Sporting Snippets - Part 34

John was doing well up the line . . .

John GreggainOne of the nice things about looking back over 30 years ago it is great to see people from Pembrokeshire who were doing well at the time ‘up the line’ as it were. One of them was a talented young member of a rugby dynasty from Neyland . . .
Another young rugby player from Neyland enjoyed great success recently when John Greggain played for The Royal Navy against The Army at Twickenham and received good reports in the press about his performance.

John, like his father, John senior, is a talented three-quarter for The All Blacks, joining grandfather Len, who was a tough as teak forward, with both of them delighted by his selection.

The Greggain family conveyor built looks like continuing because John’s younger brother Nicky is currently outside half for the Pembrokeshire Youth team – so we are sure to hear a lot about the Greggains in the future.
*That snippet featured in the old ‘West Wales Guardian’ on 11th March, 1988 and it is worth recording the fact that both John and Nicky gave great service to Neyland RFC first XV over many seasons!


. . . And so were Griff and Sooty!

Phil SuttonMike GriffithsContinuing the theme of talented Neyland rugby players doing well ‘up the line’ and we have to mention Mike Griffiths and Phil Sutton when they played regularly for Bridgend at the top level of Welsh Rugby, after serving their apprenticeships at the Athletic Ground. This snippet appeared on April 1st 1988 . . .
The Neyland lads currently playing with Bridgend RFC continue to make names for themselves with stirring performances; their most recent being against one of the top English teams, Gloucester.
‘Griff’ grabbed his 18th try of the season from the base of the scrum whilst also posing a constant threat behind a strong pack, getting the ball away quickly but also ever-ready to test the opposing back row if the left the tiniest gap in their defence.
‘Sooty’ looked really sharp and ultra-solid under the high ball at the back and made the break out of defence to create a try for ex-Whitland winger Mike Holding, making it a Pembrokeshire hat-trick of scorers in an 18-8 win.
Both fine players have really made the step-up in class and it shows the quality of sport coming out of Neyland at this time!


Dai catches the eye of some top clubs

David ProctorOne of the most talented footballers I came across in my time of teaching was Dai Proctor, from St Ishmaels, who went for trials with Arsenal and Manchester United before eventually signing as an apprentice with Coventry City - and I was honoured to sign his forms because I was his head of year . . .
David Proctor is aged 14 and is eagerly looking forward to a visit to North  London in early August as the guest of Arsenal, where he is attending The Gunners’ training ground for a trial, having already undertaken one at Manchester United – and is due to return there later this month for further training.

No-one will be more delighted than his father Ray, who spent a year in his teens with Tottenham Hotspur before returning to Pembrokeshire as a fine footballer and fiery fast bowler.

Known to all as ‘Dai’, the younger Proctor is also a very useful cricketer but football is clearly his first love and everyone involved in the game from our county wishes him every success in the future!

*A bad back later caused Dai to stop playing football but his silken skills and footballing brain were brilliant!


Great moment for Geraint!

Geraint BowenGeraint Bowen is one of my favourite former rugby players from Pembrokeshire over the years and so I was delighted to hear that he was finally rewarded with a full Welsh cap 34 years after he had played in Canada – and even more delighted when he insisted that I had to be there for the presentation. I regarded it as a huge honour and still look at the pictures with great affection . . .
Rugby folk across Pembrokeshire will be delighted to know that Geraint Bowen is now the proud holder of his Welsh Rugby cap after receiving it before the match against Fiji in recognition of his playing against Canada 34 years ago.

It was presented by Dennis Gethin, the President of the WRU, in front of 300 at the celebration dinner in the Millennium Stadium, with Gordon Eynon and Johnnie Jones, the current and former District H representatives, there to cheer him on, alongside his family.

When he went out to Canada, Geraint was just 24 years of age and after setting out with Narberth was rightly regarded as one of the best young full backs to emerge for some time, coming at the end of his first season with Llanelli.

At the time the Welsh players weren’t capped against the likes of Canada and the USA, both of whom the Welsh team played in 1980, and who awarded caps to their players.

But this omission has finally been put right and they will be known as ‘President’s Caps’, with Geraint and Co receiving theirs as part of the celebrations before the game against Fiji.

It will complete a ‘cap double’ for Geraint because in his twilight years he went on to play alongside Brian ‘Beaky’ Davies (Crymych) in a Welsh Districts XV that played and won in Holland.

But it is that trip to North America that will always linger in Geraint’s memory since he was initially surprised to be selected because he was relatively inexperienced at the top level of Welsh club rugby and joined the likes of Eddie Butler, Bob Norster, Steve Fenwick, Richard Moriarty, Brynmor Williams and Alan Donovan in a strong squad that had John Lloyd as coach and Rod Morgan as team manager.

Jacob Thomas and Mo Farah

Jacob was a real star in Boccia

There is no doubt that the sportsman who made the biggest impact on me in my life was Jacob Thomas, the young man from Bethesda who made such a mark in Boccia, the sport in which he came fifth in his category in the London Paralympics – and missed out on a medal by literally inches.

Jacob played from his wheelchair and used a spike on top of his helmet to knock the six balls, towards the jack, using a ramp which was loaded by his dad Mike – and he showed an amazingly accurate skill which I discovered when I once took him on and he trounced me!

Although he was unable to move freely he showed his growing talents by winning Welsh and then British Boccia titles and was soon invited to play all over the world – and in 2015 he earned the No 1 World Ranking in his category.

Before that though, was the London Paralympics, and I travelled to give him support alongside Gordon Thomas, Fraser Watson and Mark Vincent, who was then web manager of and did a great job.

It was an amazing experience which I can only compare to watching Roger Federer on the centre court and Wimbledon or the All Blacks take on Wales at the old Cardiff Arms Park, as it was known then – WOW!

Mike was on court with him throughout but we watched alongside his mum Caroline and sister Polly – and their pride was evident as Jacob showed the steely nature that took him to the top of a highly competitive Boccia tree.

He met many top stars like Mo Farah, Ellie Simmonds, Dame Jessica Ennis, Tom Daley and Carwyn Jones, the leader of the Senedd at a special even in Cardiff – and with all of them he exuded a joy of life that was easily captured on film.

Sadly he passed away last year but maintained his love of life and sport until that time and the crowds who thronged the pavements in Llandissilio and Narberth as his funeral passed was witness to the esteem in which he was held.

I can honestly say that I have never ever met anyone else like Jacob in my life, nor do I expect to in my time left - it was a real privilege Jacob!