Stuart Williams is never far from Pontypridd's thoughts says Paul John
On the field, it has been a season like many others. A concerted push for the Principality Premiership title, a so far successful run in the SWALEC Cup and a colourful journey into the latter stages of the British and Irish Cup. A story of tries, tears, penalties, points, heroes and heartbreak.
However, the club's seemingly perennial drive towards the top of Welsh club rugby, has been set against the backdrop of personal pain and immense sadness. Whether or not Pontypridd win the eagerly anticipated re-run of the 2012 final and successfully defend the SWALEC Cup title, the 2013-14 season will always be remembered for the tragic passing of one of the club's great stalwarts, Stuart Williams.
A regular at the Millennium Stadium, during his 10 years in the Pontypridd front row, 33-year-old Stuart passed away whilst at work, at Craig yr Hesg Quarry, in October last year. The affable prop left a wife, Vicky and two young children, Harvey and Megan, who will be mascots on Sunday afternoon. He also left an extended family who charted with great affection, every step of his career.
The news sent shock waves around the rugby world and has, of course, left a terrible void at Sardis Road. Little wonder, therefore, that when the side runs out on the hallowed turf this weekend, they will have the poignant words of head coach Paul John to drive them on to what would be a fitting end to a season overshadowed by grief.
'Good luck, give it your best shot and never forget Stuart', are likely to be the final words spoken by the man who not only taught Stuart, but played with him and coached him.
"It was a terrible blow to the club , to the family and to everyone who knew him," said John.
"Pontypridd is a club with great tradition and even greater values. We have produced many, many great players and Stuart was one of those.
"He has never been far from our thoughts and that goes for his family too. I will certainly tell the boys on Sunday how important he was to the club, on and off the field. Having said that, to a man, they know that. Anyone who played with Stuart knows that."
A burly prop of genuine quality, Stuart, who played 283 times for Pontypridd, was there at the coal face when the club were crowned Swalec champions this time last year.
The name of Stuart Williams might be missing from the team-sheet this weekend, but he will be forever etched in the hearts and minds of everyone involved.
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