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01 March 2020 / Club News

200 Caps for Curly

Today marks a special occasion as one of the all time Penallta greats, Shaun ‘Curly’ Powell, makes his 200th first team appearance.

 

At the grand old age of 37 Curly finally reaches the milestone, and few players could ever be as deserving of a Penallta cap. If Curly hadn’t been so ridiculously successful during his career he might’ve reached 200 games at the age of 27, but the second decade of his career was taken up terrorising sides in the Premiership.

 

Shaun Powell made his Penallta first team debut back in 2002. By that time his older brother Dale had already established himself as an explosive, hard-as-nails dynamo in the Penallta pack, making a formidable difference to the side. Then along came the ‘little’ brother, and suddenly Penallta had a cruise missile in their backs to go with their one in the forwards. The two Powell boys came as a package with their quiet, reserved father, Terry ‘Mental’ Powell, who quickly acquainted himself with everybody on the Penallta touchlines (and every citizen within a five mile radius) by bringing his World War 2 siren to games.

 

Young Curly joined Penallta Youth in 1999. He was a quiet, wiry young boy. He tackled like an absolute madman and even the older boys stayed out of his way in training. He had pace and talent and there was plenty to work with but at that stage he didn’t really have a position and it was hard to tell if he’d be a forward or a back. Dale was two years above him in his final year of youth and was different in that he’d always been a hooker and had quickly established himself in his position. So given Curly’s pace and his ferocious hand off he started playing youth rugby on the wing. Unlike most wingers, he troubled the try scoring records less than he did the St John’s ambulance boys, who struggled to keep his victims supplied with gas and air.

 

Curly developed into a muscular powerhouse throughout his youth years, with a reputation for running through brick walls, and by senior rugby, first team head coach Alan Lucas – who knew a thing or two about powerful runners - took a punt on him at inside centre. It was during the era when fast, hard inside centres were in vogue. The likes of M’aa Nonu were making names for themselves so a 19 year old Curly was thrown into a centre partnership with Stevie Richards.

 

One night under lights in Bargoed, Penallta were playing Treorchy in the District Cup. Treorchy were leagues above Penallta and competing against them was a tough prospect. But Curly was picked for his centre debut and a new star was immediately born as he ran riot. Outside Gazza and inside Stevie, with the pace of Karl Rees and co outside, Penallta suddenly had a complete backline. For nearly a decade, Curly’s barnstorming running and tackling was at the very heart of it.

 

As Penallta burst through the WRU leagues, racking up cups and incredible scorelines along the way, Curly was ever present. He spent years making Gazza and Stevie look good. The three of them developed a great understanding in the Penallta midfield, a telepathy that has ended up with him now all having identical hairlines.

 

The Penallta side they played in was brilliant. Without doubt the most dominant in the club’s history. Curly was a huge part of the dominance, and scored over a hundred tries at inside centre. He is still number three in Penallta’s all time try scoring list, a phenomenal achievement from that position.

 

His style of play was a joy to watch. He didn’t give a monkey’s who he was up against, and like his brother would run so hard and so aggressively it was intimidating to witness. The pair of them had a special quality you just can’t teach people: a complete lack of fear and an irrepressible mental determination. The sports scientists were fascinated by what Terry and Mandy must’ve fed them as kids and eventually employed them to feed the rest of the club. Richie Silver and Rob Jones have come on leaps and bounds this past few months.

 

After winning every personal and team accolade he could and after seeing his butty Gazza go on and do so well at Cardiff, Curly moved on to bigger things. He first went to Ebbw Vale RFC where he established himself as a no-nonsense Premiership centre, and then years later signed for Cardiff RFC. After a few seasons of impressing everyone at Cardiff, Curly was made club captain of one of the oldest and most famous rugby clubs in the world, joining a list of greats that includes Bleddyn Williams, Gareth Edwards, Terry Holmes and Mike Hall. A phenomenal achievement. Curly played over 100 games for Cardiff and was well respected by everybody at the historic club.

 

Curly might be hard as nails on the field but he is the perfect gentleman off it. Like Dale and Terry, and Mandy and sister Jo, you will struggle to meet a nicer family. A testament to what a good guy he is is how often he returned from Cardiff training to train for Penallta, and ALWAYS made himself available whenever Cardiff didn’t have a game, even to play for the seconds.

 

His affinity with the Penallta 2nds side eventually led to him captaining them last season. He was doing a fantastic job and was actually a bit gutted when first team injuries meant he had to abandon his Troopers to fill in for the side where his senior career began. At least last season’s efforts have helped nudge him closer to today’s milestone.

 

Curly is certainly one of the Penallta greats and I’m sure all Penallta supporters will wish him the very best today as he finally gains the cap he has so thoroughly deserved. He is a great example to all young players at the club. His attitude, his commitment to training, his willingness to consistently get the very best out of himself and his extraordinary lack of fear have combined to make him one of the best players the Pitmen have ever produced and a leader who all want to follow. The presentation of his cap is long overdue and will be another nice photo for Terry and Mandy to stick amongst their enormously proud collection.

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