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What became of James Hook’s team-mates in his first game of professional rugby

Welsh rugby has the chance to pay tribute to one of its most popular players of the professional era when James Hook heads into his testimonial match in Neath on Friday evening.

It will also be an opportunity for Hook himself to say a proper farewell to supporters and fellow players after he was denied such a chance when he retired during the pandemic.

There won’t be a shortage of stars gracing the occasion, with the likes of Shane Williams, Mike Phillips, Jonathan Thomas, Colin Charvis and Mark Taylor lining up for a James Hook Select XV against a Classic Lions XV that includes names such as Phil Vickery, Ma’ama Molitika, Nick Williams, and Delon Armitage.

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Staging the match at The Gnoll sees Hook return to the scene of where it all began for him in professional rugby when he came off the bench to figure for the Ospreys against Cardiff Blues in September 2004.

The Ospreys won that game 39-3.

But what became of Hook’s team-mates that day?

Hook himself tells their stories.

15. Adrian Durston

A riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma? I think someone once said that about him, though there may be a word or two out of place.

What I remember about him was that he could play. He had a lot of skill and was good enough to play for Wales a couple of times. He also wasn’t afraid to test himself abroad, playing in Italy and France. He later moved into the property sector.

14. Dave Tieuti

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Anyone who says Tevita Lisiate Tieuti gets a pat on the back, with the touchdown coming in the second minute for the then styled Neath-Swansea Ospreys against Ulster in 2003.

He’s actually known to most in these parts as ‘Dave’, of course, and he’s a top man who’s playing in my game on Friday evening.

Dave went on to become managing director of DT 12 Sports, a company involved in coaching in schools.

13. David Bishop

A real talent who was unlucky with injuries, suffering a couple of major injuries that stopped him kicking on just when it appeared he was set for big things.

David and his brother Andrew, who had to retire early because of a back problem, were both excellent players. I understand Dave has either married or is going to marry a girl with racehorse connections, and he’s into the sport himself nowadays. He’s another one who’s playing in the testimonial; I’m looking forward to catching up with him.

12. Sonny Parker

A quiet man but when he said something in the dressing room the boys listened because he always spoke sense. Sonny made more than 150 appearances in the center for the Ospreys and it’s hard to remember him making many mistakes.

He was powerful and a rock in our midfield, a team-mate you could rely on. He went on to enjoy success as London Welsh director of rugby before returning home to New Zealand, where he is an operations manager. You can read more about the quiet man who became a Grand Slam idol here.

11. Shane-Williams

A great mate and a great player. He has had so many compliments over the years and all of them are deserved. Shane was brilliant to play alongside. As a 10 or a 12, you looked for him on the pitch and invariably he’d do something special. Opponents feared him.

Me, him, Mike Phillips and Lee Byrne were pals who were labeled the Fab Four. Great days. Shane still looks after himself with his various fitness challenges from him.

Us boys listed above have some business interests together, including a Fab Four Coffee brand. Shane’s also a rugby pundit on TV and in the press.

10.Gavin Henson

Helped me a lot when I was coming through. I played alongside him a fair bit in my early Osprey days and he had it all. He could kick a ball miles, pass off both hands, carry powerfully, defend and he could also glide across the grass.

Injuries didn’t help him — he had not damaged a wrist in 2011, he would surely have gone to that year’s World Cup. Like Sonny, he didn’t speak a lot, but he knew the game inside out and when he did offer his opinions, his words carried weight because people respected his rugby intelligence. He now owns The Fox in St Brides Major.



Gavin Henson in action for the Ospreys during James Hook’s debut in 2004

9. Jason Spice

Anyone wanting to know how good Jason was need only speak to Lyn Jones or Sean Holley. Both will say he was a tremendous signing for the Ospreys.

He was streetwise to his bootlaces. While he wasn’t blessed with out-and-out pace, he marshalled the game with real authority and knew how to get the job done. I have controlled the forwards and just had a knack of being able to shape matches. As with Gav, he knew the game inside out.

The last I heard he was teaching at a boys’ college in Tauranga.

1.Duncan Jones

I can remember watching the likes of Duncan, Barry Williams and Adam Jones playing for Neath when I was in my teens.

