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Roy Burnett 1926-1998


Thelma Burnett 

 The word "GREAT" is all too often bandied around these days but in Roy Burnett's case it was 100% accurate. Roy's contribution to Newport and Wales rugby was immense and he will always rank as one of Newport RFC's great players. It was his style of play which was great - he was such an exciting and entertaining player - a joy to watch and very popular with the supporters. Roy was born in Abercarn on 6th Oct 1926 and attended Abercarn School. He played for Abercarn Youth and at the age of 18 yrs joined the Army and played in India and Burma. Roy played his first game for Newport in 1944/5 and then played regularly from 1947/8 onwards and was to become one of Newport RFC's all time great players. Roy was at his peak in the early 1950's and played in some great teams in front of huge crowds. Twinkle-toes or the Ginger Terror - and his team mates were a joy to watch playing fast, attractive and open rugby. In 1950/1 : 16,000 watched the game vs Watsonians, 27,000 vs Cardiff and a World Record crowd of 48,500 at Cardiff Arms Park when Newport and Roy Burnett won 8-3 ! Roy was very popular with the supporters and when he was moved between centre / wing /outside-half, it caused quite an outcry in the South Wales Argus with many letters of protest. Roy's attitude was "I don't mind where I play as long as I have a game of rugby!" Roy won his only cap in 1953 vs England - his proudest moment in his rugby career. He was forced to understudy Cliff Morgan but had Roy been playing today then he would certainly have won many more caps. He was Newport RFC Captain in 1952/3 and also led the team in 1950/1 during Ken Jones' absence when only 2 of 40 games were lost and which neither did Roy play in! Roy also captained Monmouthshire and played for Wales, Barbarians and Crawshays. He played for Newport at outside-half vs 1952 Springboks, 1954 All Blacks and 1957 Wallabies - on the left wing that day when Newport won 11-0. He became the first Newport player since WW2 to make 300 appearances and he beat George Boots record of 365 - which had stood since the 1920's - in 1959. He once turned down £3000 to join Huddersfield RL and when he retired in 1959 and threw his boots off Newport Bridge he said "I have enjoyed every minute of the time that I have played and I think that I have had a good run. I could not have wished to play for a better club." He went on to say that he would like to thank the person who stood on the popular side and in almost every match said "Give the ball to Burnett" .

Roy had played 372 times for Newport RFC and scored 91 tries / 6 conversions / 34 drop goals. He then served on the Committee for many years. Honorary Life Member and a truly great servant to Newport RFC. Roy died on July 30th 1998 but will always be remembered here at Rodney Parade.

It was with great pleasure that Friends of Newport Rugby trust – undertook the project to set up a Memorabilia Display in the recently refurbished Roy Burnett Suite with the help of Jim Povall, a family friend and on December 2nd 2006 the display was unveiled by Roy’s widow,Thelma Burnett. The function was attended by Thelma Burnett and family friends, many of the Former Players Association (FPA) including a number of Roy’s past playing mates, Newport RFC President David Watkins, Chairman Will Godfrey and members of FoNR committee. One of Newport RFC’s longest surviving past players and a truly great servant to the club, Alf Panting was also present. We are grateful to all who played a part in making the day such a success.

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