Rodney Parade was a second home for many years to former Argus chief sports writer Robin Davey. He talks to CHRIS BINDING in a special feature to celebrate The South Wales Argus’ 125th anniversary

FOR many people, sport is a way of life – a common ground that unites and divides communities in equal measure.

In every town and city there are teams that inspire dedication from fans – fans who are not afraid to invest in a club’s future or to criticise its failures.

In this context, a sports reporter can be a vital role that involves relaying information, capturing the feeling of fans and when needed, asking the tough questions to decision makers.

Over the 125-year history of the South Wales Argus, sports journalist Robin Davey stands out as one of these figures – having covered rugby in Newport for decades.

The Newport native – who retired as chief sports writer in 2011 – joined the Argus in 1965 from school and moved to sport full-time in 1969.

According to former Argus editor Gerry Keighley, before he retired Mr Davey wasalso the longest-serving full-time sports journalist in Wales, and possibly the United Kingdom.

The long-serving sports journalistMr Davey is a previous winner of the Welsh Sports Journalist of the Year award.

For many of our readers, Mr Davey was known for his coverage of the highs and lows of Newport Rugby Club (and since the inception of regional rugby), the Newport Gwent Dragons, now the Dragons.

“Rugby was in the blood as I played at Newport High School when it was a grammar school and regularly sent people to Oxford and Cambridge,” he said.

“In 1965 when I started at the South Wales Argus it was at the top end of High Street and this was in the days of typewriters and dictating copy over the phone.”

In a pre-digital era, the mechanics of filing sports reports could be, at times, a little problematic.

“I remember going into the deepest West Wales and there was no phone, just a pitch. You were lucky if there was a shed there,” he said.

“When Newport were playing there what you had to do was knock on someone’s door, ask them if they minded you using their telephone to send copy over.

“At half time, I would run from the pitch to this house, get on the phone, phone the first half of the copy over, miss the first part of the second half and then use the phone again.”

In 1969 Mr Davey started to cover Newport Rugby Club going on coaches to away games at the start of what he described as the “Welsh Golden Era” of rugby.

“Newport were pre-eminent and won what was then called the Welsh unofficial championship and were captained by Brian Price – a legend and (former) Wales captain,” Mr Davey said.

“As members of the media – which were fairly few in number – you would sit with the players on the plane. Imagine that now? They wouldn’t let you near them.”

He added: “It was the time where you had all these world-famous names – legends in Welsh Rugby – getting on the plane with people like us, it was surreal.

“You had that rapport and it was a kindlier time. You were part of it and part of Welsh Rugby.”

During his Argus career, Mr Davey travelled to six Rugby World Cups including South Africa (1995), Australia (2003) and New Zealand (2011).

He also toured New Zealand with the British and Irish Lions in 1977, when Gwent provided seven players, and has reported on nearly 300 rugby internationals.

Looking back on his career highlights, he fondly remembered Wales “doing the triple triple” in 1977 – winning three Triple Crowns in a row, beating Scotland, Ireland and England.

“Welsh prime minister at the time James Callaghan invited the players, their wives and a few media to 10 Downing Street,” he said.

“Quite early in my career not only were Wales winning everything, I was in 10 Downing Street.

“Haven’t been there since, of course, but it’s once in a lifetime.”

He also recalled covering the “greatest rugby game ever played” between the Barbarians and the All Blacks in 1973 as an “absolute highlight”.

“The atmosphere was friendly among journalists and you were a band of brothers, would help one another out and were very friendly,” he said.

For Mr Davey, the daily news cycle revolved around the changes and drama of Newport’s rugby club from match reports to the new system of regions introduced by the Welsh Rugby Union.

The changes affected Newport’s club, with Newport Rugby Club becoming Newport Gwent Dragons – something Mr Davey initially opposed.

He recalls rows with the Welsh Rugby Union where he was called a “dinosaur” for his opposition saying there was “not enough money and too many teams” in professional rugby at the time.

“Initially I was dead against it but then I became a convert and have been ever since,” he said.

Despite being retired, he still has a keen interest in rugby and recently attended a press conference at Rodney Parade about the Welsh Rugby Union takeover of the club.

The move – voted for by club shareholders earlier this year – saw the Newport club’s name change again to simply ‘The Dragons’.

Reflecting on his time covering Newport’s rugby scene, the veteran sports reporter added Rodney Parade “became his second home”.

“Over my career how many times did I go to Rodney Parade? Hundreds and hundreds.

“If I covered nearly 300 Wales games, perhaps 3,000 (games in total),” he said.

“When times were bad and I thought the place was being badly run, I wasn’t afraid to have a real go at things, and did do.”

Giving advice to aspiring journalists, he said: “I would always try to stay ahead and you were always chasing stories. That was in my blood.

“But you have to earn people’s respect and confidence and that way you will gain far more than you will ever lose.

“It doesn’t mean you have to be in their pockets and sycophantic, and they know that. That’s the core that applies to journalism.”

He added: “I retired with a heavy heart and went on two-and-a-half-years over normal retirement age.

“The South Wales Argus is part of my DNA.

“I undoubtedly had the best of the industry and have no regrets.”