Elfyn Pugh – A TRIBUTE by Roy Smith

Much has been said already about Elfyn and his place in the Game and there will, I hope, be a time when we can come together to celebrate his great contribution more tangibly. We all will have our own memories of him; he was never a man to be forgotten!

I first met Elfyn in the autumn of 1972 when as a rookie referee straight out of university, I was appointed to a game at Willenhall at their new ground at Bognop Road. It was, thanks wholly to Elfyn, a game to remember – not for my performance, which he judged a promising start, but for the lessons I learned about what happened in a rugby club! The “facilities” were basic, the rugby “coarse”, but the spirit of the Game flowed all afternoon with Elfyn at its centre. On all my subsequent visits to the Club nothing changed. His commitment to his Club, the County and the Game was inspirational and he became a friend, confidante and adviser central to my own development in the Game.

For referees he was the best Club contact in the County. In my twelve years as Society secretary and appointment secretary, communication with Willenhall was excellent and, as the Club grew in strength and standing, the Club was always high on my list to use for “special” appointments. Elfyn was first to welcome referees to the Club, the first to offer to run the line and the first in the bar with the referee’s pint! He was a great touch judge, fair and good humoured, and added to the touchline banter, always supportive and good natured. On one occasion, he sought to support the referee by intervening in a touchline squabble with the judicious use of his flag!

Elfyn was a man with lots of stories about life in Wales. My favourite involved his court appearance for poaching! He was caught “trout tickling”, but the event simply made him more cautious! He was a proud Welshman as demonstrated by his choir membership and many contacts retained in Wales. His corporate events, at The Angel before international games in Cardiff, were legendary, and I was fortunate to be on the guest list.

His involvement and influence in the County grew through his leading role in the Coaching Society and he, together with Vic Roebuck, put Staffordshire on the National and International map. Madeley weekends became both famous and infamous usually with Vic and Elfyn leading the revelries.

He was an almost constant presence on the County committee where his experience, knowledge and wisdom were greatly valued.

In 2002 on his election as County President, I was asked to be his Vice President, an honour I was delighted to accept. This began a whirlwind two years, carried along on a wave of enthusiasm and activity centred around the 2003 World Cup. Elfyn was philosophical about leading the celebrations for England’s victory and was at the centre as the trophy toured the County. I accompanied him and the Cup in his car, which had seen better days. The passenger seat bolts had become loose so every braking and acceleration saw me lurching violently backwards and forwards. The seat finally broke as we entered Peel Croft in splendid procession, only I missed the event as I was helplessly sprawled onto the back seat!

I often look at the list of Past Presidents and am still surprised to see my name. Of all the great rugby men I have met and worked with in the County there are none more special that Elfyn. I smile when I think of him and recall his sense of fun, his respect for the Game and all those involved, his common sense laced with wisdom and his generosity.

The Game is built on great men doing great things whose lives live on in the folklore and stories retold in clubhouses for years ahead. We need not fear that Elfyn will be forgotten for he will live on for all that he did and all that he was.

Roy Smith

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