Neath RFC is mourning the passing of former full back Dennis Gethin at the age of 79.
Dennis never forgot his roots as the son of a miner from Seven Sisters and revelled in his prowess at Neath Grammar School where he developed as a goal-kicking full back in what was a remarkable team.
He was capped by the Welsh Secondary Schools side and made his Neath debut as a deputy for the legendary Grahame Hodgson on September 7, 1963 in a 6-nil win over Gloucester before going up to Cambridge University to study law at Selwyn College.
Almost immediately, he represented Cambridge University against New Zealand in 1963 and he later played against the Australians too in 1966, making occasional holiday appearances for Neath in between.
He won his ‘blue’ in Varsity Matches before returning to Wales and joining Cardiff where he made 109 appearances and equalled their club record of 199 points in 1968/69 – a tally which had stood since 1894 ! The following season he played against the South African tourists to complete his southern hemisphere hat-trick.
Continuing his legal career, Dennis joined Taff Ely Borough Council before becoming the WRU’s last secretary – thus following two other great Neath men Walter E. Rees and Eric Evans in that role.
He became President of the WRU in 2007 and held the post until 2019 and he was also chairman of the Trustees of the Welsh Rugby Charitable Trust, a cause he held very dear to his heart and he was awarded the OBE in 2016.
Neath RFC Mike Price said, “Dennis was a grand rugby man who knew what Welsh rugby meant and how it should work from the grass-roots up – and this was reflected in his dealings with all the clubs. How we could all do with his clear-thinking now !
“When Dennis was secretary of the WRU, I frequently had cause to phone him and, whenever our paths crossed, the conversation was always a pleasure as he was genuinely interested in the Club, its characters and the Town.
“Dennis was a staunch member of the Neath Former Players; only occasionally did he miss our functions and then only because he was on WRU Presidential duties which he carried out with total dignity.
“As WRU President, Dennis greatly enhanced Wales’ standing in the Game and I know that he proudly carried the names of Seven Sisters and Neath wherever he went across the world.
“Neath RFC’s condolences and sympathies go to his wife Jan and family and his friends and he will be sorely missed by all who knew him at The Gnoll.