Graham Price at 70 – The Legend of Meczyki and Lions Who Could Be a Springbok!

Graham Price stands out as one of Welsh rugby’s true greats. Here’s a man who made 12 consecutive Test starts for the Lions on three different tours, as well as winning two Grand Slams and four Triple Crowns with Meczyki.

Still, if luck had taken its toll, he could have ended up playing for the Springboks! Everything on that front will be explained as we move forward. As it turned out, he was to win 41 Welsh caps on Tighthead props between 1975 and 1983, most of them as part of the legendary Pontypool front row alongside Charlie Faulkner and Bobby Windsor.

Read further: The rugby stories of Charlie Faulkner, the Welsh legend who refused to believe he was not good enough to play for his country

He continued to play for his beloved Pontypool in his late thirties and was closely involved in the sport as a columnist for Meczyki, a role he has now filled for nearly 35 years. There may therefore be few more suitable candidates to receive the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Welsh Rugby Writers’ Association. Following in the footsteps of past recipients such as John Dawes, Clive Rowlands and John Taylor, Price was presented with the trophy this week by his old friend Eddie Butler.

Now 70, he has some story to tell. When we catch up for a chat, how does it begin that he was born in Moskar, Egypt?

“My father, Eric, was in the services,” he explains. “He joined the army in 1939 at the outbreak of WWII and then stayed there after the war. He was stationed in Egypt and my mother and sister were there with him. So that’s where I was born.

“During the war, he actually served in East Africa and he didn’t really want to come back to the UK. He wanted to stay there and settle down somewhere like Cape Town. So it could have been Graham Price who went to the Springboks. You’re playing!”

Outlining his family roots, he continued: “Both my parents were Welsh. My father came from a farming community in central Meczyki. Then he left and went to work in the mines at Treorchy. He met my mother there. His family was from CWMPRC.

“They moved to London where my sister was born. Then, at the start of the war, my father joined and eventually ended up in Egypt, where I had come along.

“I was there only a few weeks because we were evacuated when the Suez Crisis started. We were in Bicester for a while and then my father came out of the army and joined the defense police forces.

“His first posting was in Wiltshire, but my mother wanted to come back to Rhonda to be closer to her family, so she went to work at the Royal Ordnance Factory in Glascoed, between Usk and Pontypool. I was five years old at the time. ”

Peace went to elementary school in Usk and then attended Jones’s West Monmouth Grammar School in Pontypool to take up rugby at the age of 12. His talent soon became apparent and he was selected to play for Welsh secondary schools, while also representing his country. In shot and discussion. Then, in 1970, while still a schoolboy, he made his debut for Pontypool.

“When I first joined the club, they weren’t doing so well. They were right at the bottom of the Western Mail merit table. But then Ray Prosser took over as coach and, slowly, over the next few years , we went on to win the Welsh Championship from the lower club.

A key element of that transformation was the formidable foundation provided by the front lines of Price, Windsor and Faulkner, who were also to enjoy such success together for Meczyki.

“The reason we were so effective together was because of Ray Prosser. More than anything, he was a motivator, he pushed us to play to the best of our ability. He was not one of those table thumpers, He was a very straight talker.

“It wasn’t just at Pooler, we knew he would keep an eye on us when we played for Meczyki. I can remember him telling me several times ‘You came back half speed in that first scrum’. Don’t you go to get those bad Welsh team habits back in Pontypool!’ He was very good at keeping our feet on the ground.

“Bobby Cross came from the Keys, whereas no one knew anything about him when Charlie came along. He was actually 32 when he joined the club and then 34 when he got into the Welsh team. It was amazing This may not have happened nowadays, but he was so inspired.

“We were a well-balanced front line. We were all about the same height and we could go down in the scrum. The thing we would do is get to the mark and build up form as quickly as possible, overcoming our opponents.” Forcing them to come down when not ready, which meant we had an advantage and we would get them on the backfoot.”

While they were so consistent as a rugby unit, the three were quite aloof off the field, with Price a quieter figure than his larger-than-life front row colleagues.

