Richard Moriarty at 65, the Wales captain and enforcer hated by rivals who feared him

The setting is Stradey Park and a packed crowd has just watched a tumultuous Llanelli v Swansea derby that saw the visitors’ second-row workhorse Dick Moriarty ejected amid howls of anger from the home crowd.

After the game, a group of Scarlets fans streamed into the social club to deliberate on the proceedings. They figured they’d be the first to order their postgame pints. They were wrong. A lone figure in the bar was wearing a Swansea jacket and was already drinking a beer. It was Moriarty himself. “Head on,” one of those who witnessed the scene said later.

You wouldn’t expect anything else. Richard Daniel Moriarty celebrated his 65th birthday last weekend. Where have all the years gone?

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The future scourge of rival packs made his Swansea RFC debut on New Year’s Day against Aberavon. He last donned the white shirt when the St Helen club faced Brynamman in 1998. He made 470 appearances for his hometown club over 21 years. At times, he looked as if he had been sent for an early bath 470 times during that period.

Moriarty had an advantage, but rugby meant a lot to him.

When the sport in Wales went regional at the highest level in 2003, Swansea faced Newport in their last game before the new era began. “I remember coming out of the locker room afterward and there was Dick sitting in the stands, looking at the pitch, just thinking about him,” said scrum half and former teammate Rhodri Jones.

“He had this reputation as an abrasive character, but my memory of him is sitting on that dais. He stayed there for about an hour after the game, no doubt thinking about the great history of the club and all that he had been through before, the great battles, many of which he had been involved in.

“It was moving. Here was this stalwart of a player reflecting on what had come before and knowing that things would never be the same again.”

Moriarty’s place in history is assured as the first man to lead Wales to a World Cup. That was in 1987 when the team captained by ‘Dynamite Dick’, as John Billot of the Western Mail used to call the 6ft 6in striker, finished third, the best ever performance by a Welsh team on the world stage. May read more about that first World Cup here and the regret a hero harbors to this day.

But it was always about much, much more than the selection for him. “Swansea RFC has always meant the world to Dick,” said his former teammate and friend Baden Evans. “He was very proud to captain Wales, but I also think he enjoyed it because he reflected very well on the Whites.

“It was special to play alongside him.

“He’s 65 now, but I’m sure he wishes he was 30 or 40 years younger. I would be pushing Alun Wyn Jones with all the might of him for a Wales shirt.”

It’s weird with Moriarty. His name is synonymous with Swansea, but is also intertwined with Llanelli, albeit for different reasons. While he was a hero among the whites’ supporters, he was booed relentlessly by those who followed the club’s great rivals, many of whom were outraged at his overly vigorous playing.



Swansea’s Dick Moriarty battles for the ball with Llanelli’s Tony Copsey

Perhaps some of a certain age in the West still see him as a boogeyman terrifying enough to induce cold sweats at 3am in the morning.

One story is still a classic and tells how, a few years after his retirement as a player, Moriarty showed up at Stradey for a work meeting: he was fully focused on his electric company after he finished playing. He was possibly wearing a suit.

Parking his car, he was seen in the distance by a squinting guy walking his dog. The man yelled at him: “Hey, Moriarty! You were a dirty bastard then and you are a dirty bastard now!”

The authenticity of the story is not known.

It’s also not sure if Moriarty heard the guy’s not-quite-cordial address.

But if he had, the certainty is that he wouldn’t let him bother him.

“Dick would be criticized for everything at Llanelli,” laughed another old friend and former teammate, Keith Colclough, “but if Dick had ever chosen to play for Llanelli, not that he would have, they would have had him. out there like a shot.

“I remember at a Llanelli v Swansea match at Stradey, the crowd almost cried to have him ejected after a skirmish, shouting things like: ‘Get Moriarty out! The dirty…!” But Dick was actually in South Africa at the time. He wasn’t even in the field.

“Another time, he was on the court when a Llanelli player came in from the side of a maul and hit him in the ribs. You could tell he was in a lot of pain because he normally pushed with all his weight at scrums, but this time nothing happened. I looked around and Dicky was white and in agony.

“We formed a circle at halftime and someone asked where I was. ‘She has gone to some treatment,’ someone else said.

“The next thing, he comes out of the tunnel, a little late, with all the fans down there screaming and yelling at him.

“You could see he wasn’t right, but we started and he just shattered everything in front of him, erased everything in his path.

“After the match we found out that he had broken three ribs.

“He said, ‘I wasn’t going to lift my shirt and let them tie my ribs. He didn’t want to show anyone, particularly Llanelli’s supporters, that he was injured.

“That’s the commitment he gave for that white jersey.”



Dick Moriarty in action for Wales against Australia at the 1987 World Cup

Perhaps his best moment with the All Whites came at the club historic 1992 victory over then world champions Australia. Paul Moriarty’s brother was 35 when that game came around, but he still had a lot to offer and his presence galvanized the home team. Wales had been bullied and physically overpowered when they faced Australia a year earlier, but the Wallabies found Swansea an altogether harder nut to crack.

One incident helped set the tone for the match, with skipper stuart davies he later told this writer, “Early in the game, I played too enthusiastically, causing one of his props, Andrew Blades, to hit me right between the eyes.

“I waited for him to follow up with another drink, but looking over my shoulder I could see Dick Moriarty walking in with his fists up, as if to say to Blades, ‘If you want to dance, I’m ready.’

“She took one look at Dick and froze.

“You have to remember their forwards were huge, with the five biggest defenders I’ve ever seen, all of them 6-foot-3 and over.

“But Blades was clearly taken aback. I thought to myself, ‘This guy doesn’t want some Dickie. After all, they are human.

“Speaking of a psychological elevator”.

Ross Moriarty’s uncle operated at different times, and almost every club had one or two enforcers. If he wasn’t facing Adrian Owen at Aberavon or Pontypridd, he would be dealing with John Perkins at Pontypool or John Morgan and Billy Howe in Maesteg, a lot of them.

“They would target Dick and try to finish him off,” Colclough laughed.

“But he didn’t budge an inch. You could hit him on the chin and he wouldn’t care. She considered that if they focused on him, there would be more room elsewhere. And he fought some of the greats.

“Deep down they respected him.

“He gave one hundred percent to the club throughout his career. He wouldn’t back down on anything. He was very proud of Swansea.

“But Dick was more than just a tough man. He was a great rugby player too.”

Off the field, Moriarty was rarely less than cordial, helpful with appointments as a player and team manager.

Sometimes exuberance got the best of him.

At the height of his powers in the 1980s, he ran into a reporter at the Swansea rugby club bar. “You’re a bit of a shit, but I quite like you,” he told the scribe as he playfully banged the guy’s head against a table.

It might not be to everyone’s taste, but it was a bit of fun back then, with the gimmick in question taking the episode in a good spirit and retelling the story years later.

What is there to say?

Relations between players and the press can be strained at times, and not everyone is prepared to forget a 4/10 player rating or a less than appreciative match report.

But the last time this writer met Moriarty was in the Swansea rugby club bar, enjoying a post-match drink and offering to buy one for his correspondent.

He never got a 4 out of 10 because he never deserved it.

But if he had, he probably still would have laughed.

At 65, he is presumably calm.

But what career did he have?

Happy birthday, great man.

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