Canada's Schnoor switches to coaching from playing at Women's Rugby League World Cup

Stevi Schnoor has represented Canada in both rugby league and rugby union — and starred in the indoor Legends Football League.

Schnoor is back with the Canada Ravens at the Women's Rugby League World Cup, but this time as an assistant coach with daughter Tate, born July 2, at her side.

"She's a really good baby … She's making my job easy," said Schnoor.

Canada opens play Tuesday at the eight-country tournament against Papua New Guinea at Headingley Stadium in Leeds, England.

Schnoor played for the Ravens in 2017 in Australia where the Canadians made their debut at the Rugby League World Cup, then a six-team women's competition. Canada beat Papua New Guinea 22-8 for its first-ever international test win and made it to the semifinals where it was beaten 58-6 by eventual champion Australia.

It was all new for the Ravens back then. This time around, there are seven players who have World Cup experience. Head coach Mike Castle is back and like Schnoor, team manager Katie Grudzinski also played in 2017.

"This time people have had more opportunity and experience to play the game a little bit more," said Schnoor.

Schnoor has fond memories of that first World Cup.

"Playing against some of the best women's rugby league athletes in the world is always pretty exciting," she said. "And representing your country at the same time."

Schnoor coached during her pregnancy and is part of Castle's staff at the current World Cup, which was originally slated to kick off in October 2021 only to be postponed due to the pandemic.

"A lot of the girls really look up to her as a mentor," said Castle, an Australian who commutes to coach Canada on a non-paid basis. "It's really nice to have her in camp."

Schnoor credits Castle for creating a positive environment, helping the women excel on the field while enjoying their time together off it.

"He's able to do both — and at the right time," she said. "When it's game time, when it's practice time and all those things it's game on, your head's in the right place. And then when he recognizes that there's an opportunity to have a relaxing moment or sing on the bus on the way home or something like that, he's the first one to get that going as well."

Like other Canadian players, Schnoor came to rugby league from rugby union, the more popular version of the game. Rugby league is primarily played in Australia, England and New Zealand.

A rugby league team is made up of 13 players with four on the bench. Each team is only allowed six tackles (plays) before the ball changes hands. A try is worth four points.

Rugby union teams are made up of 15 starters with eight substitutes. Play is more continuous and a try is worth five points.

Schnoor started rugby union at 14, working her way up to B.C. and national age-group teams before winning three caps with the senior women’s side.

She has coached high school rugby and continued to play club rugby until the schedule began to conflict with her LFL duties. At 37, she says her playing days are likely over.

"You never know what might have happened If this baby didn't come around. Arms could have been twisted for this World Cup. But you know what? I'm very grateful to have her in my life now. And I think that it's also an amazing opportunity for me to be able to go (to the tournament) as a coach."

Currently on maternity leave, her day job is as a teacher in her native Coquitlam.

Schnoor was a three-time championship MVP in the Legends Football League, doing double duty as a linebacker/safety and running back in the seven-a-side indoor game. Her nickname as a player was The Bull.

She joined the then-Lingerie Football League in 2012 when the league expanded to Canada and a high school friend suggested she join her in trying out.

She won the 2012 title with the B.C. Angels before joining the Seattle Mist. She commuted five years to play for Seattle, winning titles in 2015 and ’17. Schnoor, who also spent one season with the Nashville Knights, last played in 2019.

The Ravens are ranked sixth in the world, although the rankings mean little because there are so few international games.

After Papua New Guinea, they face No. 3 England next Saturday in Wigan and No. 13 Brazil on Nov. 9 in Leeds.

The Canadians lost a warmup game 8-6 to Ireland in Wigan on Oct. 25.

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 30, 2022

Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press