Welsh Rugby Union is currently in turmoil. Management incompetency has affected player contracts, regional team organisation, and how accusations of misogyny have been addressed. It has also prevented a fluid pathway for aspiring young players and led to poor performances by the national team.
Outstanding Players of the 70s
Fervent Wales supporters fondly remember the outstanding successes of the 1970s with players such as Gareth Edwards, Barry John, Ray Gravelle, JJ Williams and John Dawes.
That team had speed, supreme ball handling and, above all, flair and creativity. In his latest book, Rugby’s Greatest Mavericks, Luke Upton provides an engaging, insightful and humorous account of some of Welsh rugby’s great characters.
The players he mentions all displayed the key attributes of flair and individuality. Plus the “cheeky chink” of their activities off the pitch, which sometimes went “over the line”.
Readers will enjoy the anecdotal stories about the players the author labels “mavericks”. The author includes Danny Cipriani, Ray Gravell, SonnyBoy Williams, Heather Moyse, Finn Russell, David Campese, Non Evans, Moss Keane and also Keith Murdoch.
Cipriani and Gravell
Danny Cipriani was a wonderfully talented outside half who could conjure deft passes and magical sidesteps. Unfortunately, his off-field behaviour hit the headlines with details of his drinking, relationships with females and conflicts with coaches. He also faced personal challenges with depression.
Readers of all backgrounds will be aware of Ray Gravell, the outstanding centre from Mynydd-y Garreg, universally known as “Grav”. Following his exceptional playing career for Llanelli, Wales and the British Lions, Ray worked as an actor and contributor for BBC Wales and Radio Cymru.
Readers will find his fight with diabetes heartwrenching. His death at 56 shook not only the world of rugby but also the people of Wales. Over 10,000 mourners attended Gravel’s funeral at Stradey Park. Highlighting his popularity as a rugby player and as a boy from “Y Filltir Sgwar”(His Homeland).
Heather Moyse was an inspirational and multi-talented performer. She played rugby for Canada, won a gold medal in the women’s bobsleigh at the Winter Olympics (2010) and competed for Canada at the Pan-American Cycling Championships in 2012.
Details of her career highlight the emotional stress and physical injuries athletes endure. Heather considers that real mavericks know what they want, focus and do not let the opinion of others sway them.
Non Evans won 87 caps for the women’s Welsh rugby union team. She was victorious at the World Youth Powerlifting Championships with a deadlift of 120 kg and competed at the 2002 Commonwealth Games in weightlifting and judo.
In addition, she was a member of the “Gorsedd” (Welsh Bardic Circle) and was awarded the MBE. Non was an amateur whose story highlights the inequality of rewards for female performers. As she comments, “If I were a man, I’d be a millionaire.”
This review is an enthralling account of those who continue to emerge and entertain (Finn Russell and Marcus Smith, for example). Well worth reading.
The Final Whistle
The Final Whistle is an enthralling, frank and compelling analysis of sporting personality Nigel Owens. You can read about the high points of his career as an international rugby union referee. Alongside the emotional difficulties and challenges he faced in his personal life. Nigel was a true character whose expertise and personal skills in promoting on-the-field rapport with players were key to his success.
He was well known for his put-downs and ability to defuse situations with off-the-cuff remarks, like the famous “this is not soccer” comment.
Dan Carter, the great All Black fly half states, “There was a bond between him and players, a kind of camaraderie, but we were never left in any doubt as to who was in charge. Nigel’s word was always final”.
He was the first referee to officiate in 100 tests, the highlight being the 2015 World Cup final between New Zealand and Australia at Twickenham.
Nigel Owens’ Life
The skills of co-writer Paul Abbandonato have enabled Nigel to discuss his period of self-denial and depression before coming out.
He highlights turning points in his life when he first started to be honest with himself. These include opening up to his parents, particularly his Mum, resulting in a massive weight being lifted from his shoulders.
He also mentions his appearance on Desert Island Discs” (BBC Radio 4). As key moments for himself and others in breaking down barriers he was “freed from his own shackles” and was able to be himself after choosing to stop living a lie.
The book openly discusses all aspects of his life. His career as a referee, dark days of emotional depression, his partnership and life with Barrie. Also plans to adopt children and developing his exciting career as a farmer. All while doing media work and after-dinner speaking.
Nigel is a proud Welsh-speaking Welshman, whose background and deep family ties in Mynyddcerrig, Pontyberem and Ysgol Maes-yr-Yrfa highlight the closeness of the cymuned (community).
Discussion of Nigel’s life within his family, the community and the world of rugby is brought to life by the excellent photographs depicting Nigel’s personality and successes in his new life as a farmer.
He has particularly commanded respect on and off the field for his honesty and ability to cope effectively with challenging and confrontational situations
This outstanding and inspirational account describes how a leading figure in the macho world of rugby union triumphed and achieved respect with his honesty and ability. Arddeerchog (excellent).
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