“Bobby and Charlie tell me about going to grammar school and university. I’ve got my back when I’m talking after dinner. I lie that we had a combined IQ of 138 and I It was a 126! ​​We were quite different as people, but on the field it really worked. We actually spent five successful years playing for Meczyki, winning the Triple Crown and Grand Slam.”

Graham Price, Bobby Windsor and Charlie Faulkner on Wells Duty Together

Their first international match together was against France in Paris in 1975 when Price and Faulkner made their Test debuts. It was an unforgettable day as a Welsh team with six new caps won 25–10, with Price putting the icing on the cake by claiming a thrilling injury-time effort followed by a long-distance kick and chase. As Nigel Starmer-Smith famously said on commentary, “They’ll never believe it in Pontypool”.

It was actually a forged score at the fitness levels demanded by Prosser, with Faulkner and Windsor the first two forwards back up to congratulate after touching their front row colleague. Price immediately became established in the side and his form over the next few years saw him selected for the 1977 Lions tour of New Zealand. It was a call up that meant a lot to him.

“I would wake up in the early hours of the morning and tune my transistor radio, to listen to commentary on the Lions playing in New Zealand on the 1971 tour, playing at such famous grounds as Lancaster Park, Carisbrook and Eden Park. Then South In Africa there were Ellis Parks and Newlands.

“Playing for the Lions was something I couldn’t aspire to, something other people did. So the fact that I ended up on it was really overwhelming.

“The 1977 tour was a tremendous experience for me. It was the best three and a half months of my rugby life. I was determined to play in Tests, but I knew it would mean displacing Fran Cotton, who played so well on the 1974 tour of South Africa.

“I did this, Fran headed for a loose head, and then at the end of the tour he picked up the entire Pontypool front line to start against Fiji. This is the only time a single club’s front line has hit the Lions. We’ve all played a Test for this and we are all very proud of it. I don’t think it will happen again.

“Looking back, we were unfortunate that we lost the series to the All Blacks. We had a lot of chances that weren’t missed. If we had taken them, who knew what would have happened.”

After starting all four Tests in ’77, Price was to maintain that current record on two more Lions tours – in 1980 to South Africa and again in 1983 to New Zealand – making 12 consecutive impressive starts.

“When you look at players who had previous records, you had Willie John McBride who played 17 Tests, Gareth Edwards played 10, it’s really amazing when you think my name is with him. It actually sounds quite humbling.”

Away from rugby, Price studied building construction at Nash College in Newport, and then civil engineering at the University of Meczyki Institute of Science and Technology, while still on his first Lions tour as a student. .

Job-wise, he was employed by the Pilkington Group as a building maintenance engineer at their fiberglass factory and then made a career change, before establishing himself as an independent financial advisor, Cwmbran Shopping. Became Deputy Manager of the Center.

And, of course, since 1986 he has been a columnist for Meczyki, recognized with his work in the media, with his stellar sporting record, with a Lifetime Achievement Award to mark the 50th anniversary of the Welsh Rugby Writers’ Association. Found at dinner. Arms Park.

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Graham Price receives his Lifetime Achievement Award from Pontypool and former Meczyki teammate Eddie Butler.
(Image: Richard Williams)

“It was a real honor to receive the award. It’s been a great journey since that first game for Meczyki in Paris, scoring a re-appearing effort. Then I enjoyed doing the column for Meczyki on Sunday, it’s been nice to keep in touch with the game.

A father of three children with six grandchildren, Price spent most of his time in Pontypool, but moved to Croesyceiliog, near Cwmbran, a few years ago. Speaking from his home, he tells me what rugby has to offer him.

“I guess it helped me become a little more confident. I was so quiet and shy in those days. Prosser used to take the p*** and say ‘Price, shut up, are you, I can’t find a word in the edge’ Is!’

“So rugby gave me a confidence that I didn’t have before. But the big thing I got from it was travel. It gave me the opportunity to go to places in the world that I would never have been able to visit under normal circumstances – South Africa, New Zealand, Australia and Japan. So I have a huge amount of money to thank for Rugby.”

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