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

The scene is Stradey Park and a capacity crowd has just watched a typically tumultuous Llanelli v Swansea derby which has seen the visitors’ second-row warhorse Dick Moriarty sent off amid howls of rage from the home crowd.

After the game, a group of Scarlets supporters trooped into the social club to deliberate on proceedings. They assumed they’d be first to order their post-match pints. They were wrong. At the bar was a lone figure wearing a Swansea blazer who was already sipping a beer. It was Moriarty himself. “Fronting up,” one of those who witnessed the scene later said.

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 opposition packs made his Swansea RFC debut on New Year’s Day against Aberavon. He pulled on the white jersey for a final time when the St Helen’s club faced Brynamman in 1998. There were 470 games played for his hometown club over more than 21 years. Sometimes, it seemed as if he had been sent for an early bath 470 times over that period.

Moriarty played with an edge, but, then, rugby meant a lot to him.

When the sport in Wales went regional at the top level in 2003, Swansea faced Newport in their final game before the new age began. “I remember walking out the dressing room afterwards and there was Dick sitting up there in the stand, looking out at the field, alone with his thoughts of him,” said scrum-half and former team-mate Rhodri Jones.

“He had this reputation as an abrasive character, but my memory of him is sitting in that stand. He stayed there for about an hour after the game, no doubt thinking about the club’s great history and all that had gone on before, the great battles, a fair number of which he’d been involved in.

“It was poignant. Here was this stalwart of a player mulling over what had gone before and knowing things would never be the same again.”

Moriarty’s place in history is secure as the first man to lead Wales into a World Cup. That was in 1987 when the team skippered by ‘Dynamite Dick’, as Western Mail’s John Billot used to call the 6ft 6in forward, finished third — still the best performance by a Wales team on the global stage. You can read more about that first World Cup here and the regret to hero harbors to this day.

But it was always about much, much more than the national team for him. “Swansea RFC has always meant everything to Dick,” said his old team-mate and friend Baden Evans. “He was so proud to captain Wales, but I also think he enjoyed it because it reflected so well on the Whites.

“It was special to play alongside him.

“He’s 65 now, but I’m sure he wishes he were 30 or 40 years younger. He’d be pushing Alun Wyn Jones with all his might from him for a Wales jersey.

It’s a strange one with Moriarty. His name of him is synonymous with Swansea, but it’s also intertwined with Llanelli, albeit for different reasons. Whereas he was a hero with Whites supporters, he was jeered relentlessly by those who followed the club’s great rivals, many of whom were outraged at some of his, er, over-vigorous play by him.



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

Maybe some of a certain vintage out west still see him as a bogeyman sufficiently scary to induce cold sweats at 3am in the morning.

One tale remains something of a classic, telling how a few years after his retirement as a player, Moriarty turned up at Stradey for a work meeting — he focused fully on his electrical company after he finished playing. Possibly he was wearing a suit.

Parking his car, he was spotted in the distance by a squinting bloke walking his dog. The man shouted across at him: “Hey, Moriarty! You were a dirty b******d then and you’re a dirty b*****d now!”

The authenticity of the story isn’t known.

Nor is it certain if Moriarty heard the chap’s not-altogether-cordial address.

But if he had, the certainty is he would not have let it bother him.

“They’d criticize Dick for everything down in Llanelli,” laughed another old pal and former team-mate, Keith Colclough, “but if ever Dick had opted to play for Llanelli — not that he ever would have — they would have had him over there like a shot.

“I remember in one Llanelli v Swansea game at Stradey the crowd were almost crying for him to be sent off after a skirmish, shouting stuff like: ‘Get Moriarty off! The dirty…!” But Dick was actually in South Africa at the time. He wasn’t even on the field.

“Another time, he was on the pitch when a Llanelli player came in from the side at a maul and smashed him in the ribs. You could tell he was in big pain because usually he pushed his weight in the scrums but on this occasion there was nothing coming through. I looked around and Dicky was white and in agony.

“We formed a circle at half-time and someone asked where he was. ‘He’s gone for some treatment,’ someone else said.

“The next thing, out he comes from the tunnel, a bit late, with all the supporters down there screaming and shouting at him.

“You could see he wasn’t right but we kicked off and he just smashed everything that was in front of him — obliterated anything that was in his way.

“After the game we found out he’d broken three ribs.

“He said: ‘I wasn’t going to lift my jersey up and let them strap my ribs. I didn’t want to show anyone, particularly Llanelli supporters, I 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

Maybe his finest hour for the All Whites came in the club’s historic 1992 victory over then world champions Australia. The brother of Paul Moriarty was 35 when that game came around but he still had plenty to offer and his presence galvanized the home team. Wales had been bullied and physically dominated when they faced Australia a year or so earlier, but the Wallabies found Swansea an altogether tougher nut to crack.

One incident helped set the tone for the match, with skipper Stuart Davies later telling this writer: “Early in the game, I rucked a bit too enthusiastically, prompting one of their props, Andrew Blades, to smack me right between the eyes.

“I waited for him to follow up with another shot but looking over my shoulder I could see Dick Moriarty steaming in with fists raised, as if saying to Blades: ‘If you want to dance, I’m up for it.’

“He took one look at Dick and frozen.

“You have to remember that their forward guys were massive, with the biggest back-five I had seen, all of them 6ft 3in or more.

“But Blades was clearly fazed. I thought to myself: ‘This guy doesn’t want a bit of Dickie. They are human, after all.’

“Talk about a psychological lift.”

Ross Moriarty’s uncle operated at different times, with pretty much every club having an enforcer or two. If he wasn’t taking on Adrian Owen at Aberavon or Pontypridd, he’d be grappling with John Perkins at Pontypool or John Morgan and Billy Howe at Maesteg — serious handfuls, the lot of them.

“They would target Dick and try to wind him up,” laughed Colclough.

“But he wouldn’t give an inch. You could hit him on the chin and he wouldn’t worry. He took the view that if they were focusing on him there’d be more room elsewhere. And he battled against some of the greats.

“Deep down they respected him.

“He gave a hundred percent to the club throughout his career. I wouldn’t back off anything. He had huge pride in Swansea.

“But Dick was more than just a hard-man. He was also a heck of a good rugby player.”

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

Sometimes, exuberance got the better of him.

At the peak of his powers in the 1980s, he encountered a reporter in the bar of Swansea rugby club. “You’re a little s**t, but I quite like you,” he told the scribe while playfully banging the chap’s head onto a table.

Not to everyone’s taste, perhaps, but all a bit of fun back then, with the hack in question taking the episode in good spirit and relating the story for years later.

What is to be said?

Relations between players and press can sometimes be fraught, with not all prepared to forget a 4 out of 10 player rating or a less than appreciative match report.

But the last time this writer met up with Moriarty he was in the bar at Swansea rugby club, enjoying a drink after a game and offering to buy your corresponding one.

He never had a 4 out of 10 because he never served one.

But if he had he would probably still have laughed it off.

At 65, he’s presumably becalmed.

But what a career he had.

Happy birthday, big man.

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