Valleys rugby is in mourning following the death of former Wales B centre and Treorchy chairman Neil Hutchings at the age of 62 after an illness.
The hard-running midfielder played 75 games for Cardiff between 1979 and 1982 as well as turning out for Aberavon. In that time he was capped by Wales B and was part of the 1978 Barbarians side that took on the All Blacks in Cardiff.
Having left his indelible print on rugby along the M4 corridor, Hutchings went on to help transform the game in the Rhondda Valley, first as captain for four seasons of Treorchy, and then their club chairman.
He and Phil Davies helped deliver the much publicised ‘Dream’ to the Zebras, that became a BBC documentary, and he was also a divisional representative on the WRU.
Their meteoric rise to the higher echelons of the Welsh club game reached a pinnacle in the 1994-95 league campaign when they finished third and saw the Zebras embark on their European travels with games against Castres, Narbonne, Dinamo Bucharest and Bristol.
The beginning of the end came when rugby was declared professional in August 1995.
Treorchy had been among the first clubs to admit to paying players, under the guise of appointing them as development officers who went to schools to coach.
But the arrival of a huge tax bill, which they couldn’t pay at the time because the money had already been spent, was to spell the beginning of the end of the ‘Dream’.
Their star waned almost as quickly as it had risen. The writing was on the wall when they finished 10th out of 12 in the 1995-96 season and the Zebras were relegated the following campaign, winning only three of their 22 matches.
“I don’t think some people were sad to see us go. We were a real thorn in Pontypridd’s side because we were pinching their players and others on their patch,” said Hutchings at the time.
“We were also threats to the likes of Cardiff and Llanelli because we had money to spend on players.
“But it gradually became more difficult to get players as more people jumped on the bandwagon and began asking for silly money. The money-men were also providing extra funding and that’s what set the trend for the ridiculous wages we see in Wales.”
Late on Tuesday night, the club put out on social media and their website, the sad news of the death of Hutchings.
“We are very sad to report that former club captain and chairman, Neil Hutchings, has passed away,” said a statement on their website. “Neil gave many years of service to Treorchy RFC and played a big part in the history of our club.
”He will be missed by many and our thoughts are with his family at this sad time. Rest in peace Neil.”
Long serving Treorchy club secretary Bryan James added: “I’ve been secretary at the club for 42 years and I first knew Neil when he was a youth player.
“He went on to start for the first team, before his career blossomed with Aberavon and Cardiff.
“In the ’90s he became chairman when we were going for promotion to the First Division, before regionalisation.
“He was chairman for a dozen or so years and was a very good chairman taking the club forward. He was a leader.
“He had the contacts, the personality, and he could get on with anyone, but was firm when it was needed.
“The club meant so much to him, as he came through the youth ranks.
“He had a wicked and dry sense of humour. He was easy to get on with. He was a good family man, he had three boys and was married to Lynne.
“He was a giant of the local game. He was also a representative of the league on the WRU and did a great job.”
“He was just a great supporter of the club and we’ll miss him.”
It led to former Welsh internationals Rupert Moon, Gary Jones and Paul Turner passing on their condolences as well as BBC Wales rugby pitch side reporter and former full-back Phil Steele.