Er Cof ‘Benny’. Phil Bennet R.I.P.
Growing up in Felinfoel, no Saturday was complete without a match at Stradey against Neath or Richmond or Cross Keys, to watch the brilliant Phil Bennet do things with space and time and a rugby ball which have never been seen since, , and the laws of which are only now being truly investigated by scientists in a massive hole in the ground in Switzerland.
We may have gone home from the match to eat our tea and watch Doctor Who, but Benny was definitely Doctor Where? We all attempted to imitate him through the exiting multitudes in the cinder-crunchy Stradey car-park. Many tries were rehearsed then and there, and many careers forged on that surface in the rain.
Stradey Park and the Tanner Bank were founded on the waste from the Matriarchal steelworks which glowered in the distance, and grew out of the same shared experience of those who worked there.
I think Benny seemed at his most magical in the rainy midweek Floodlight Alliance games. The smoke rising from the steelworking men, the steam from scrums rampaging with Gale brothers, and Benny shredding defences on the pitch built on the steel slag from the nearby works he worked in, as did much of the crowd.
It’s still one of my boasts that we shared a primary school playground for 2 years. Even then he was Benny, and everyone knew he was destined for greatness.
When he took to the cramped little playground, everyone stood back and watched. He had a fanclub even then.
His quantum vision and mayfly powers of evasion have never been surpassed by any player I have seen.
As for his personality, what other player in history has tried to persuade the ref NOT to send off an opponent? THAT’S a sportsman.
The man who proved that sport is an Artform and did for rugby what the Beatles did for pop music. A genius of his Time.