Neath RFC is sorry to learn of the death of former back rower Mike Messenger.
Mike Messenger first emerged via a very successful Neath Athletic Colts side which featured the likes of Mike Richards, Phil Langford, Tony Roberts, Robert Mogford and Mike Jenkins.
After graduating to Neath Athletic, Mike played his first game for Neath in 1973/74 at Pontypridd where Neath won 22-15 and honed his leadership skills at a young age when he captained Neath Athletic in 1976/77.
He then made the well-trodden path to The Gnoll where he established himself in the Neath eight which he regularly led into battle – always by example.
He was very much a ‘players’ player’ doing the nitty-gritty, often unseen work that allowed others to prosper and was a key member of the pack which stood up to the New Zealand Cantabrians (5 of their 8 were All Blacks) in 1979.
After his Neath days he returned to the Athletic where he nurtured young back rowers like Tim Waldron and David Randall and he re-appeared in 1980/81 when he made his final and 90th appearance in a 22-13 victory at Nottingham.
His early working days were spent at Metal Box before he turned to teaching and served on the staff of Cymmer Afan Comprehensive School.
Former Neath secretary Allan Benjamin was Head and fellow staff members included Robert Mogford and the late Andrew Vaughan – between them, rugby football was valued very highly on the curriculum! – and several fine players emerged including Duncan Jones.
Neath secretary Mike Price said, “I was privileged to know Mike well. As a player in the true Neath mould, he was a strong leader on and off the field – a good man who fought the good fight for a long time.”
Despite suffering a stroke, he maintained a positive outlook until a recent setback which alas proved too much. Neath RFC’s condolences go to his family and friends and a minute’s silence will be held in his memory – and that of Dennis Gethin – before Neath’s home game against Bridgend on Thursday evening.