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Saturday, 30 December, 2000, 00:13 GMT
Arms Park groundsman's dream job
Hardiman with Welsh rugby legend Barry John
Hardiman with Welsh rugby legend Barry John
William "Bill" Hardiman has been awarded an MBE in the New Year's Honours list.

The former head groundsman at Cardiff Arms Park is still recovering from the surprise of being nominated.

"I have no idea where all this began, I will have to put some feelers out, because I feel I ought to thank someone," he said.

While he does not know who nominated him for the award, the pristine condition of the Arms Park pitch during his years in charge deserves recognition.

And the position of head groundsman, at what was arguably rugby union's most famous stadium, was something to which a very young Hardiman aspired.

"As a youngster I dreamed of getting to the Arms Park and wrote to the Welsh Rugby Union," he said.

The National Stadium, Cardiff Arms Park
Hardiman prepared the famous Welsh turf

The response was not that encouraging.

"They told me if I travelled from my home in Pontypridd to Cardiff I would not get much pay as a youngster so maybe I should try again," Hardiman said.

He never did re-apply for the job, but eventually realised his goal after several years grooming the football and rugby pitches of south Wales.

His big break came in 1953 when he took charge of the Sloper Road football pitch owned by the Guest Keens Steel Works in Cardiff.

A move over the road to Cardiff City soon followed before a switch to Cardiff Athletic Club to supervise the conversion of the Arms Park to a rugby only stadium.

Glamorgan County Cricket Club moved over the river to Sophia Gardens.

Then, after years of service for Cardiff and Wales, came the dream move.

It was a "hop over the wall" to the Welsh Rugby Union to take charge of the pitch at the National Stadium.

I am rather sorry for him and wish he did not have all these problems
  Hardiman on present groundsman Tony Horne

Hardiman stayed there for 12 years until the old stadium was demolished to make way for the Millennium Stadium.

The 80-year-old is now recovering from heart surgery earlier this year.

But he was fittingly at the new stadium's first game in June 1999 and the first win Wales gained against South Africa.

He is "very disappointed" at the state of the current pitch at the Millennium Stadium.

Hardiman believes the controversial pallet system is a good idea that has backfired.

But Hardiman, stemming from the amateur gentleman's era of rugby union, feels only sympathy for his successor Tony Horne.

"I am rather sorry for him and wish he did not have all these problems," he said.

Ron Jones

Another Welshman awarded an MBE is Ron Jones from Aberdare.

A former sprinter captained the British team at the Mexico Olympics in 1968.

He has been honoured for his work with the development of youth sport in Wales through his role as director of Sports Aid Cymru Wales.

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