Rogues Club History

Rogues club founded in 1981.

 by Paul Welsh.

History

A dream which began on the windswept University of Regina playing fields is now [35] years old. That the Regina Rogues Rugby Football Club is has made it this far is both a cause for celebration and a collective sigh of relief. The Rogues have defied the critics who scoffed when Karl Fix, Gregg Thomczak, Leo Lane, Chris Bayda, John Schofield and a bunch of fuzzy-faced junior players decided to go it alone and start a third rugby club in Regina. There has been more than their share of what can euphemistically be called growing pains – too many games when finding those fourteenth and fifteenth men was like pulling teeth; an ill-fated fundraising scheme involving mud-wrestlers; a plethora of jersey colors, designs and club logos; arriving in Edmonton for Rugbyfest without ever questioning why the kit was still sitting in the trunk of a car back in Regina. But like old boys sitting in legion halls around the country, the Rogues are still here to tell the tale.

The credit for this survival can be laid squarely at the feet of a handful of people - the originals, Karl Fix, Gregg Thomczak, Leo Lane, Chris Bayda, and later, Vaughn Clarke and Dave Arsenault. It is for their tireless commitment and love for the game, that everyone who calls himself a Rogue owes a tremendous debt of thanks. For while we salute the Rogues in their tenth anniversary season, we also salute these individuals who redefine the term “good club man.”

THE BEGINNING

In the spring of 1981, Karl Fix, a member of the Campion Grads at the time, was coaching the provincial junior team and had a group of gifted players from Regina who needed a place to play. The Grads were deep with talent – Degenstein, O’Hagan, Folk, Karwandy and McLeod were just hitting their prime – and Karl knew that these juniors would have a long wait before making the jump to first division rugby. Karl went to work behind the scenes to attract a number of key individuals to make the move with him to a new club. He enlisted Gregg Thomczak, the perennial provincial team scrum-half, and Chris Bayda to provide stability in the backs. He approached Leo Lane, a member of the Condors, for his administrative skills and to anchor the front row. Next came John Schofield, the provincial coach at the time, who was asked if he was interested in coaching the side.

They all took Karl up on his offer and in May 1981, a new rugby club was afoot in Regina. But they needed a name. The Buffalos was one of the suggestions, and a crest was designed and ready to go. The masses (the 10 or 12 people Karl had managed to round up by then) shot the idea down, however. Instead Kelly “Beast” Casey, an early prospect who fell to the Grads’ lure of stability and balls to practice with, suggested the name the Rogues. The name fit like a glove – a band of misfits running out on the rugby field in brown jerseys Leo Lane picked up at Jack Fraser’s, and pink shorts (actually white shorts dyed brown, but the brown didn’t take). The first game was played at the University of Regina in May 1981. Tim Sinclair scored the first try (at least that’s what he says. Leo has a different story). The first victory came at the hands of the U of M’s rugby team at the Manipogo tournament in Winnipeg later that year. The dream had become a reality.

This, of course, is the official story, one Karl has told so many times he almost believes it. But anyone who knows Karl at all know he’s a frustrated Number 8 trapped in a broken-down Lock’s body. He saw the depth in the Grad’s back row and knew right then he was destined to a career as one of the cauliflower-eared boys in the engine room. His only hope of fulfilling his dream was to start a club of his own, and not allow any prospective Number 8’s to join. But alas, Karl set aside his personal goals in the best interests of the club, realizing the Rogues would forever be forced to keep things very tight as long as he was in the back row. He remained at second row, a position he has been able to put his mark upon over the past ten years. 

WANDER LUST

From the beginning, the Rogues didn’t stay in one place very long. They made it to all the tournaments on the prairies, the idea being the more games for a young club the better. They wound up on the wrong end of some big scores, but as everyone got sick of hearing, “the boys were getting better.” So much so that they started to win a few, with the biggest coming in the 1983 Prairie Cities Tournament in Regina. Thanks to the quick wits and quicker fists of Dick Thomas (a former Welsh international), the inspiring pre-match words David Barry delivered in his best Oxbridge accent in a tent pitched on the sidelines (he couldn’t believe his luck when he trotted the old “go to the mountaintop” speech and the assembled mass of prairie hicks bought it), and some good rugby from a fine young team, the Rogues did away with Moose Jaw to take home the cup.

In the spring of 1982, the Rogues embarked on the first major tour outside the province by a Saskatchewan club side. A party of over 30 spent 10 days in B.C., playing five games against second division teams in Powell River, Victoria and Tsewassen. The success of the first tour set a precedent the Rogues seen eager to live up to. The Rogues became the first Canadian club to tour West Germany, and have had return tours to B.C., a trip to Mardi Gras in New Orleans. From the first tour to the last, the Rogues have made it a tradition to include members of other clubs as part of the touring party. It’s been a great way to make new friends and break down barriers within the incestuous Saskatchewan rugby community.

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