After 15 years service and 290 games as hooker in both successful and struggling squads, Chunky, as he is affectionately known to all, has decided to hang up his boots. This total would have sailed past 300 had he not suffered bad luck with injuries over the last 18 months
The following comes from the man himself:
“I would like to take the opportunity to thank everyone who was part of my time at the club, from the back room staff, committee, coaches, players and of course the best supporters in Welsh rugby. The club has been a major part of my life since I first joined in my last year of youth rugby in 1999 and will always be close to my heart. Rugby is about making memories, and some of my best memories are playing for this club, alongside close friends who will remain as lifelong friends. Thank you all once again.”
Mathew initially joined the Ebbw Vale U21’s squad, known as Ebbw Vale Steelers, where he was player of the year, from his home village team of Oakdale RFC. His time with the Steelers was combined with 2 years service with Abertillery. He progressed into the senior game making his debut at Rodney Parade on a Boxing Day as a substitute at the end of the club’s professional era with Mike Ruddock being the first coach to make use of his undoubted talents. Following a season with Brynmawr, he returned to the club where he has been a popular squad member and a long time favourite of the Ebbw Addicts
There are many memories of Mathew Williams, someone who will forever be referred to as the Clubman of the Decade, an award he won twice along with “The Man of Steel”. Not only was he a very fine player who possessed sublime skills, but he was also a loyal and dedicated clubman and one of a few who stayed with the team when it was being relegated. The teams for the last Premiership game of 2009/10 and the first Division One East game the next season bore little resemblance to each other. Only two players stayed with the club and they were Chunky and Andrew Bevan, men with great experience who went on to play a leading role in our revival, these 2 close friends were essential to the rebuilding of a club, a team and an ethos that would deliver success in the following seasons. Indeed it was a great relief when Chunky said he would remain with the club!
His commitment was immense in those early days and although reluctant to be a captain, he led the side for almost half a season when Damian Hudd sustained a serious knee injury. Like everything else, he did it brilliantly and without fuss!
A new team took shape from the start of the 2009/10 season and a front row of Ross Jones, Chunky and Robert Sevenoaks with locks Ashley Sweet and Damien Hudd behind them formed a legendary front five.
Officials and Addicts alike hoped Chunky would play forever, we will miss his darting runs and the feeling of confidence we had when he took the field. His contribution to Ebbw Vale was unsurpassed.
His part in our winning of the Premiership cannot be underestimated, the accuracy of his lineout work being a key component of the now famed Catch’n’Kynes move that led to many wins in that year.
It is important to get the views of some of the coaches who have worked with Chunky over the years.
Jason Strange has had this to say
It was a privilege and an honour to coach Chunky for 5 seasons. He has given every ounce of blood, sweat and tears to the club for his entire career and it will be a massive challenge to replace such a fantastic clubman and player. Over the last 15 years I cannot imagine anybody who has been such a consistent performer in the team as he has. Whether the team has been successful or not, Chunky’s performances have always been very strong. What has made him stand out is courage, commitment and remarkable durability. He has been hugely successful as an individual, and part of some very good teams, and has been someone who has always stepped up when it mattered in the big games and delivered.
From Alex Codling
What can I say about Chunky? Diminutive in stature with the heart of a lion and everything good that you would want in a rugby player. When I first met him, I thought he was a back! I soon realised how pivotal he would be to the team. He was a real high quality exponent of the set piece skills but also a dynamo around the field. One of those trademark runs led to a try in our Boxing Day Derby win away to Llandovery in front of the tremendous away support all dressed in Hawaiian shirts. All the very best to you Chunk in whatever you do next, a great guy and part of a great bunch of lads.
From Nigel Davies: Mathew Williams (Chunky) – The Player, The Man
Every coach knows that a squad of players has its own dynamic and culture which is a product of many factors and includes the balance of the personalities within it – much like any business or organisation.
On first arriving at Ebbw Vale it was important for me to understand and establish the personalities within the group and within a few hours of arriving one of my first unannounced visitors was Chunky which in itself told me much about the man. As we’d never met before, he was keen to chat through some things with me regarding the season gone, general rugby philosophy and equally I think to assess the new guy at Eugene Cross Park!
His passion for Ebbw Vale and love for the game was clear from that first meeting and he has a way of being very straight yet professional, some might say grumpy, but I would say more focused and demanding of those around him. The best players I have coached have naturally had this demanding quality which for them is all about getting the most out of themselves and others to be the very best they can be and having these types of player is essential in driving the progress from within a team.
Chunky is that rare player. A coach’s delight as someone that you can rely on to do the right thing, to be part of the team, drive standards, positively challenge himself and others, display good values and in his case produce rugby moments of pure genius and magic.
Above all else though he’s a good bloke with great values – and to paraphrase a famous Rudyard Kipling poem “if you can walk with the crowd and keep your virtue, or walk with kings nor lose the common touch – you’ll be a man my son” and Chunky stands out as a man in rugby.
The sentiments from these 3 coaches sums up his contribution on and off the field and for me personally I could rely on him to do the right thing for the club at all times. It’s been a pleasure to watch him play and to share a few drinks with him. I along with many others will miss him greatly but look forward to seeing him at our presentation and at future games.