TRIBUTES have been paid to a much-loved and talented rugby union player who left Wales to seek his fortune in league with one of the game’s leading sides.

Popular Cross Keys stalwart and lifelong fan Gordon Hackling has died at the age of 87.

A larger than life character, he ‘went North’ in 1958 after signing professional forms for Hull Kingston Rovers when union was still fiercely an amateur sport.

Such was his remarkable stamina he was still going on rugby tours when he was in his 80s.


Mr Hackling suffered horrendous bad luck in his opening game in the 13-man code when he broke his leg in a clash with Batley.

South Wales Argus:

A picture of Gordon Hackling from his playing days at Hull KR. Picture: Hull KR

But he showed his strength of character to bounce back from injury to play again for Hull KR before returned home in the early Sixties after retiring.

Mr Hackling, who was from Pontywaun, played for Cross Keys on 127 occasions in the 1950s, largely as a blindside flanker, after starting his rugby career with Abercarn.

When his playing days were over, he ran the Tredegar Arms pub in Risca before going on to become a self-employed builder.

He was a loyal Keys supporter and until recent years was a permanent fixture at Pandy Park having attended almost every home game for more than 40 years.

His son Paul Hackling, 60, said: “My father would go and watch Keys in all kinds of weather.

"He was indestructible and the boys at Cross Keys used to call him Captain Scarlet.

“At the age of 83 he went on the club’s tour to Hong Kong even though coach Greg Woods had to put him to bed on a few occasions.

“We lost him at the airport for an hour on the way over there.

“I could have killed him! On the way back, I wanted to leave him there like Tom Hanks in The Terminal.

“We had some great fun out in Hong Kong, but what goes on tour, stays on tour!

“My father even beat coronavirus which he had for six weeks last year. We felt sorry for Covid in the end.”

Cross Keys committee man and former chairman, Peter Glastonbury, said: “Gordon was a gentleman of the first order. He will be sadly missed by everyone who knew him.”

Among the dozens of tributes on Facebook, former Keys player Nathan Trowbridge wrote: “Ahhh no, so gutted to hear this sad news. Gordon always had time for me and was the nicest man who was as genuine as they come.

“Also, Gordon was a top tourist on our tour to Hong Kong! Condolences to his family and everyone at the club. RIP Gordon. X”