World renowned Welsh winger, Shane Williams played his farewell game this weekend but it was over 12 months ago that he shared his plans for retirement with me – linked to fond childhood memories of the time spent with his grandparents. “My Grandfather Emyrs, is a very keen gardener,” he explains, “he is really good with his hands and used to build his own garden furniture, bird tables and bird houses. I used to love helping him and I could build a mean bird house myself,” he laughs, “though I haven’t built one since I was 18, so I’d be a bit slower now.”
Better known for his side-stepping than his sawing skills, the BBC Welsh Sports Personality of 2008, continues to talk about his granddad with obvious respect and reverence. “He always had a lovely garden, he built paths and a pond and had a little allotment and I always wanted my own garden to be the same as his. To be honest I was gutted when he moved; he’s in his 70’s now but still potters about and builds quirky things in his shed. I envy him a bit,” Shane admits, “it’s like he has his own little special World.”
“I love gardening,” he continues, “Whenever I’ve bought a house I’ve made sure I’ve got a nice big garden. We’ve got a big front garden where we are now which takes a lot of work to keep it nice. I maintain the grass and cut back the shrubs myself; I take my time with the mower and I’m not very good at getting straight lines,” he laughs “but at least I keep it tidy. I’d love to grow veg at sometime but it would be difficult in this garden; the front gardens all show and the backs a bit small.” he explains.
Shane’s garden might not be ideal for veg but sounds perfect for children. “The kids love playing out in the garden, especially Georgie (3), she’s always busy; like a spinning top, I can’t keep up with her.” Adds the ‘wing-footed’ winger modestly. “She loves fresh veg too, raw or cooked, and we want her brother Carter (7 months) to be the same. I’ve never been a big fan of eating veg,” he admits with a familiar grin, “but I remember always eating what Granddad grew and Nan cooked. They had a great old fashioned relationship. Granddad always working outside and Nan cooking whatever he grew and picking flowers for the house,” he recalls appreciatively.
“I was lucky growing up in the Amman Valley; we were surrounded by woodland and fields and I had a football and rugby park just 4 or 500 yards from the house. I was always outdoors, always on the go and always had a rugby or football with me. Next door had horses and I remember kicking a ball around the paddock dodging the horses and horse muck. I used to go home stinking!”
The first Welshman to be named the International Rugby Board’s World Player of the Year in 2008, concludes with a confession, “the plan is to go back to my grandparents lifestyle once the kids have grown up a bit. We’ve got a big house on a nice estate at the moment and it’s easier whilst the kids are small. But I have still got a house with 5 acres in the Amman Valley, with woodland and a stream running through it. Mum is there at the moment but in a couple of years we’ll move back in and have my perfect home and garden. Then, when I ‘retire’, I’ll be able to have my allotment and build bird houses in my own shed.”
Shane Williams launched the Shane Williams Rugby Academy in partnership with The Co-operative. For information or a place: Activate Sport 08003457480 or www.shanewilliamsrugbyacademy.co.uk