On a wall somewhere in Liam Williams’ house he has two rugby shirts in a frame. One is a Welsh jersey from the beginning of his international career, the second is a Waunarlwydd RFC shirt.
he special piece of memorabilia was the idea of Waunarlwydd club chairman Andrew Wedlake.
The chairman is Williams’ former coach and it was he who, after colluding with the back three star’s parents to get hold of his precious international jersey, presented the frame to the young star.
Has a Lion played for your club?
And Williams, selected for his first Lions Tour by Head Coach Warren Gatland last month, is still a regular at Waunarlwydd first team games, events and junior coaching sessions.
Wedlake said: “I was out in Australia and I saw all the notices of his selection on Twitter within minutes; it was really great.
“We have 250 kids on a Sunday and he often wanders down and explains how he was in their shoes about ten years ago. It gives them ambition and helps them recognise that they can do it.
“He’s a hero for them and he’s very good with the kids, he’s excellent on that and a good ambassador for rugby.”
Congratulations @SanjayWills #WMLion ??????
— Waunarlwydd RFC (@waunrfc) April 19, 2017
Wedlake knows Williams better than most having coached the Welsh full-back or winger from Under-10s all the way through to Under-18s when he made a couple of appearances for the first team.
Williams then had a successful trial at Llanelli before joining the Scarlets and Wedlake remembers a boy who stood out, on and off the field.
“He has always been a flying star, a very good player. But he was mischievous too, he always came on tour and was always in the middle of it, it was all harmless fun though,” he explained.
Huge honour to be selected for @lionsofficial tour to NZ. Thanks for all the kind messages! #AllForOne ?
— Liam Williams (@SanjayWills) April 20, 2017
“He’s left a mark on a lot of people in our area, everyone knows him. He’s a character but he’s very friendly and has matured a lot over the years.
“He was definitely a cut above the rest, I remember when he came at under-10s he was tackled, he let go of the ball, stood up and picked it up again, all correctly. I was like ‘Wow, he knows the rules’.”
Waunarlwydd was formed in 1900 and have been playing at Waunarlwydd Recreation Ground since 1912 but Williams will be their first ever British & Irish Lion.
Williams (top right) with the Waunarlwydd Under-16s prior to their tour.
The club compete in National League One West, the third tier of Welsh domestic rugby, and are eighth having won ten of their 21 games this season so far.
It remains a club that takes great pride in developing players from within, according to club secretary Paul Phillips, with recent players like Nicky Smith and Keelan Giles both having roots with the club before moving on to the Ospreys.
“We put a lot of effort into developing our own players. Our first team has only one or two players that have not come from our junior ranks, that tells you a lot about what we do,” Phillips added.
Liam Williams (centre) during his Waunarlwydd RFC days
“There’s a strong community spirit and the members make the club. They understand our philosophy of developing from within and buy into that.
“It was great when Liam (Williams) got his Welsh cap several years ago and this is one step further. We are so proud to have our first Lion.”
2017 – Liam Williams