‘Unseen guidance’ that steered Pontypool RFC to the top
12:02pm Tuesday 8th October 2013 in Latest Rugby
ALUN Carter and Nick Bishop’s follow up to their critically-acclaimed ‘Seeing Red: Twelve Tumultuous Years in Welsh Rugby’ is called ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: The Rise and Fall of Pontypool RFC’ about the contrasting fortunes of the great club and is out on Thursday.
In the first of three extracts published this week in the Argus, former Wales and Pooler flanker Carter writes about the team’s larger than life physiotherapist Eddie Mogford who served the club for 27 years before retiring in 1993. He passed away in December, 2011.
ON the morning of Worcester’s Premiership game with Newcastle Falcons in February 2010, I’d visited Eddie at the County Hospital in Panteg. He was in a bad way, rambling incoherently. Every now and again our eyes would meet.
I sat still and took Eddie’s verbal battering. If I so much as twitched a muscle, he would turn around: ‘Don’t leave me now, Carter, you Black and Amber b*****d.’ It was the last time I was to see Eddie before he passed away in December 2011...
The preacher finishes a short blessing and the murmur of family prayers fades into the background. I half-expect Eddie to rise up and give me one last tongue-lashing before he leaves for the Gwent Crematorium: ‘. . . And another thing, Spring!’ I gratefully pick up my corner of the coffin and hoist it aloft.
Two of the other shoulders that bear Eddie out of ‘Welsford’, his home, for the last time, belong to Graham Price and Terry Cobner. Nothing is said between them. Pricey and ‘Cobs’ will exchange pleasantries for the first time in about 15 years later that afternoon, sharing a pint and a table in the Little Crown, Eddie’s local. I keep my eyes to the front as we go out into the blinding morning sunlight.
The coffin feels as light as balsa wood. Black and white, love and hate, and nothing by halves; it is the Pontypool way.
No one epitomised that way better than Eddie Mogford, particularly during the time of the resurrection in Pontypool RFC’s fortunes in the early 1970s. I was only 14 years old when I first met Eddie. That was when I had my first serious rugby injury.
My dad told me there was a man in Merchant’s Hill, Pontnewynydd, who could help. As we approached the extension on the side of a large detached house, I could hear this loud
chuckling coming from the other side of the door.
It opened to reveal this large, jovial man with a beaming grin. I thought he was Father Christmas, then he swore violently at my dad. Brian Carter and Eddie had been at George Street School together. Dad seemed to think the volley of profanities was funny. I was introduced to Eddie Mogford and asked to take a seat.
Eddie was cursing and turning the air blue with one of his jokes. The eyes of his victim grew
wider and wider as Eddie remorselessly took him to pieces while everyone else laughed, thankful that they weren’t the butt of his humour for the time being. Eddie Mogford was at the centre of his wicked theatre, chuckling away. I started to relax and enjoy it. I remember thinking, ‘I like this . . . I’ll be back for more.’
Eddie was, I believe, the kind of person you need at every successful club or sporting organisation, from the highest to the lowest. He was well-nigh invisible in terms of his public profile outside Pontypool, but his ‘unseen guidance’ – whether barked out from the touchline, or whispered, kneeling by an injured player’s ear, or rasped out via a humiliating put-down
in the treatment room – was key to reinforcing the messages Ray Prosser was trying to embed in the culture of his new model Pontypool. Terry Cobner remembers Eddie as ‘a complete one-off, the most politically incorrect man I’ve ever met in my life. He complemented what Pross was trying to do perfectly because he didn’t respect excuses, even when they
were valid. “Get up!” he’d say, “I’m not wasting my time on you!” after he came on the field for an injured player. With the advance of sports science and medicine, we’ve gone in
completely the opposite direction, but I don’t believe it’s necessarily a good thing. We don’t promote mental toughness because we believe too much in susceptibility to injury. Sometimes you just have to buckle up and play on through the pain.’
The serialisation continues in tomorrow's Argus.
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