Get your dad a little something extra this Father’s Day with our Quick Reads book Rugby Dads by Jos Andrews. Jos takes a look at the dynamics between being a player on the pitch and a dad off the pitch. The book contains personal messages from both the players and their children.
Take a quick peek at a free extract below!
Gareth Davies, UWIST, Oxford University, Cardiff RFC, Barbarians, Wales, British and Irish Lions and Chairman of the Welsh Rugby Union, Foreword:
My father was David Elfed Davies, a miner who went down the pit at the age of fifteen. He was very bright, exceptionally good at Mathematics, and insisted I did A-Level Maths too – I wasn’t so keen! But education was very important to him. Like a lot of his generation, he hadn’t really had a chance to study. He didn’t want his son to follow him in the same job. So he was determined that I would have an education and escape the pit.
My father never actually saw me play rugby, not one game. In the early years, he didn’t want me spending time away from my studies throwing a ball around. I once played cricket for Welsh Schools the day before an important Maths examination and he was furious. He couldn’t believe that I might waste an education by playing sport. He wasn’t anti-rugby, just against me playing when I should have been studying. He took a huge interest, though, in how I did at every level of rugby. Later, I found he’d kept scrapbooks about my career and he knew about every game I played in and every point I’d scored.
I realised that he was a tough, proud, hard worker underground, but also a sensitive man who didn’t want to be seen jumping on the bandwagon of his son’s later success as a Welsh rugby player. I remember that when I was about seven or eight years old I was taking part in the school sports day at Pen-y-groes, and he came to see me run a race. I saw him arrive, and froze to the spot on the start line. I think he always thought that it was his fault and so didn’t come to watch me in case it happened again!
When I finished playing rugby, I started playing golf. Sport was never far away in my life! I was invited to play at an event, the Coral Classic at the Royal Porthcawl Golf Club, described as one of the greatest golf courses in the world. I was playing with Brian Barnes, a professional golfer and Ryder Cup player, the great Gareth Edwards and Tommy Craig, then manager at Swansea City. I had only recently taken up the game and wasn’t particularly good at it. The night before the game, my mum rang me from the local telephone kiosk to tell me that Dr Sheehan, the village doctor, was coming up to watch me play and bringing my dad with him. I couldn’t believe it! I had played rugby for my country against all the great teams, New Zealand, South Africa, England and the like, and now my father would see me playing like this! As I was about to tee off, I saw him in his green sweater, out of the corner of my eye. I teed off and hit a good shot down the middle of the fairway. Then I saw Dad making his way across the fairway carrying two big bags of vegetables that he had brought from the garden for me. His garden was his pride and joy and everyone who came to our house left with a bag of his ‘prized’ vegetables as a gift. I couldn’t say no to him, so I had to stuff the two bags into my golf bag and carry on with the game!
My motivation growing up was to play rugby for Wales. My rugby heroes were all number tens – Carwyn James, D.K. Jones, Barry John. When I was young my uncle took me to Stradey Park to watch Llanelli and I was thrilled to watch Barry John and Phil Bennett and then got excited when I saw Dai Watkins. These men were all hugely inspirational to me. I watched them play and wanted to be just like them.
My first two games for Wales were on tour in 1978 in Australia. The first Test was in Brisbane and the second in Sydney. It was amazing for me to be selected to play for Wales and, as a massive cricket fan, to play on the Sydney cricket ground. Phil Bennett, my schoolboy hero from Llanelli, had just retired and to step into his boots at number ten was unbelievable and quite unreal to me. It was disappointing that my first appearance for my country was so far away from home, but I looked forward to the time when I might be able to play for Wales at Cardiff Arms Park. When I was selected to play for Wales at home, it was like having a first cap all over again! I was looking forward to three things – running out onto the pitch, hearing fifty thousand Welsh voices singing the anthem, and waiting for the next day to hear Bill McLaren, the great commentator known as ‘the voice of rugby’, say my name on television. I told him years later that it had meant the world to me.
Rugby Dad’s is available to buy from Amazon.