Sporting Snippets - Part 29

Gordon Thomas at the Liberty Stadium!

Gordon looked good at the Liberty Stadium

Gordon Thomas has enjoyed a whole range of sporting experiences as a quality rugby player who captained Wales Youth, played alongside the likes of Ray Gravell at Llanelli and turned out for Tenby United at the start of the National Leagues and his home club of Haverfordwest.

On the football front he played in a winning Senior Cup-winning side at Merlins Bridge, had two winners’ medals with Hook Cricket Club in the Ormond Youth Cup and was a champion sprinter and high jumper at the old Haverfordwest Secondary Modern School.

Then as sports editor at the Western Telegraph he was acknowledged as a man who was not afraid to tell the truth but was always fair – and is now doing great work with and with Pure West Radio as a presenter on their popular ‘Monday Night Sports Show’.

I’ve been lucky to attend many sporting events, presentations and functions with Gordon but one I won’t forget is when we went to the Liberty Stadium and he somehow managed to gain access to the field before the match and stretched out-in the dug out in the very chair that three days before and afterwards was occupied by Michael Laudrup, the famous Danish international who was then in charge of The Swans.

The look on his face said it all because he had fulfilled a dream – but somehow he wasn’t asked to take over when The Great Dane left!

Reggie, Reggie and Barry

Big Reggie, little Reggie and Barry get together at The Bridge Meadow Stadium

Reg Pithouse is very much a larger than life volunteer with Haverfordwest both in physicality and personality as an 80 years young football lover brought up in London before he retired with his smashing wife Bron to his bungalow just outside Spittal.

He has done a great job as steward on match days and can be relied upon to help with a range of other jobs, some more appropriate for a younger man because he has had several heart attacks and minor strokes but he has bounced back each time and still retains his amazing sense of humour and love of life.
He is known as ‘Big Reg’ or ‘Reggie’ and on a recent visit there I found him cuddling a tiny Jack Russell terrier which was also called, would you believe it, ‘Reggie’!

Now that petite pooch is the pet of Barry Vaughan, the Hon Sec at the club for many years before he recently retired and he had popped down to The Bridge Meadow to help with some administrative matter and took the canine Reggie to meet his much bigger cockney namesake, who was delighted to clutch the little feller in his big paws, chuckling away all the time.

It was a nice moment which I was glad I could catch on camera!

Steve  and George Wilkins

Steve and George Wilkins

I came across this smashing picture of the father and son duo of Steve and George Wilkins whilst browsing through some old photos – and remembered it was taken on the verandah at Cresselly Cricket Club, where they were both playing for the village side.

I had first come across Steve when his family moved from Cheshire to run a pub in Pembroke Dock and he was a confident young man who joined us at Imble Lane.

He was full of fun and I would never have believed that he would later not only join the police but achieve the status of detective chief superintendent who led a specialist team which solved the so-called Scoveston and coastal path murders.

His achievement has been made into a documentary/film which will be screened in January under the ‘Pembrokeshire Murderers’ title, with Hollywood star Luke Evans playing Steve.

I chatted to Steve, now back living in Nantwich, Cheshire, after a spell in Geneva , a short while ago and eventually he is going to feature on site with his sporting background (he was also a Pembroke Dock Quins and Pembrokeshire Youth rugby player). George was a far better cricket player than his father and is now in the police force in Newport. I look forward to a good yarn with Wilkins senior!

Neylands top try scorers Mathew Williams and Adam Collins

Mathew Williams and Adam Collins

The nice thing about a visit to The Athletic Ground to watch Neyland RFC is the fact that you never know who you are going to bump into on the touchline for a chat, because there are so many larger than life characters there.

It is doubly nice because a lot of the old-timer are former Milford Central School pupils I taught and so I have to put up with their outrageous claims about how grumpy I was and how inaccurate I was throwing chalk or blackboard dusters, which I never did in 32 years of teaching in Milford!

On one such occasion I was lucky to bump into two of the best sportsmen I have come across in my sports writing and they really are the ‘Little and Large’ duo because one is pretty big in every way and the other is a much more compact, far quieter, but equally competitive person!

Mathew Williams played all his rugby as a scrum half with Neyland RFC and was a county regular alongside brother Andrew, better known to all ‘Bob’, and I can remember the Williams’ brothers playing for Pembrokeshire at Bierspool against a strong Swansea XV. They played so well that they were invited by the All Whites after the match to go for trials.

Adam Collins was a gifted footballer with Hakin United and also had a spell at Haverfordwest County in the old Welsh League before switching codes to play rugby for  The All Blacks, where he also gained county recognition as a block-busting centre.

Both have played over recent seasons when called out of retirement when needed and showed they could still play well.

As for me chasing either of them around desks in my classroom, Matthew was a big lump then that I wouldn’t want to get involved with physically and if I tried to catch Adam I would still have been running around today, 30+ years later!

Rob Evans, Jonathan Thomas, Geraint John

Rob Evans, Jonathan Thomas and Geraint John

It is also good as a sort of sports writer to be invited to act as MC at sporting events and when Pembrokeshire Youth Rugby held a fund-raising dinner at Allt yr Afon in Wolfscastle.

There were three well-known local rugby players who took part as a panel where I could put questions to them from the audience.

Jonathan Thomas, who played 68 times in the back row for Wales and has had successful coaching stints with Bristol Beaters and Worcester Warriors, was joined by Rob Evans, who has made 39 appearances for Wales as prop and is now back in action after a long spell out injured, plus Geraint John, who was the most capped Wales ‘B’ international ever before a coaching career with Llanelli, Cardiff Blues and the Welsh national side.

A former High Performance Manager of Canada, and Australian Sevens coach at The Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Geraint was appointed to the Executive Board of the WRU as its Head of Rugby Performance and now its Community Director.

It was a terrific evening with a real contrast in their approach to answers: Jonathan using his vast experience in the game and Geraint talking about being involved all over the rugby world – and with Rob supplying much of the humour because he is, without realising it, a very funny man who had the audience in fits with his Scarlets’ sagas and witty Welsh thoughts.

They should have more evenings like that in Pembrokeshire!