W.H.O. (HYWEL) WILLIAMS

Neath supporters of older vintage will be saddened to learn that former winger Hywel Williams has passed away.

Cardigan-based Hywel Williams joined Neath in 1965/66 having scored two tries for London Welsh against Neath in their 11-6 defeat at Old Deer Park the previous season.

He soon established himself as a free-scoring winger for the Welsh All Blacks, amassing 64 tries in over 160 appearances for Neath from 1965 until 1970 when the burden of travelling from his West Wales home finally got the better of him – at a time when he probably had a lot of good rugby left in him.

A superbly balanced runner, Hywel Williams was a key member of the Neath side which won the “Western Mail” Welsh championship and the “Daily Telegraph” Anglo-Welsh Pennant in 1966/67 when he was Neath’s top try-scorer with 22 tries.

I can envisage him now receiving a pass, often from his cultured centre Glen Ball. A quick shift of the hips and an outside swerve would put him beyond his opposite number and any covering full back and many a long-striding run would culminate in him scoring in either the Clubhouse corner or at the “Baths” end.

He played in the Neath-Aberavon combined side which lost 3-9 to the Australians at The Gnoll in 1966 and a year later he scored the only try for the West Wales XV which took Brian Lochore’s invincible New Zealand team all the way before losing 14-21 at Swansea.

Hywel appeared in Welsh trials but sadly the ultimate honour of a full cap eluded him. Still, his profession saw him launch many a player on the path to success, among them former Wales scrum-half Brynmor Williams who recalls regular trips to The Gnoll to see Hywel play.

In recent years, Hywel has been a regular supporter of the Former Players’ functions and he would inevitably arrive earlier than most and politely request a nostalgic visit to the home dressing-room.

Neath’s long history has seen many top wingers and Hywel Williams ranks among the finest including record-breaking captain Bill Jones and internationals like Dan Jones, Arthur Hickman, Cyril Roberts, Keith Maddocks, Elgan Rees and Shane Williams.

A real gentleman, Hywel Williams will be missed but remembered by those of us fortunate enough to have seen him play. MP