CHOBHAM RFC player coach, Tony Paul, is a ‘must have’ on the team sheet. But after 15 years of competitive rugby, the trusted inside centre is now ready to call time on the game, writes Andy Fitzsimons.
Paul, who has played in the Premiership A League for London Irish, before going on to represent Rosslyn Park, Ealing and Chobham, believes it’s finally time to step aside and hang up his boots.
Speaking exclusively to the News and Mail ahead of this weekend’s final London 1 South league game at home to Gravesend (22 April ’17), Paul said that his experience can be better utilised from the sidelines.
He said: “Sometimes you get to a crossroads in your career, which is where I’m at now. Yes, I could still carry on playing, but in speaking with Ryan [Gregory], we both agree that having me in solely a coaching role from next season will ultimately benefit the team.
“This season has been tough for a number of reasons; and with both Ryan and I both still playing, it doesn’t enable us to take an objective view and see things from a different angle. When I’m not playing, it means that I’ll be able to look at things more strategically.
“I’m not going to put my boots in the bin, though, it simply means that the no. 12 shirt is free and up for grabs, which all helps with competition for places,” added Paul.
Co-player coach, Ryan Gregory, “There’s no two ways about it, we will definitely miss having Tony in the squad; at the end of the day, he’s a very good and respected player for Chobham Rugby Club.
“Tony and I, however, have spoken about his decision, and we both agree that having both of us playing and trying to coach at the same time is probably not helping us.
“With Tony taking on a dedicated coaching role from next season, it will enable him to focus and make more informed decisions based on having a better view of the game. We both believe it will help us step up to the next level,” he added.
While Paul’s career has seen him rub shoulders with some extremely good rugby players; even in front of 40,000 fans at
Twickenham in the rugby 7s, Paul wholeheartedly believes that working with Ryan and Chobham has been a highlight in his career.
“Ryan and I are of a similar cut,” explained Paul. “We both like free-flowing rugby, which is something that I didn’t have when I was playing at London Irish. Back then, working under a South African coach, it was too structured and it wasn’t for me.
“We’re been unfortunate with injuries this season, so we do need to recruit, but I believe that competition for places next season will be high, which will, I believe, have a positive impact on performance.”
With two fixtures remaining, it’s not Auf Wiedersehen, Pet for the Chob inside centre just yet. Paul is expected to be named in the squad for the visit of Gravesend this weekend and again for the Surrey Trophy final on 1 May ’17, which could be a fitting way to bow out.