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Les Williams

Wales rugby union and Hunslet rugby league player

LES Williams, who died on January 27 aged 83, scored two tries when Wales defeated England at Cardiff Arms Park in 1949, and two days later joined Hunslet as a wing threequarter.

Because of the hostility between the union and league codes, he had to keep his planned move so secret that only one of his Welsh team mates knew of it.

Hunslet made him a one-off payment of 1,450 – three times the annual salary of a school teacher – to compensate him for losing his amateur status.

When he was in his 60s Les broke world records as a veteran athlete.

Born at Mynyddygarreg, Les was a petty officer during the war and played rugby for the Royal Navy and the Combined Services.

After the war he taught in Bristol, and in his first season for Cardiff scored 34 tries in 35 games. In 1947 he played for Wales, scoring a try against Scotland.

Switching codes after his great performance on January 17 at Cardiff Arms Park against England, he played 236 games for Hunslet over the next eight seasons, scoring 116 tries and one kick goal.

In 1956 he was appointed assistant organiser for physical education in Cornwall, where he remained for the rest of his life.

On his move to Hunslet he took a year's PE course at Carnegie College, during which he was offered a place in the British touring side that was to play in Australia and New Zealand.

The tour, however, clashed with his finals and informed by the college that if he did not take them he would have to stay on for another year, he turned the offer down.

Later he would say that it was the biggest regret of his life, but married and with three children he needed to get his qualifications so as to return to teaching and boost his income.

As it was, the players who were on the tour received a bonus which, had he been paid it, would have enabled him to stay on for that extra year.

He taught at Osmand-thorpe County Primary and Cockburn High School in Hunslet, and pupils of his remembered his ability to make them feel important.

As captain of Hunslet in 1950, Les brought a new dimension to the famously hard world of rugby league players by organising dinner dances and other social events, and created a camaraderie that was almost unheard of.

Liked and respected, he was a man who quietly got on with the job. Fast, good with his hands, a fearless tackler and powerful finisher, he won 15 Welsh caps at rugby league and scored five tries.

After giving up rugby he took up athletics, becoming world record holder for veterans over the age of 60 for the 60 and 200 metres events.

He was British record holder in the triple jump, and represented the country at the World Veterans' Championship in Puerto Rico in 1983. He was also a yachtsman and elite rock climber.

His wife Joy died in 1994 and he is survived by their son David and twin daughters Judith and Jane.

 
 
 

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