They later became famous names in Welsh rugby, but what did they do before choosing to play sports for a living?
Some of those listed below climbed the heights with Wales and the British and Irish lions.
But the positions they held at the beginning of their working lives are less well known, from postman to stonemason.
We look at their stories.
Lee Byrne (apprentice carpenter and joiner, cable cutter and forklift driver)
The former Wales and Lions fullback flirted with the idea of joining the army.
Fitness tests required candidates to run a mile and a half in less than 10 minutes and 30 seconds.
Byrne did it in six minutes and 30 seconds.
The military took him aside and asked if he would join the paratroopers. He was tempted, but instead chose to return home and take a job filling pillows in a furniture company.
His father then found an apprenticeship as a carpenter and joiner.
He spent 18 months in London, founding the Plaza Hotel and traveling across the continent to places like Prague, Munich, Paris and Rome. About his experiences in London he says in his book The Byrne Identity: “I loved it. Suddenly I was making £300-£400 a week, a king’s ransom for a teenager. I enjoyed getting my hands dirty and the camaraderie of my colleagues. Social life was great.”
In other roles, he worked as a learning disability counselor and also cut cables and drove a forklift for Morelec, eventually moving on to a similar role for Edmunson Electrical, where he came under the influence of a colleague, former Bridgend RFC scrum- half Brendan Roach, aka the strongest man in Bridgend.
Roach trained diligently and watched his diet. Byrne worked with him and made rapid progress. A few breaks later, via Bridgend Athletic and Tondu, the Scarlets became interested.
Byrne never looked back.
Adam Jones (deck board maker)
He became one of Wales’ best tighthead props, but there was a time when he didn’t think about becoming a professional sportsman.
His weight had risen to 23 bricks and he had established a position in the making of terrace slabs.
Then Neath RFC stepped in for him after inviting local guys to train with them following the WRU’s creation of a U21 league.
“I never got through the academy structure,” Jones told the BBC. “I love rugby, but there are bigger things in life.
“Even when I turned pro at Neath, there was an amateur culture. I can’t imagine many of the guys these days have ever had a job. Making records was hard work, starting at 6:30 every day.”
He attended a rugby course set up by Sean Holley in Llanelli.
Jones also had a summer job dressed as a bear at Dan-yr-Ogof Showcaves.
Playing for Neath U21s against their Cardiff counterparts, Jones was part of a dominant scrum that paved the way for victory. As he left the field, he encountered what he calls in his book Bomb, My Autobiography, “the almost mythical figure of Lyn Jones, Neath’s first-team coach.
“He approached me very seriously and said, ‘You played well there, young man,’ before giving me a hard slap on the gut and saying, ‘Now get out and put this away, will you?’
Jones was on his way.
Shane Williams (worker at the job center)
Windows made and fitted initially “worked my socks off” for around £30 a week. “I was treated like filth and considered by everyone to be the dog body of the company,” he says in his book, Shane, My Story.
After struggling through several other jobs, he landed a job at an employment agency, mentoring the unemployed and helping them find work. He turned out to be good at it and got his doctorate. “I loved it,” he says in his book. “I liked that every day was different.”
But it wasn’t long before Neath came calling and soon after he broke through in the Wales lineup.
Brilliant was unstoppable.
Gareth Thomas (mailman)
In his early days for Bridgend, Thomas was making £25 a week playing rugby.
He used it to supplement his pay as a postman.
His father had helped him get the post.
Thomas junior says in his first book, Alfie!: “My father and I used to get up at 4:30 am to go to work. We were supposed to drive in together when we eventually got a car, but that required us to get up at 4 a.m. and hope we could signal one of the guys on the way to stop and give us a life.”
He gave up the role after Bridgend offered him a position as a development officer.
“I was sad to leave,” he says in Alfie.
“Okay, the pay wasn’t king, but as long as I had £50 in my bank account on Sunday night to get through the week on gas and food, I didn’t care. Those were great days, and I often think now what it would be like to go back to those days.
“Working at the post, playing Bridgend, out with the boys every Saturday night – what a life!”
Liam Williams (Jetty)
During his time at Waunarlwydd, Williams worked as a scaffold builder at the Port Talbot steelworks, erecting scaffolding above a blast furnace at a height of up to 80 metres.
It wasn’t a job for the faint of heart, but Williams has always been anything but.
“He would always be a rugby player because he was so good at it at a young age. He was brilliant,” added Brian. “At a young age, no one could ever catch him.
“One game he played as a whore and he went through the legs of the number 8 and he was gone.”
Williams, the fullback, had previously spoken about his past life at the steel mill, saying: “The highest I climbed was about 250 feet and you just look at the floor. I worked on top of the blast furnace and that could be even higher.” . It was fine and it’s not something that bothers me.”
Fear rarely weighed him down.
Allan Bateman (pathology lab assistant)
Those who followed Maesteg RFC in 1980 knew that a hugely promising young center by the name of Allan Bateman was coming through.
He had an electrical speed of more than 20 meters, could walk and tackle with poison.
He could do it all, despite working 80-hour weeks in the pathology lab at Morriston Hospital in Swansea.
The long hours continued after his move to Neath. In 1990 a switch to the rugby competition followed, with Warrington. “One of the reasons I left Neath and joined Warrington in 1990 was because the hours I put into my job and my rugby got too long,” Bateman said later.
“I spent a full day working in the pathology lab at Morriston Hospital, training with Neath and then training with Wales. It was ridiculous.
“What I really needed was someone come over and offer me some help so I wouldn’t have to work so many hours. A sponsored car would have eased the burden, or something that would allow me to work part-time. That didn’t happen, I hit a bit disillusioned and out of nowhere the rugby league offer came along. I admit I hadn’t thought it through at all but I decided to go.”
You can read more about Allan Bateman’s life after rugby in this interview.
Mark Ring (official)
The gifted fly-half of center began working as a civil servant at Companies House in Cardiff in 1980, after coming through the interview.
“I got the job and was put to work in the mailroom, where I was basically opening letters all day and feeling pointlessly bored,” he says in his entertaining book, Ring Master.
There was a disciplinary cut that Ring negotiated. “The only good thing that came out of it was that my bosses realized that I was a young man making my way in the sporting world and that I needed to do something that would give me more of a challenge. Their answer was to put me in the mortgage department – unfortunately I found that a little more interesting.’
During his time there, employees had to work seven hours and 24 minutes a day, numbers Ringo still had etched into his mind when he wrote his book a quarter of a century or so later.
Josh Lewis (stonemason)
By stepping out of the ranks of Welsh rugby’s semi-professionals, the current Dragons utility was able to bid farewell to its days of appropriate training around working as a stonemason for the family-owned Lewis Memorials.
“I was training for work and started at 5:30 am. I take my hat off to semi-pros as they have to fit their training in (around work),” said the former Ebbw Vale player, who enjoyed spells with Scarlets and Bath.
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