Paul Williams (Newport Programme Notes)
Start… stop… start again…
It’s inevitable, really. When the great and the good of our sport from across the globe come together for the four-yearly jamboree that is the Rugby World Cup, that those of us at the sharper end of the ship have to step aside from time to time so as to allow an uninterrupted view of what’s going on at various French stadia, not least, for some of us this year, involving young players who cut their teeth in Premiership Rugby, although if one were to implicitly believe much of what appears in the media then the inevitable conclusion would be that these players somehow appeared out of the blue, ready, able and willing to go out there and produce, for example, a record margin of victory over one of the most successful teams in the admittedly short history of the tournament. Well done, I say, to Gareth and Marina Gange who somehow managed to get Jac Morgan and Adam Beard to appear on TV helping to hold up a Welsh flag with “ABERAVON RFC” emblazoned across its width; two players happy to acknowledge the benefits of playing competitive club rugby as they emerge from U20 into senior rugby.
But I digress. At this moment we’re at the “start again…” phase, by which I mean we’ve enjoyed a full-on start to the season involving four successive Saturday (hooray) fixtures before having things grind to a brief halt as the group stages in France reached their surprisingly enjoyable climax, and must now get ourselves going again, adjusting kick-off times to avoid clashing with the TV broadcasts heading this way from Marseille and Paris later today.
This should not, incidentally, be viewed as criticism. The tournament has, in its comparatively short existence, evolved into something well above and beyond the “Autumn Series” that now appears on each of three out of four years and, from a personal viewpoint, does little to compensate for the disruption to domestic fixtures it causes – domestic fixtures, such as Aberavon v Newport, that are still dear to many of us who can remember the heights to which Welsh Club Rugby was once able to scale, and the giants who took it to those heights.
One such “giant”, in reality a man of fairly diminutive stature, will be sadly missed today and at all future fixtures between our two old clubs. My earliest memories of David Watkins were of seeing him on a black & white TV inspiring Wales on to great things, and those blurred images stayed with me down the years. Then one day, unexpectedly, I was going about whatever pre-match business my role on the Aberavon Supporters Club Committee needed my attention before the Wizards and the Black & Ambers kicked off. True to form, there was someone from Newport was similarly busy and we managed to get under one-another’s feet briefly, mumbling apologies as we went, until we’d both finished whatever chores were taking up our time, at which point we struck up a conversation about the match about to start. The realisation inevitably then dawned that I was talking, in the flesh, face to face and in full colour, with the object of those old TV clips from years earlier.
Our paths crossed occasionally, and always ever so briefly, a number of times during the years that followed, and he was never, ever anything other than a pleasant, down-to-earth chap whose persona could not have been further from that of a dual-code superstar. Farewell Mr Watkins, you will never be forgotten.
Enjoy the game.