The death this week of our dear friend Norman Gale has cast a dark shadow over this weekend’s International. Norman had a massive heart attack at his home on Monday, and never recovered. His death has surprised and shaken all rugby players and supporters around the world.
Norman was immensely popular and respected throughout rugby and even though his appearance might have given the impression that he was a serious and a hard man, but in truth he was a very gentle, kind and generous person.
On the field he had the respect of everyone; this was proven when he became captain of the National side in 1967. He was the perfect hooker, strong, rugged, mobile and hugely talented. In today’s game he would have been ideally suited and I personally can recall seeing him sprinting 60m to score a try under the posts in a floodlit alliance game at his beloved Stradey. Also memories of him goal kicking showed what an all rounder and complete footballer he was. Norman went on to amass 25 caps for his country, earning his first cap against Ireland in 1960.
After his playing days he coached Llanelli and was Carwyn’s assistant during the famous 9 – 3 victory over the All Blacks. His coaching career was never fully recognised perhaps due to the fact that after that famous victory he lost the services of many of his senior forwards (especially Delme). He then introduced a new breed of young forwards to Stradey which took several years to blossom. Nevertheless he still coached Llanelli to cup victories galore. I always thought that Norman should have stayed longer in his coaching role as he was an intelligent thinker of the game and had excellent vision of what was required.
He never became a Lion or even a Barbarian, which makes a mockery of selection – there certainly wasn’t a better hooker than him in his generation.
He enjoyed his visits to the WREX room on International days and he himself was a strong supporter of the Llanelli Old Players Association of which he was the President.
He will be sadly missed by all and may we as Ex-Internationals spare a thought for his wife Anne, son Sean and grandchildren Nichollas and Hannah.