All three of them went on to become Ospreys legends. Duncan is now a first-team coach and a decent job he is making of it, too.

As a player he was explosive around the field and captained Wales. He thought about the game a lot and could be relied on to give his all of him in every game. You could tell he could have a career in coaching if he wanted it.

2. Barry Williams

I landed in a spot of trouble with Barry during a weights session when I was around 17. He was squatting with two of us either side of him putting weights on and off the bar. Unfortunately, I took a 20kg weight off too quickly, things became unbalanced and Barry nearly fell over. He directed a few choice words my way but I deserved it because he could have broken his back from him. The episode wasn’t my finest hour, but Barry’s a good guy and it was all quickly forgotten about, even if I learned a lesson from it.

He was the first Ospreys captain to lift silverware when he led us to the Celtic League title in 2005. Went on to become operations director for Parker Plant Hire.



Barry Williams, the former Neath and Ospreys hooker who won 24 caps and went on the 1997 British and Irish Lions tour of South Africa.

3. Adam Jones

I’m no expert on front-row play but I think I can say with confidence that Adam’s one of the greatest props Wales has ever produced. Was it a coincidence Wales won four Six Nations titles on his watch, including three Grand Slams? No, it was not.

All those scrum penalties secured, allowing us to either kick for position or the posts — in his prime, Adam was up there among the best tightheads in the game. He’s also a really good guy off the field These days, he’s making waves as part of the Harlequins coaching set-up.

4.Andy Newman

A story about the 6ft 7in lock is still counted among the classics at The Gnoll. He was pitched into a Neath pre-season training session on Aberavon Beach not long after joining from Northampton. The weather was scorching and Andy passed out, with players and coaches quickly surrounding him. The tale goes that Allan Bateman had been to his car to pick up his phone and when he got back he found Andy’s face covered, with the resident club prankster, who shall remain nameless, saying: “He’s gone, he’s gone.”

Allan, a team-mate of Andy’s at Northampton and a close friend, apparently went white with concern until someone told him that, actually, the big man was still very much still with us.

Neath RFC humor at the time? That’s the way it was.

Andy could play and was surprisingly mobile for his size. He added weight to the Ospreys pack and was popular with the boys. He had a great personality and is in the networking business these days, apparently working in the London area and doing well.

5. Lyndon Bateman

An all-round top man who makes a point of sending out a group message every January 1 updating the boys on what he’s up to and wishing them all the best for the next 12 months.

Little wonder he was so well-liked at the Ospreys.

Hs name may not have appeared in neon-lighting too often but he had a tremendous engine, didn’t stop working around the field and was greatly respected in the squad. Sadly he had to retire early because of a knee injury.

6.Jonathan Thomas

JT was a big character and a superb player with his ability to operate at lock and in the back row. You don’t win 67 Wales caps by chance.

Injuries hit him for a couple of seasons midway through his career but he recovered and was a really good team-man: playing for the Ospreys meant a huge amount to him.

Now between films after departing as Worcester Warriors head coach. He won’t have problems finding a new job because he knows his rugby back to front and is great at dealing with people.

7. Richie Pugh

He was fast and skilful, good over the ball and a classical open side. Richie was also a brilliant sevens player.

Now coaching Wales Sevens and so in a position to pass on some of his knowledge.

8.Ryan Jones

His boy is in the same year as my eldest boy in school and in the same rugby team. I also live close to Ryan.

As a player, he was a warrior who captained Wales and distinguished himself for region and country. Afterwards, he had a couple of high-profile jobs with the Welsh Rugby Union. I think he’s now a sales and consulting manager.

replacements

Andy Williams, James Hook, Aled Brew, Andrew Millward, Mefin Davies, Paul James, Andy Lloyd

Our bench was pretty strong all those years ago.

Look at that replacement front row: Paul James, Mefin Davies and Andrew Millward, two internationals and a tight-head in Bully (Millward) who could scrummage with the best of them.

Andy Lloyd, Andy Williams and Aled Brew also ended up with asterisks next to their names.

I got on five minutes from the end as a replacement for Gav. By then, the game had long been done and dusted.

But I was up and running in senior rugby.

The game was at The Gnoll and I’ll be back there for my testimonial.

To me, it’ll always be a special place.

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