

As English rock band Led Zeppelin once noted, there was a “Communication Breakdown.”

“With scheduling conflicts the rugby union moved (the game) to Leduc and both clubs were understandable of that,” Gejdos said. “I’m not sure what happened. The game was moved back to Fort Mac a couple of weeks ago and they were aware of it and we never got the message the game was back in Fort Mac.”

Originally, there were 22 players who planned on making the drive to Leduc and the switch took a number of guys out of the lineup. Plans were made that couldn’t be reversed. The Centaurs took 16 players on the trip northeast.

And while Gejdos wasn’t pinning the loss on the lack of available bodies, it certainly didn’t help matters as a few guys received some knocks.

“The big thing for us we had a lot of guys planning summer holidays around the Leduc game,” Gejdos said. “Some people had flights booked out of (the Edmonton airport in Leduc) and some guys were going down with their families, then heading to B.C. for summer holidays. (Because the game was) moved to Fort Mac, a lot of guys couldn’t get the Friday, Saturday and Sunday available to do (the trip).”