The history of Cardiff Rugby Football Club is littered with huge names both in the local area, the wider arena of Welsh sport and on a global superstar level. It still boggles the mind that the great Jonah Lomu graced the Arms Park as a home player, for example.
Over the years though one surname has dominated that list of club greats, as Williams’ have added stardust and given incredible service to the first team.
Tomos and Liam Williams are star current players at both domestic and international levels, Martyn Williams was a key player for Cardiff and Wales over more than a decade, Owain Williams a stalwart of the Blue and Blacks sides of the 90s, while Nick Williams is a cult hero at the Arms Park for his stint in the jersey.
Then there’s family links with the Williams family of Taffs Well, including the legendary “Prince of Centres” Bleddyn, where all eight brothers pulled on the Blue and Black colours, and brothers Brynmor and Gwynfor Williams of Cardigan played over 150 times between them from the early 1970s to the mid 1980s.
It is Brynmor’s sons who have carried on that tradition at Cardiff as youngest Tom had two spells as a wing/full-back over the last decade, but it is eldest Lloyd Williams who has deservedly grabbed the headlines over the weekend after running out for the 250th time for the first team in the win over Brive, just the second man in the post-2003 era to do so.
With Lloyd’s debut coming back in 2010 it’s almost difficult to recall a time when the scrum-half wasn’t taking the field at the Arms Park week-in, week-out, such has been his quality, consistency and longevity. A lynchpin of the squad to the extent that you almost take his reassuring presence for granted even as his role has changed over the years.
As a breakthrough talent he was noticeably mature around his kicking and game management, but the headlines were grabbed by his breaks around the fringes. You could put defenders at guard on both sides of the ruck and know the snipe was coming, but still the show-and-go would have opposition forwards clutching at thin air.
It hasn’t all been plain sailing for Lloyd it’s fair to say. A tough spell around 2016/17 and into the start of 2017/18 came on the back of some lengthy spells holding tackle bags in the Wales set up before the emergence of Tomos Williams threatened his starting spot at club level, but the bounce back from that has simply been a pleasure to watch.
That ability to kick off both feet and place the ball on a sixpence for the chasers to contest, the feel for the game to pick up and slow down the tempo as and when he needs, the consistent quality of his pass, and still retaining that old show-and-go even if the follow up pace isn’t quite where it was a few years back!
Adding it all up results in a player who, at 33, is still very much in the conversation for Wales squads ahead of each international window and it could be argued is playing the best rugby of his career on a week-in, week-out basis for Cardiff.
There’s always plenty of talk about the strength in depth of Welsh sides, and how on a general level in the United Rugby Championship it is the teams who cope best during international periods that often come out on top in the race for play-off spots, so having a player of Lloyd’s quality, and increasingly with his experience and leadership qualities, available all year round is a huge asset.
To reach 250 appearances in the modern age is an achievement that can’t be overestimated, underlining the player’s loyalty to the club and the professionalism with which they approach all aspect of the game in order to be ready to play that many times, with Williams doing all that while representing himself and his family brilliantly.
A man who everyone speaks incredibly highly of both on and off the field, Lloyd Williams has more than done the name proud and joins the list of great Cardiff players to have pulled on the blue and black jersey over the years.
Here’s to the next 50 games!