Wales Rugby League president Mike Nicholas has spoken fondly of his playing days with David Watkins, who was Nicholas’ captain when he first played for Wales.
Nicholas played alongside Watkins in three full international matches, twice in the 1975 European Championships and once in the 1977 competition where they enjoyed a win over England. They were also on tour together in 1975 for that year’s World Championships and whilst injury kept Nicholas out of the test teams, he has great memories of the tour and of Watkins in general.
“He was the toughest opponent and the best of team-mates,” Nicholas remembers. “He led us superbly in the 1975 World Championship where we beat England in Brisbane and that stopped them from winning the tournament as it was decided by a league table.
“He was one of those players we call Galacticos now. He came from the mystical Welsh outside half factory and was a prolific points scorer performing at the highest levels in both codes and brave enough to take the ball up like a prop forward. In his league career never shirked a tackle in the toughest team game in the world. Once, when we opposed each other once for our clubs, I threw one of his boots into the crowd as he was kicking too many goals against us. I told him ‘Dai you’re doing too much damage’.
“What he achieved was amazing, only matched by the likes of Jiffy (Jonathan Davies) in regards to quality. His all-round ability was outstanding. I remember first watching him in rugby union 7s and there’s was no-one else like him.
“His legendary status lived on long after we both retired. When I was involved in the organisation of the 2013 World Cup, I had to go and see the vice chancellor at Glyndwr University in Wrexham to make arrangements and Dai was one of his heroes.
“The boy from Blaina didn’t forget his roots. He was training in a park in Blaina at one point, during his time at Salford. Someone who knew him from the past challenged him to a race and Dai ran backwards and still beat him. He was at the top level in both codes and he would be known as an immortal.
“My condolences go out to all of his family and friends.”