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

The stage is Stradey Park and a full crowd has just watched a typically tumultuous Llanelli derby against Swansea which saw visitors’ second-tier warhorse Dick Moriarty sent off amid roaring roaring from the home crowd.

After the match, a group of Scarlets supporters visited the social club to deliberate over the proceedings. They assumed they would be the first to order their post-game pints. They were wrong. At the bar was a lone figure in a Swansea blazer, already sipping a beer. It was Moriarty himself. “Coping,” said one of those who witnessed the scene 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 opposition packs made his Swansea RFC debut on New Year’s Day against Aberavon. He last donned the white shirt when the St Helen’s club faced Brynamman in 1998. There have been 470 games played for the hometown club in over 21 years. At times, it looked like he had been sent for an early bath 470 times during that time.

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

When the sport in Wales became regional at the highest level in 2003, Swansea faced Newport in their last match before the start of the new era. “I remember walking out of the locker room afterwards and there was Dick sitting up there in the stand, staring down the pitch, alone with his thoughts,” scrum-half and former team-mate Rhodri Jones said.

“He had this reputation as an abrasive character, but my memory of him sits in this gallery. He stayed there for about an hour after the game, probably thinking about the great history of the club and all that had happened before, the great battles, many of which he had been involved in.

“It was moving. Here is that loyal player who reflected on what had gone before and knew things would never be the same again.

Moriarty’s place in history is secure as the first man to lead Wales to a World Cup. It was 1987 when the side led by ‘Dynamite Dick’, as the Western Mail’s John Billot used to call the 6ft 6in striker, finished third – still a team’s best showing of Wales on the world stage. You can read more about that first World Cup here and the regret a hero harbors to this day.

But it was still much, much more than the national team for him. “Swansea RFC has always meant everything to Dick,” said former teammate and friend Baden Evans. “He was so proud to captain Wales, but I also think he enjoyed it because it reflected Los Blancos so well.

“It was special to play alongside him.

“He’s 65 now, but I’m sure he would like to be 30 or 40 years younger. He would push Alun Wyn Jones with all his might for a Wales shirt.

It’s strange with Moriarty. His name is synonymous with Swansea, but he is also linked to Llanelli, although for different reasons. While a hero to white fans, he was mocked relentlessly by those who followed the club’s arch-rivals, many of whom were outraged by some of his, uh, overly vigorous play.

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

Maybe some of a certain western vintage still see it as a bogeyman scary enough to induce cold sweats at 3 a.m.

One tale remains a classic, recounting how a few years after retiring as a player, Moriarty showed up at Stradey for a business meeting – he focused entirely on his electrical business after he finished playing. Maybe he was wearing a suit.

While parking his car, he was spotted in the distance by a cross-eyed guy walking his dog. The man yelled at him, “Hey, Moriarty! You were a dirty b*****d then and you’re a dirty b*****d now!

The authenticity of the story is not known.

It’s also not certain that Moriarty heard the guy’s not-quite-cordial speech.

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

“They would criticize Dick for everything at Llanelli,” laughed another old pal and former teammate, Keith Colclough, “but if Dick had ever chosen to play for Llanelli – not that he ever would – they would have had him. there like a gunshot.

“I remember in a Llanelli game against Swansea at Stradey the crowd was almost crying for him to be sent off after a skirmish, shouting things like, ‘Get Moriarty out! The dirt…!” But Dick was actually in South Africa at the time. He wasn’t even on the pitch.

“Another time he was on the pitch when a Llanelli player came in from the side during a maul and smashed him in the ribs. You could tell he was in a lot of pain because usually he was pushing his weight in the scrums, but this time nothing got 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 left for treatment,’ someone else said.

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

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

“After the match, we learned that he had broken three ribs.

“He said, ‘I wasn’t going to lift my jersey and let them tie up my ribs. I didn’t want to show anyone, especially the Llanelli supporters, that I was injured.

“This is the commitment he made for this white jersey.”

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

Perhaps his finest hour for the All Whites came at the club historic 1992 victory over then world champion Australia. Paul Moriarty’s brother was 35 when that game happened but he still had plenty to offer and his presence galvanized the home side. Wales had been bullied and physically outplayed when they faced Australia around a year earlier, but the Wallabies found Swansea an altogether harder nut to crack.

An incident set the tone of the match, with Captain Stuart Davies later telling this writer, “Early in the game, I typed a little too enthusiastically, prompting one of their props, Andrew Blades, to smack me 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 his fists up, as if saying to Blades, ‘If you wanna dance , Deal me in.’

“He glanced at Dick and froze.

“You have to remember their forwards were huge, with the tallest back-fives I had seen all measuring 6ft 3in or taller.

“But Blades was clearly confused. I thought, ‘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 almost every club having an enforcer or two. If he didn’t face Adrian Owen at Aberavon or Pontypridd, he would be struggling with John Perkins in Pontypool or John Morgan and Billy Howe at Maesteg – serious handfuls, the lot of them.

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

“But he wouldn’t give an inch. You could hit him on the chin and he wouldn’t care. He felt that if they focused on him, there would be more room elsewhere. And he’s fought against 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 from anything. He was very proud of Swansea.

“But Dick was more than just a badass. He was also a damn good rugby player. »

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

Sometimes the exuberance got the better of him.

At the height of his powers in the 1980s, he met a journalist in the bar of Swansea Rugby Club. “You’re a bit of a jerk, but I like you,” he told the scribe while banging the guy’s head on a table.

Not to everyone’s taste, perhaps, but it was all kind of fun at the time, with the hack in question taking the episode in good spirit and telling the story years later.

What to say ?

Relations between players and the press can be strained at times, with not everyone willing to overlook a 4 out of 10 player rating or a lackluster match report.

But the last time this writer met Moriarty he was in the bar at Swansea Rugby Club, having a drink after a game and offering to buy your correspondent one.

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

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

At 65, he is probably calmed down.

But what a career he had.

Happy birthday, big man.

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