Merv Hicks

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Mervyn J. Hicks (born in 1943 in Crosskeys, Monmouthshire) is a Welsh former rugby union and professional rugby league footballer of the 1960s and 1970s. He played rugby union club football in Wales for the Cross Keys RFC, rugby league club football in Britain for Doncaster, Warrington, St. Helens, Hull, Leeds and Bradford Northern, and in Australia for the Canterbury Bulldogs and North Sydney Bears. Hicks was also selected to play representative football for Great Britain, Commonwealth XIII, and Lancashire.

Early career

After representing Wales Youth Rugby Union as number 8 and captain in 1960 (in the same team as David Watkins), he was 'lured north' to play rugby league for Doncaster (3 appearances 1961) for the sum of £1000, enough to buy several houses in his home village at that time. At 6'2" and 17 stones, his dynamic skills, aggressive defence and size caught the eye of Warrington (24 appearances 1962–64), who paid Doncaster £6000 just a few months later to sign him. The "Wire" converted him from a Centre to a hard running ball distributor playing as a Second-row or Prop.

Whilst at Warrington, he was picked as captain of the Great Britain under-24 team. He then moved onto St. Helens (84 appearances 1964-1966) starring in one of the all-time great packs alongside legends such as Ray French, Cliff Watson and fellow Welshmen Kel Coslett, John Warlow and John Mantle, and also winning selection for Commonwealth XIII and full caps for Great Britain.

Merv Hicks represented the Commonwealth XIII rugby league team while at St. Helens in 1965 against New Zealand at Crystal Palace National Recreation Centre, London on Wednesday 18 August 1965,[1]

New life and career in Australia

The offer to start a new life with the Canterbury Bankstown Berries in the Sydney Rugby League competition led Hicks to Australia with his wife, Gwyneira, and two young sons, Paul and Andrew, in 1966. Two daughters, Julie and Tanya, followed in 1967 and 1970.

Five highly successful seasons with the Berries (84 appearances) including a grand final in 1967 ended with his move to the North Sydney Bears (19 appearances) as captain-coach for the 1971 and 1972 seasons. Although these were lean times for the Bears and an injury stricken Hicks, they managed to beat all of the finalists of those years when Hicks was on the field, as well as creating many headlines with the hard-hitting antics of the captain and his fellow Welsh import, 'Big' Jim Mills. His 7 seasons in the Sydney competition were highlighted by an ultimately unsuccessful newspaper campaign to have the international representation rules changed so that he could be picked for New South Wales and Australia, such was his dominance at club level.

A short season with the Orange CYMS (16 appearances) in country NSW had sufficient impact on the district that he was named in the club's "Team of the Century". The Hicks family then returned to the north of England.

Later career

Hicks returned to the north of England for 4 seasons to finish off his first class career with spells at Hull (24 appearances), Leeds (13 appearances) and Bradford Northern (2 appearances). Having played in an era when Wales was not represented on the international stage during his first stint in British rugby league, his selection for Wales for the 1975 Rugby League World Cup was cruelly denied by yet another broken arm. 19 straight seasons of professional rugby league ended for the "Pale Whale" with 3 years at the Bowral Blues (40 appearances) in Group 6 of the New South Wales country rugby league.

Coaching career

After hanging up his boots, he coached several teams including Bowral, Group 6, Southern Division, Junee and Riverina in the country championships, alongside his long career in hotel management.

Merv Hicks now lives with his wife of 48 years, Gwyneira and two artificial knees in Nambucca Heads, New South Wales and still works in the hotel industry.


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