Above, from left: Luis Schroeder, Mike Barry, Paul Marotta, Hall of Fame honoree Steve Raia, and Clay Luraschi. (Photo courtesy of Clay Luraschi)
By Mike Malone
Veteran men’s player Steve Raia and longtime women’s coach Greg Parsons were inducted into the Village Lions Hall of Fame on December 7 at Vermillion in Manhattan.
Raia was introduced by veteran Lions Paul Marotta, himself a Hall of Famer, and Clay Luraschi, who spoke of Stevie’s considerable leadership qualities, fearless play at loose forward, and role in helping the Lions get to D2 and then D1.
“I’ve had the privilege to play with and against some of the best rugby talent around and I can confidently stand in front of you tonight and tell you that Steve Raia is without a doubt in that elite class,” said Clay. “He was a voracious competitor and a humble leader who captained many sides. Steve embodied and still embodies the spirit of what a Village Lion is.”
Clay shared testimony from former Lions coach Expo Mejia, who called Stevie “the ultimate brute with a brain.”
“Steve Raia epitomizes everything good about rugby,” said Expo. “I could think of no better way to honor his contribution to this great club than for him to be instated to the Hall of Fame. Your passion for the game has inspired so many over the years and I’m sure will continue to do so.”
Stepping to the mic, Raia spoke of how much rugby and the Village Lions have meant to him. He urged young players to soak up the game, learn from veteran players, step up to leadership roles when it’s their turn, and play the game with every bit of passion you can muster for as long as you can.
“When you look in the mirror and know you gave everything, your opponents will respect you and your mates will respect you,” he said.
Greg Parsons, who coached the women’s team from 2001 to 2007 while pitching in on other seasons as well, was introduced by Hall of Famers Lara Larson and Erin Martschenko. They mentioned Parsons’ charismatic leadership style, his role in leading the young Leonas to a national championship, and the dedication he showed in flying to New York on Tuesdays and Thursdays to run practice before flying back out the next morning to return to work.
“He had a booming voice and a matter-of-fact style of coaching,” said Erin. “He knew how to motivate us.”
Lara teased her former coach about all of the up-downs Parsons used to make the squad do, his predilection for a certain four-letter word, and some of his more curious motivational axioms. (“Don’t dick the dog,” anyone?)
Stepping to the mic amid enthusiastic applause, Greg gave special thanks to Mary Holmes and Mike Barry for their help in coaching the women and thanked his players for making the experience such a positive one in his life.
“I am extremely humbled and honored to be inducted and to have had the pleasure of working with so many fantastic women who laced up their boots and gave their all in sacrifice for the team and the club,” said Greg. “To all of the players who played while I had the privilege of coaching, my undying gratitude and thanks for creating something that was special and will forever hold a piece of my heart and mind.”
After dinner and the various awards were given out, the many Lions headed over to Hofbräu Bierhaus to raise glasses — and boots — of German beer to the club and its history.