In the latest installment in the series of Q&As with Neath’s players and management, Phill Lawrence speaks to new Chief Executive, Will Thomas:
Q. Hi Will and Welcome to Neath! What’s your first rugby memory??
A. Hi Phill, thanks for the welcome. As you know I was brought up on rugby at Cross Keys and I have a vague recollection of watching them play Fiji in 1985, I would have been 8 at the time.
Q. Who was your inspiration to get into rugby??
A. I’m not sure I would call it an inspiration but my Uncle took me down to train with Risca minis U8s and I fell in love with it from there.
Q. Who were your rugby (or other sporting) heroes growing up?
A. My Mum tells me that I wanted to be Daley Thompson when I was growing up. John Barnes was my absolute hero and from a rugby perspective I looked up to more Club players such as Cross Keys players Barry Peebles, Nicky Parkes and Phil Withers.
Q. You have played against us for Ebbw and Keys before, but what about your best on-field memories?
A. Usually whenever I’ve played against Neath we would have a hammering. I was telling Rowland the other day that I played for Ebbw when Mike Ruddock was coaching us, the game was live on TV, we got hammered and my one over riding memory was looking to carry into a solid line of black defenders with Rowland in the middle of it. Suffice to say we didn’t get any change out of that defence on the night.
But I’ve also got some good memories, of captaining Cross Keys to beat Neath at the Gnoll in 2006/07 (6-10 hammering rain – PWL!). A also had man of the match which that day which was presented to me upstairs in the Club house by former Neath player Mike Whitson. I’ll admit we were lucky to win that day though so the win that gave me most pleasure was when I was player coach with Ebbw, with Pat as Head Coach in 2007/08. We comfortably won on the day and the result pretty much heralded the end of Jason Forster’s reign with Rowland coming back as Head Coach.
Q. It must be good to see Rowland at the Club after all the success he brought during his previous spell, and abroad…
A. I knew Rowland was quite iconic in Neath but since I’ve been on board everybody has been talking about his return so it has really hit home how he is weaved into the fabric of Neath. He without doubt knows how to win rugby matches and it’s great seeing him and Pat back together.
Q. What are your highlights during your career so far and what would you like the Team to achieve this year?
A. My playing highlight were probable playing in the World Cup 7s or the Hong Kong 7s because they were such big occasions.
I’m going to avoid making predictions on the teams results so having spoken to a lot of supporters in the past few weeks I’m going to say that by the end of the season I want the supporters to be proud of the players and what they have achieved.
Q. Some quirky and quickfire questions… What’s the funniest thing you have seen on the field?!
A. I’m going to take the liberty of cheating on this one and choose a slightly off field situation as it has a Neath link… When one of the Cross Keys players stole the Neath’s mascot head after the game. The way that the PR team at Neath handled that was brilliant, as I remember there were pictures on the website of the Bull with no head and Rowland and school children stood around him crying demanding the Bull’s head back. (I remember it well!! – PWL)
Q. Favourite and Worst Grounds?
A. Eugene Cross Park has always been a favourite, playing down into the bottom left hand corner in front of the bank was great. If I’m allowed another I liked Stradey Park also. Worst probable had to be at Carmarthen as I don’t think I have won there, oh and that wind!!!
Q. Toughest Opponent?
A. Scott Quinnell with his handoff of God. Unstoppable in top gear.
Q. Biggest joker at Neath/Elsewhere?
A. Pat Horgan!!! I hope that brings a smile to his face. No I guess it’s Rowland.
Q. Favourite Meal/Drink
A. Hot curry and a pint of Heineken.
Q. Any superstitions/Pre-match rituals?
A. I’m too rational for superstitions, although I usually had a favourite place to sit in the changing rooms.
Q. What’s your message for the Neath faithful for the coming season?
A. Everyone is working extremely hard behind the scenes with the sole intention of returning Neath to where they belong and I can’t wait for that first game of the season.
Thanks for your time Will and good luck to the boys on the field for an injury free and successful season, and off the field making the Blacks an exciting Brand once again!
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