WRL president Nicholas receives two major honours for his work
Gary Baker on 21/09/2012
Wales Rugby League president Mike Nicholas has been honoured for his five decades of service to the sport in the Principality with two major awards this year.
Back in January, the Port Talbot-born former hooker and Wales international was inducted into the Rugby Football League's Roll of Honour.
And now the Welsh governing body has added their recognition of the 65-year-old's work towards developing the game, particularly in North Wales, with their Lifetime Achievement honour.
Nicholas played six times for Wales in the 1975 World Cup and also won more caps between 1977 and 1979. He also played for Great Britain in non-Test matches in those years.
He went north in 1972, having played rugby union for Aberavon RFC, and joined Warrington where he turned out 152 times for them.
Nicholas was also at the forefront of drives to establish rugby league in Wales via the Cardiff Blue Dragons in the 1990s and the Celtic Crusaders and Crusaders RLFC during the mid-to-late 2000s.
He has now been prominent in forging the amateur North Wales Conference and maintaining links for Wales with clubs in the north of England.
Nicholas said of his honour: "It has been a 40-year crusade and 20 years supporting the game. Rugby League has been something inside me from my early days when you could only play sports like rugby union in Wales.
"Rugby League frowned upon when I was playing in the 1970s but I thought this cannot be right. It's become a crusade for me and it's a massive passion on my part for the game to be established in Wales."
Many old players, who 'went north' when even the mention of Rugby League was taboo in Wales during Rugby Union's amateur days, still live in the 13-a-side code's heartland around Cheshire, Lancashire and Yorkshire.
Next month, many will be getting together again when Wales tackle England in their Autumn Test match at Wrexham's Glyndwr University Racecourse Ground, while two Welsh Rugby League legends - Billy Boston and Gus Risman - are among five players from the game remembered in stone in a new statue outside Wembley Stadium.
Nicholas added: "We have a massive history in the north (of England) in Rugby League. When you see all the people who have worn club and international jerseys over the years - people like Billy Boston, Dai Watkins, Kel Cosslett, Trevor Foster, Jonathan Davies and many more - it just proves how much influence Wales and Welsh players had in the sport.
"Now we have just got to keep hammering at the door to try and establish the sport in Wales and only when that happens will I be satisfied."
He will walk out on the pitch at Wrexham to receive his Wales Rugby League Lifetime Achievement award on October 27, along with many other winners around the Principality, many of whom give up their time freely to spend volunteering at the grass-roots level of the game.
But, of all his achievements, including winning the Challenge Cup with his beloved Warrington in 1974, the incredible match between Wales and Australia in the 2000 World Cup semi-final, which saw Wales shock the world champion Kangaroos in the first-half before running out of steam in the second period, is high in his list of memory highlights.
Nicholas was a coach with head man Clive Griffiths during that tournament, and said: "The semi-final was massive because nobody gave us a chance yet we played incredible rugby in that match."
And he will certainly be continuing his 'crusade' next year when Wales co-host the World Cup with England and have matches against Italy at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium, the USA in Wrexham and the Cook Islands at The Gnoll, Neath.
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