Our History

John Thomas – Crynant, Neath, Aberavon, Cardiff Athletic, Glamorgan, Workington Rugby League and Wales Rugby League.

John started his rugby career playing for Crynant Boys Club and captained the side to victory in the South Wales Boys Club Championship. He then went on to play for and captain the Crynant Senior side, playing alongside his brothers Eddie and Rhys, before moving on to play for Neath. There he played against all the major sides including a New Zealand post-war side for a combined Neath Aberavon team on the Gnoll in 1948. He also toured Cornwall with Aberavon at Easter, playing four games in four games, unheard of now.

He also played a few games for the ‘Rags’, or Cardiff Athletic but found it hard to break into the main side given the fact that Bleddyn Williams and Dr. Jack Matthews were in situ! He had representative honours for the Glamorgan County side and it was whilst playing for Glamorgan against Monmouthshire at Pontypool in 1949 that he was spotted and eventually approached about playing professional Rugby League for Workington in Cumbria. The team were managed and captained by the legendary Gus Risman who then signed John, or Jackie as he was to become, for the sum of £1000, a fortune in those days. John had a reputation as a strong running hard tackling player and he soon began making a name for himself at both centre and stand-off, or outside half. Along with scrum half Albert Pepperell, a Great Britain international, they formed a terrific half back partnership. In 1951 they won the Rugby League Championship at Maine Road, Manchester, beating Warrington and then the following year they went on to lift the famous Rugby League Cup, beating Featherstone Rovers 18 – 10 in the first ever televised Cup Final at Wembley.

John had lots of Crynant support there that day and his wife Meg had the pleasure of dancing with Eddie Wareing, the infamous BBC commentator afterwards in the post match celebrations. He also played in one international game for Wales, representing them in a game against the British Empire XIII in 1953. The game was played on Llanelli Football Club’s Stebonheath ground as it was a Rugby League game as no professional teams were allowed to play on Union grounds.

John’s career sadly came to an end when after a dubious tackle, he was ordered from the field against Wigan, by Risman the captain. He saw that John was holding his head at a strange angle and summoned the referee to his plight. John had broken vertebrae in his neck and was to spend six months in hospital with his career ending neck injury. Co-incidentally, Pepperell was also injured in the same game, snapping his Achilles, and he also never played again, robbing Workington of the star half backs in one game.

John returned to Crynant and worked in the colliery which he had known since leaving school at the age of 13. He continued his interest in both codes until his death in January 2012 at the age of 88. 

In 2011, Workington played against the South Wales Scorpions in the first Rugby League game on the Gnoll. That day, the coach and two directors made a point of initially contacting John and then coming to Crynant to visit him in his home, such was the esteem in which he was and still is held. At present the Crynant side contains three of his grandsons in Rhodri Thomas, Chris Slocombe and John Bevan, continuing the family link with Crynant Rugby Football Club.