Players who switched to rugby league from Cardiff invited to share their stories

Wales Rugby League chief executive officer Gareth Kear has become part of a new working group set up by Cardiff Council to find a way to honour and promote the history of the city’s great Rugby League players.

Tuesday, 28th July 2020, 9:43 am
Updated Tuesday, 28th July 2020, 9:46 am
John Mantle flings himself over for a try in the 1966 Challenge Cup final
John Mantle flings himself over for a try in the 1966 Challenge Cup final

Kear, Cardiff born and bred himself, has been passionately vocal for some time about the need to honour some of the t3-a-side legends with a permanent memorial.

Several of the sport’s greatest-ever players hailed from the Welsh Metropolis, many of them black, who had to leave South Wales to further their careers. They went on to break down barriers and became heroes and role models to hundreds of thousands of fans.

Few clubs, if any, can match Saints when it comes to signings talent from the Princiipality, including Kel Coslett. John Warlow, John Mantle, Don Gullick, Scott Gibbs, Graham Rees, Bob Prosser and Regan Grace.

Kear said: “The Welsh connection with Rugby League is incredible and the many great players from Cardiff who have captured the hearts and minds of fans of the sport all across the world is something we feel hasn’t been given the credit it deserves.

“We’d love to see the stories behind these global greats, potentially alongside those of men and women from other sports, brought more into the public domain to demonstrate how sport really can help to break down barriers in society.”

Cardiff Council leader, Huw Thomas, who is heading the working group, said: “As a council, we are often approached to see how the outstanding contributions made by so many of our great sportsmen and women might be celebrated.

“But what became obvious from the ‘Codebreakers’ programme was how the story of Rugby League has largely gone unnoticed here, and what’s really fascinating is the social and racial background behind why so many players went north.

“As we all take stock to consider the Black Lives Matter campaign and examine how Wales’ black history is reflected in our public spaces, the story of the ‘Codebreakers’ is clearly one that resonates today.

"Many of these incredible men were black, and many felt they had to leave Cardiff to get an opportunity in life. They went on to become huge stars and fantastic role models, yet there is no statue or plaque in their hometown to celebrate that.

“We want to put that right, and we want to find a way to tell their stories to residents and visitors. Cardiff has always been a multi-cultural city, and that diversity needs to be celebrated. When you look at the achievements of these men it’s a crying shame that their lives aren’t celebrated openly in the city.”

Any past St Helens players, who want to share their memories with Mr Kear, are asked to email: [email protected]