Local participates in World Cup rugby
If you see Paul Dunning walking down the street of Grand Forks chances are he’s wearing something with a rugby name on it.
“Someone will see that and start talking rugby with me,” said Dunning, a retired physical education teacher from Maple Ridge B.C. who has been living in Grand Forks for the past four years.
The forwardness and passion of other rugby-lovers is just part of what makes the game so unique.
Dunning, 60, has been playing and coaching rugby since he was 15 years-old.
“It’s about everything,” said Dunning of why he likes rugby. “Of all the games, it is probably the greatest game I’ve ever been involved with.”
“In no other sport do you sit down and talk with the other team after the game.”
Large and well-established rugby teams, like the Burnaby Lake Rugby Club out of Burnaby B.C. where Dunning played before moving here, have clubhouses adjacent to their fields where players from the home and visiting teams are welcome to socialize before and after the game. If there isn’t a clubhouse, then everyone meets at a local pub or restaurant.
“I’ve seen players have a beer and dinner with a guy they exchanged punches with out on the field,” said Dunning. “(Rugby players) have a totally different view of sport and I think we can learn from them.”
Enjoying rugby at every age
Dunning is now considered a senior member of the game. Although that does mean some changes — like the wearing of red shorts when you turn 60 to indicate the player should not be tackled — he is still a contributing member of the sport.
Dunning does not consider himself a red short guy.
“I just don’t wear the red shorts,” said Dunning, adding that now he has to because it is mandatory.
While he seems hardcore, Dunning will admit it takes him a bit longer to get over the rough ride that rugby is.
“It used to take me two days to recuperiate, not it takes two weeks,” he laughs.
Dunning attends Rugby World Cup
Dunning has traveled the world playing rugby. His most recent trip was to New Zealand where he played in the Rugby World Cup.
The Rugby World Cup has been held every four years since 1987. The winning team — this year it was New Zealand — takes home the Rugby World Cup. To date, Canada has not won the cup.
Dunning has been to three Rugby World Cups, has played in Europe including Wales, South America and Japan.
During the three weeks Dunning was in New Zealand for the cup he saw eight games in six different cities and played five games himself with The Old Growth Team. The Old Growth Team is based out of Portland, Oregon and includes rugby players from four Canadian teams and two U.S. teams who are over 40. He has also played for the Kootenay Old Cootes, the Kelowna Valley Vickers and Grand Forks’s own Boundary Wanderers Rugby Club.
Win or lose, Dunning had a great time just socializing with other rugby enthusiasts.
When he started playing rugby, Dunning mainly played the scrum position, then the 8th man, which is the position he played most during is divisional rugby experiences. Now with a bit less speed, he has chosen to play the front row for the past decade.
The good and bad game changes
Dunning says in the 45 years he’s been playing and coaching rugby there’s been a lot of changes in the game world wide.
“Everything is changing. It’s pretty incredible — the athletes are so much better.”
He said the biggest change he’s seen in the past few years was between 2003 and 2007. Now 15 players are on the field and the role of some positions have become more involved than they used to be.
“It’s now about where you are in the field as to what your role is and not from what your position is,” said Dunning.
He is also disappointed to see a lack of patriotism in the teams. Much like hockey, he finds that the professional rugby players are playing for countries other than their own.
As for the future of rugby in Grand Forks, Dunning is hopeful his beloved sport continues to thrive here with the help of some energetic and enthusiastic individuals who started the Boundary Wanderers Rugby Club.
“There are people with a love for rugby moving here.”
The proof of that is in the reactions he gets from people stopping him in his rugby wear to chat about their shared passion.