It was with great sadness that we learned of the passing of Neil Robinson following a long illness. He was an outstanding player and a wonderful man. A flanker, he joined us in the early Eighties after studying at UWIC in Cyncoed, Cardiff and quickly made his mark in a club renowned for the quality of its backrow forwards.
In 1984 he was named Player of the Year and his superb fitness and skills led him to captaincy of the club in four seasons, 1984/5, 1985/6, 1987/88 and 1988/89. It was a busy time for a captain of a club like ours playing an average of 45 games a season, but Neil filled the role superbly.
In October 1987 he captained Ebbw Vale against the United States Eagles a close game which we were fortunate to win. The Eagles scored three tries to our one and Neil, a sportsman in every sense of the word, paid tribute to the Americans who looked likely winners and according to a match report would have won “had the Ebbw Vale pack cracked.” Led by Neil, it did not.
Phil Gardner coached Neil and remembers the impact he immediately made when he joined the club. “Neil was always superbly fit, a family man, an outstanding player and a very nice guy.”
The following are the thoughts of a former teammate Rob Stephens who joined the club during Neil’s captaincy from Gwernyfed RFC:
“I came to the bright lights of Ebbw Vale at the start of the 1986/7 season and joined up with Neil being the Club Captain for that season. With him being a fellow back row player and Coaches Phil Gardner and Gomer Evans also being backrowers I had plenty to prove and aspire to. I soon learnt that the club captain led by example with a high standard off the field as well as on. Jumping on the club bus to one of my first away matches to Nottingham Neil pulled me to one side and said, “Bob you are up a couple of notches here and representing a great club in, Ebbw so have a shave and put your tie straight” Total respect of the skipper and I did take heed!
Plenty of big fixtures lay ahead on the field and Neil always led from the front over the years as we played side by side many times in some tough encounters with Neil always nailing his spot at 6 and representing Ebbw Vale and skippering the side to a very high standard. Truly a great role model to all players especially to myself and the fellow young backrowers we had in the club at the time,(Spiller, Easley and Ian Williams amongst them). Great memories and great times with our fellow rugby players, committee members and supporters at Ebbw Vale Rugby Club. Neil Robinson led and left his mark that is for certain, respected by the Rugby Family. RIP Neil and Thank you.”
We offer our sincere condolences to his family on behalf of those who played with him, watched him from the terraces and enjoyed his company.