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Former Wales honorary physio Lewis passes away

Former Wales honorary physio Lewis passes away

Tributes have been pouring in for the man dubbed “the 16th member of the Welsh team” following the death on Friday of the former honorary Wales physio, Gerry Lewis.

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Gerry followed in the footsteps of his father, Ray, as the physio and baggage man for the Wales rugby team. Gerry took over in 1965, when Wales won the Triple Crown under Clive Rowlands, and became an important and integral part of the squad that took Grand Slams in 1971, 1976 and 1978 and became recognised as one of the best sides in the world.

Highly popular with the players, his service to the great teams of the Seventies, and Welsh rugby as a whole, was officially recognised at last November’s Wales v South Africa international at the Millennium Stadium when he was presented with a special photo of the 1978 Grand Slam side by Prince William.

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On that occasion Gerry said: “My days with the WRU were the happiest of my life, apart from my wedding day.”

Born into a family of physiotherapists, Gerry followed his father into the practice and ran a successful business for many years in Newport. His position with the WRU was unpaid, but he nevertheless spent hundreds of hours tending to the needs of the players who became a part of his extended family.

“Gerry was like a doting mother hen in the way he looked after us all. He was incredibly popular with the players and became an integral part of the team,” said Wales Grand Slam skipper and coach, John Dawes.

“He started in 1965, when we won the Triple Crown, and I can still remember him getting me fit to go back onto the field against Ireland after I had been knocked-out in a tackle.

“He was a credit to himself, his family and to Wales. He inherited the magic fingers of his father and he was a first-class physio who was perfect for the role he played.

“We’ve lost some great rugby men in Wales in recent years and I’d rank Gerry alongside the likes of RH Williams, Rod Morgan and Keith Rowlands as a rugby man.”

The full extent of the jobs Gerry undertook within the team – buying the ice creams at the cinema on the Friday night before a big match was one of the more obscure – was never fully accounted for, but the one he enjoyed most was handing out the jerseys to the players before each match.

“Gerry used to be bursting with pride every time he handed you your jersey. It became one of the rituals in the dressing room that we all loved,” said 1976 Grand Slam skipper Mervyn Davies.

“He was excellent at his job and he often worked harder before a game in preparing the players for action than we did on the field over the following 80 minutes. He did more than anyone to get the likes of Gareth Edwards and Gerald Davies onto the field in shape to play than anyone else.

“Without him, Gareth would never have been able to play 53 consecutive internationals. Gerry was the 16th member of the Welsh team during my time in the side – one of life’s gentlemen and a pleasure to have as a friend.”

When Gareth Edwards became the first player to play 50 games for Wales he received plaudits from all over the world. He went on to play 53 times for his country without a break and never forgot the man who helped him achieve that landmark.

“When I won my 50th cap I presented Gerry with a special clock set in a lump of anthracite coal,” recalled Edwards. “The inscription on it said it all as far as I was concerned: ‘Gerry – Thanks for making so many of the 50 possible’. That’s what he meant to me.

“He was an incredibly generous man and a wonderful physio. I grew up with his family around me, Val his wife and Abi his daughter, and we became very close.

“He will be greatly missed by every Welsh player who knew him and his role in our great successes in the seventies will never be forgotten.”

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