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Page last updated at 07:37 GMT, Thursday, 23 October 2008 08:37 UK

Feeling the hate of Stradey Park

Richard Moriarty
Richard Moriarty was not the most popular of players at Stradey

Richard Moriarty will forever be remembered as the man who led Wales to third place in the inaugural World Cup.

But at Llanelli's Stradey Park - which will close to top-class rugby on Friday - the former Swansea lock, number eight and blindside flanker may not be recalled so fondly.

Even on a recent visit to Stradey for work purposes, he says he was told by someone: "Moriarty, I hate you."

Still, he does have fond memories himself, even if his experiences were not so pleasant.

Huw Llywelyn Davies
"My first playing experience of Stradey was when I was playing for a west Wales side," said Moriarty.

"Unfortunately, I had a kick in the mouth and my two front teeth were knocked out - welcome to Stradey Park."

That is not what made him unpopular, but one event that did contribute to that was following the introduction of sin bins.

In his playing days, which started in the late 1970s, those who were sin-binned had to stand behind the posts.

I loved playing at Stradey Park for the hype that surrounded it

Richard Moriarty

And being sent to the sin bin at Stradey turned out to be a huge learning curve for Moriarty.

"Jonathan Griffiths made a break and between him and the try line was myself," he said.

"He chipped the ball over my head and went to pass me and I just short-armed him.

"Jonathan's reaction was to lay into me and a massive brawl broke out. He was punching lumps into me.

"The referee managed to calm things down, but the crowd were incensed.

"I was sent to the sin bin behind the posts in front of the old shed and I learnt more about myself in those 10 minutes than I'd ever had in my life."

He added: "I still get constant stick but now it's generally good natured.

"The fans did have an affinity for me.

"I certainly reckon I would put a number of thousands on the gate for them, so I think they should thank me in a perverse way for that.

Ray Gravell
Ray Gravell was a legend at Stradey Park

"I think they would be most disappointed if I wasn't playing, they wanted to see me get my comeuppance.

"I have fond memories looking back at it now. I really did enjoy the experience of playing there."

One of Moriarty's favourite memories of Stradey involves the late Scarlets legend Ray Gravell.

"It was Llanelli v Swansea," he said.

"In the changing room, it was always a tense situation with those sort of derbies.

"Then the doors burst open and Grav came barging in his full Scarlets kit.

"The room went silent and he blurted out: 'Wings? wings? I've seen a better pair of blackbirds'.

"That was it, he walked out.

"Our wings Tony Swift and Arthur Emyr just looked at each other."

Moriarty admits he will miss the famous old ground, but agrees it is time to move on.

"I loved playing at Stradey Park for the hype that surrounded it," he added.

"The build-up, the pre-match tension, the butterflies you have in hours leading up to the game.

"While we have our fond memories of places, you have to appreciate that progress has to be made and things have to move on.

"They've got their very proud history at Llanelli and they've got all the memorabilia to show for it.

"I'm sure that will live with them for ever.

"It's a bit of a wrench the old stadium, but with the new stadiums these days it will be a far better rugby playing environment."

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see also
Stradey Park - the bare facts
20 Oct 08 |  Scarlets
Thomas' Stradey heartbreak
20 Oct 08 |  Scarlets
BBC Sport Wales coverage
23 Mar 08 |  Wales
Magners Celtic League
11 Apr 07 |  Rugby Union
Heineken Cup
11 Apr 07 |  Rugby Union
Anglo-Welsh Cup
11 Apr 07 |  Rugby Union

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