By Ian Golden
Wales Rugby League’s president Mike Nicholas has been awarded an MBE in The 2020 Queen’s New Year honours list for his services to rugby league.
Nicholas, 73, born in Port Talbot in 1946 and known to almost everyone as “Nicko”, has been actively involved behind the scenes for Rugby League in Wales since 1981 when, alongside another former international player Dai Watkins, he helped set up Cardiff City Blue Dragons.
He became team manager for Wales Students RL in 1989, before having that role for the full Wales men’s side between 1993 and 2000.
He founded South Wales RLFC in 1996 in the first season of summer Rugby League and became WRL president in 2003, helping to set up the Welsh domestic competition that still runs today, and assisted in the establishment of three of the clubs – Torfaen Tigers, Bridgend Blue Bulls and Aberavon Fighting Irish. He is still the honorary president of the Bridgend club. Over the last 16 years, he has been at many Welsh Grand Finals, presenting trophies and medals.
In 2005, he was a co-founder of Celtic Crusaders and helped bring in backers to the club in its early days and he also sat on the board of South Wales Scorpions in their early days.
Recently, he has been heavily involved in junior rugby league development in both North Wales and his adopted home town of Warrington, assisting clubs and helping to organise tournaments and festivals. In 2012, he was added to the RFL’s role of honour for his outstanding service to the game, whilst he was inducted into the WRL Hall of Fame in 2017.
On the field, the Port Talbot-born Nicholas turned out for three local rugby union clubs in Aberavon, the Harlequins, Green Stars and Wizards, before signing professional forms with Warrington in 1972 where he made 142 appearances, many of them as captain. He won six caps for Wales as heritage #290, all of them in the European Championship, before finishing his playing career at the Blue Dragons.
Nicholas said: “This is a really proud day for myself, my family and for the game of rugby league. My parents would have been so proud of this.
“I don’t do my work in rugby league for recognition, but it’s nice to be rewarded in this way nonetheless. It’s a reassurance to know sometimes that people think that I’m doing the right thing.
“I’m president of Wales Rugby League, but even if didn’t have an official position, I’d still be promoting rugby league because of the passion I have for it.
“I have a personal crusade, a gospel according to Nicko if you like. It’s my life, my raison d’etre, Even from when I was young, I enjoyed watching Billy Boston and other Welsh players at Wembley. I’ve always felt comfortable in rugby league and I’ll contribute whatever I can, as I love the game that much and I think it’s often unjustly treated. I’ll always be here to stand up for rugby league as it’s a great game, everyone who plays it respects the game and it should be flourishing at Welsh and international level.
“I enjoy what I do now, helping out in North Wales, still visiting people in the south, plus I help out at Warrington Wolves with the foundation and I like to teach the young players the history of the club, showing youngsters their “Wall of Fame” to let them know what they can achieve.
“In regards to Wales Rugby League, I’m proud of chairman Brian Juliff and his team. Brian has become a key member of the whole process in rugby league development in Wales, and without his work over this decade, we wouldn’t be here today. He’s certainly the man to continue to lead us forward in the 2020s.”
Juliff was delighted in hearing the news about his old friend being awarded an MBE. He said: “This is absolutely fantastic news. Mike’s involvement in Wales Rugby League was one of the main reasons that I joined the organisation back in July 2012.
“Mike’s commitment to growing Rugby League in Wales has never faltered, despite many obstacles placed in his way during his years as player, manager and president.
“He remains as passionate about rugby league today as when we were opponents during his Warrington, days but more importantly when we were international team mates for Wales.
“Congratulations to Mike, this is an honour that’s well deserved for all of his work for Wales Rugby League and the game as a whole.”