WHITLAND RFC’S Tony Bowen and Cardigan’s Graham Rees have been honoured for their contribution to the game in Wales.

The pair joined Trefil’s Howard Morris at the Wales v South Africa test to be presented with The President’s Lifetime Achievement Award - by WRU President Dennis Gethin.

Each have given more than 50 years’ service to their respective clubs and other areas of Welsh rugby.

Mr Gethin said, “It was the perfect opportunity for the WRU to recognise the extraordinary contribution of lifelong participants whose passion for rugby has driven them to be an active part of the rugby community for over 50 years. We are quite simply indebted to the men and women such as these stalwarts in clubs all over Wales.

“Thanks to every rugby coach, referee, official and supporter in Welsh rugby. These individuals are heroes in their communities and living proof that there is a valued role for everyone in rugby clubs, even after playing boots are well and truly hung up.”

Tony Bowen first played for Whitland in 1958 and captained the club for three years, playing over 500 games and scoring 200 tries. He played for Llanelli for a season and also earned 50 caps for Pembrokeshire County. He played against Western Samoa for Western Counties.

Off the field his commitment to Whitland continued, becoming club chairman and youth coach, helping Whitland win the Youth Cup final against Cardiff in 1984 and going on to become a Pembrokeshire County selector.

Nowadays, Tony is the club groundsman and he and his wife Patricia, who has also contributed a great deal to the club over the years are the chief kit washers.

Jason Bowen, chairman of Whiltand RFC (no relation) said:  “Tony has been the heart and soul of this club for more than 50 years. As a player he was a talented try-scoring wing who also kicked for goal and during his career he played in the same Llanelli team as Barry John.

“His playing days were cut short after he broke his leg in a game against Tenby, but when he stopped playing he continued to dedicate himself to Whitland.

“He coached a number of our youth sides, including the 1983 team which won the Welsh Youth Cup and has most recently served as club groundsman, controlling the scoreboard on matchday, he doesn’t miss a game. His family are Whitland through and through, both his sons Richard and Phillip played for us and Richard still coaches our U11s side where young grandson Tom Bowen is keeping the tradition going.

“Tony is a club stalwart and deserves every accolade he gets, it’s wonderful that the WRU president is recognising his dedication to Whitland RFC in this way, he is one of the unsung heroes of Welsh rugby and we are all very proud of him.”

Graham ‘Trim’ Rees played for Cardigan for 28 years, retiring aged 47. He was club secretary for 25 years from 1980, even after life-changing surgery and also fulfilled the roles of club chairman and fixture secretary for a time.

He also spent many years providing hands-on support on matchday, preparing the club beforehand, often acting as club linesman and sweeping the changing rooms after the game. He was a strong supporter of the club’s mini and junior section and of the importance of developing the next generation of club players.

After he and his wife Gwen relocated from Cardigan in 2013 following the tragic rugby injury to their son Dylan, who was also in the stadium on Saturday as a guest of the Welsh Rugby Charitable Trust, he was made club president, a role he still holds.