Position: Half Back
|Place Of Birth||Rumney|
Alfred Augustus ('Alf') Mathews was born in Rhymney on 7th February 1864. He was educated at Llandovery College for whom he played against Swansea Rugby club in November 1881 as a forward, scoring a try in the college's 7 try to nil win over Swansea, their best ever result against the "All Whites". Mathews played for the college against Swansea again in October 1882 as a three-quarter. Matriculating to St David's College, Lampeter, he played for that old established school side also, but as a half back. He turned out three times for them against Swansea in 1885 and 1886. It was as a Lampeter player and at half back that he gained his single Welsh cap against Scotland on 9th January 1886 at Cardiff, partnering Cardiff's "Buller" Stadden. The Welsh side also included Swansea forwards Billy Bowen and Dai Morgan. The match was remembered as the first time Wales played the four three-quarter system in an international, which system they lost confidence in part way through the match, reverting to three three-quarters and Scotland won by 3 tries and 2 conversions to nil. After the debacle, Mathews was one of the sacrificial casualties of the uncertain approach and was not reselected. During December of 1885 Alf Mathews found himself joining Llanelli Football Club on their 'Northern Tour'. He turned out in all four matches: Batley (lost), Dewsbury (drawn), Hull (drawn) and Castleford (won).
Alf Mathews - his surname had just one ‘T’ though often spelt with two - was ordained as a clergyman and became a curate after his ordination, taking up that post at Holy Trinity, Swansea in 1887. It was at this time that his career with Swansea Rugby Club began. His first known appearance was at St Helens, against a District XX at the start of the 1887-88 season. His first appearance against serious opposition came later in October 1887 at St Helen's against Huddersfield, a match Swansea won comfortably. Mathews turned out as a half-back in his early matches for Swansea, usually partnering George James or W H Howells. Further appearances that season against Wakefield Trinity, Newport, Gloucester, London Welsh, Moseley and Cardiff confirmed his standing in the first fifteen. Mathews' position at Holy Trinity Church enabled him to raise a rugby football team to represent the parish in that name. He turned out for them regularly. Ned Charles, who would soon join Mathews in the Swansea side (as a forward) played in the Trinity side with Mathews as his captain. Alf Mathews was very active in the Swansea Total Abstinence Society where he spoke often, encouraging people to avoid alcohol and stating that "As a member of the Swansea football Team I can testify that there is no need of alcoholic drink as a stimulant in athletic games, for although a total abstainer I never lack energy nor lose my wind, neither do I train during the week, and I believe were all to abstain from alcoholic drinks there would be no need of training."
Alf continued to appear for the "All Whites" through the 1888-89 season though he often appeared out of his natural position and joined the three-quarter line, playing in big games against Llanelli, Cardiff and the touring Halifax team. He stood in for the injured David Gwynn at three-quarter against Cardiff Harlequins in December 1888 and the following week was reselected in that position and played in a Swansea side bereft of influential internationals and plagued by injury, against the touring Maoris at St Helens. Swansea lost the match nil - 11.
Mathews continued to turn out for Swansea towards the end of the 1888-89 season as a three-quarter or sometimes reverting to half back alongside George James, in which combination he flourished. In a game against Llanelli on 26th January 1889 he was recorded (Cambrian) as "passing in rare style".
On 23rd March 1889 Alf Mathews played against Newport partnering a young David James in James' first season with the first fifteen, at half-back. David's brother Evan James would soon join him as a half-back pairing, Mathews playing more often as a three-quarter. The James brothers were to go on to dominate Swansea half back play and gain international renown. Alf's last match for Swansea was at St Helen's against London Civil Service, in his old position of half-back, with Evan James is his partner. His playing days at the club were over, but he became well known as a referee and also officiated at funerals of former international rugby players. He continued as Curate at Holy Trinity till 1897 when he moved to become Vicar of Blaenavon, remaining in Monmouthshire till his death on 12th August 1946. His daughter Barbara became Baroness Brooke of Ystradfellte after marrying Henry Brooke, Home Secretary in the Macmillan government.
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