On May 31, 2009(actually last year) we inducted Paul Rohner as a life member in the Grimsby Gentlemen Rugby Football Club as an exceptional player, executive member and builder of the club. Paul was to be inducted at last years end of year dinner, but he had just had a knee operation and could not be there. This is essentially the text of the speech inducting Paul by Bill Stuart, President of the Club. Most of the speech was read from information given by Chris Atkinson also a life member of the club. Thanks to many of the St Catharines's team who stayed for the ceremony.
If you think we are slow on the field, we are even slower recognizing people in our organization who have given greatly to the organization. We chose St Cathatines to honour Paul because he loved to play against them. Paul played with the club since the mid eighties and Chris remembers him being smaller, as many of us were and starting out as a winger. Yes Paul was small, but Chris cannot ever remember his being quiet. As a younger player, Paul played in the backs but found his position in the forwards as an eight man who was exceptional at reading scrums and lineouts both offensively and defensively. He became a great open field runner and tackler.
In the late eighties and early nineties, he was a stalwart player for our team, quite feared in the league both on the field and in the bar. When the Gents took a short hiatus, both he and Chris played for Ancaster and Paul was instrumental in getting the club re-established in the league (probably because he did not want to drive through any more cornfields with Chris). Through his post with the Club as Minister of Gambling, he could get people to bet on anything, like the Grey Cup, 649 numbers or who would go to the bathroom next. He could raise significant money, $5 a square at a time.
Some things to know about Paul:
He is fiercely loyal - he once lost a job to hang out with Chris and a few cases of beer which led to a lost week during which he still claims to have met Mark Twain. He also slept in Chris's truck and when Chris's sister found him, she thought it was a dead body.
He is a great cook. His food is legendary with a mixture of British, German and Italian influences. Chris knows where the first two came from, but not the third. The evidence of this proficiency can be seen on the bellies of a few members around the foom. (Paul won this year's New Year's Chilli contest, without really being invited.)
The straight arm was his friend and if you played in the NRU at that time and didn't get one, then you weren't around the ball.
He is a great conversationalist, just give him a few beers and sit him down with Donny Mac. Chris writes "We could have had the best rugby team on the planet if we could have turned any of those drunken schemes in to actual plays."
He once threw up in Chris's kit bag because he did not want to throw up on the shag carpet in Skid's dad's motor home.
He would buy all kinds of Schnapp sat the duty free on the trips to Batavia to test in the hotel room. He was one of the few who liked the taste.
Paul had a high tolerance for pain and played through a lot without showing it. He had shoulder problems, back problems and was finally done in by a knee problem caused not by rugby but by ball hockey. And speaking of heart, few played as hard or wore the Grimsby rugby jersey with such pride as Rohns. (When I was making the sign for the clubhouse, I had to call Rohns to make sure it matched the tattoo of the Grimsby crest on his leg.)
He was inspirational to his fellow players and universally feared in open play. We were never better than when we played open field, multi-phased running games and he was a great part of that, although Cris remembers getting yelled at a lot from this angry German both off and on the field.
Paul is a good man, a determined and gifted athlete, a great friend and he deserves all the allocades you can give him. From Chris "Sorry I am not there to buy you a beer Rohns, but I lift a glass in your honour often.
As president, I would like to add that Paul has done a great deal in working towards the completion of the clubhouse by getting us materials and simply doing the work. He and Michelle have also run 649 lotteries to generate money for the clubhouse.
Paul it is my great honour to award you with a life membership in the Grimsby Gentlemen Rugby Football Club.