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Neath RFC

Neath’s longest-serving current player Sion Crocker has decided to hang up his boots at the end of the season.

The popular hooker who joined the Welsh All Blacks over a decade ago has called time on a distinguished career during which he has advanced his total appearances for Neath  to 225 games in which he has scored 39 tries.

Sion arrived at The Gnoll from Tata Steel in 2013/14 having started out at home club Pencoed – Neath’s scouts went to watch a flanker who had been recommended to the Club but came back with a hooker as Sion Crocker was the outstanding individual on the field.

He went on to establish himself as the All Blacks’ number one No.2 and has been a model of consistency ever since with his sound scrummaging, top-line throwing-in and non-stop presence around the park.

Neath RFC secretary Mike Price said, “Sion has been a wonderful son of Neath RFC. Playing in one of the most difficult and demanding positions on the park, he has never been a moment’s trouble and, setting aside rugby football itself, he is a top man too outside it.

“Ever since Cliff Williams led Neath to the first post-war Welsh championship in 1946/47, Neath RFC has been fortunate to have been served by some wonderful hookers : Ray Jenkins, Morlais Williams, Norman Rees, Mike Richards, Kevin Phillips, Andrew Thomas, Barry Williams, Mefin Davies, Steve Jones, Andy Littlehales, Ashleigh James and Gerwyn Price.

“Sion deserves to rank right up there with them. He has been a real pleasure to have on board – highly respected at Neath RFC and beyond, a grand clubman who never let the team down. Insiders appreciate his input and the number of times he has played on through injury. His jersey will take some filling.”

Discerning Gnoll supporters know a good ‘un when they see one and Sion Crocker can look back with pride on helping Neath win the inaugural WRU Championship Cup in 2021/22 and then regain their place in the WRU Premiership last season.

2022/23 was a remarkable season for the Neath hooker who helped himself to 23 tries in the campaign – just two short of the Club forward record of 25 set by Mark Jones in 1988/89. Late Sixties back row forwards Mike Thomas and the legendary Dave Morris both scored 24 and were in danger of being overtaken by the front rower too.

Had Ystrad Rhondda not cancelled the final game last year those records may well have fallen but such feats mean little to Sion Crocker who is happy to be remembered as a player who gave his all every time he pulled on the famous All Black jersey.

“It has been a tough decision to arrive at but I have a young family to keep me busy and it is time,” says Sion Crocker, “I have enjoyed every minute of it and have so many memories to cherish. Neath is a truly great club – an elite club no matter what some people on the WRU think.”

Such naivety only betrays their lack of Welsh rugby knowledge and is far away from reality.

“Neath is a big club with huge aspirations – people love their rugby at The Gnoll and in the surrounding areas and I’d like to thank everyone who has helped me throughout my time here. It has been great and an absolute privilege.

“We have had a tough time this season but playing in front of over 4,000 people in the Boxing Day win against Aberavon was something to remember and we might get somewhere near it on Saturday against RGC – my last home appearance and Neath RFC’s big ‘community day’ too. I hope so.”

One thing is certain, there will be plenty of good Neath rugby folk there to see Sion Crocker’s final bow against the North Wales region. Then it will be on to the next man to stake a claim for the no.2 jersey.

From a Neath RFC point of view, it is entirely appropriate that Sion Crocker should announce his retirement on the same day as another 37 year old hooker in Ken Owens of Wales and the British Lions.

Such top honours may have eluded Sion Crocker – but his contribution to Neath RFC will never be forgotten and he and his family will be welcome at The Gnoll beyond retirement !