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The curious case of Lee Abdul

First Team News | 21st April 2022

Over the years, we have seen a host of world superstars lining up on the wing for the Blue and Blacks, from Gerald Davies to Josh Adams, Gareth Thomas to Jonah Lomu and fan favourites such as Steve Ford and Tom James.

However, one of the stand-out performances from the Arms Park touchline over recent years came in October 2003 as Lee Abdul lit up the first encounter between Cardiff and Ospreys.

The Rumney native and boyhood Cardiff fan lived the ultimate dream for a few months, writing himself into Blue and Blacks folklore in the process.

His four tries that day, on the way to Cardiff’s comprehensive 43-6 victory at the Arms Park, is yet to be beaten in the league’s history. 

Less than two weeks later, Abdul would play his last of 12 first team games for Cardiff and some might wonder what happened to the four-try sensation. We caught up with him earlier this week to find out.

“I can remember it being a lush day at the Arms Park. We were still in the first few weeks of regional rugby, so it was all quite fresh and new for everyone,” recalls Abdul.

“It was a bit of a weird feeling at the time, because when Cardiff played Ospreys it was like being up against both Neath and Swansea rivals at the same time.

“But once you were out there, it didn’t feel any different to a derby match.”

After making a couple of appearances for the Blue and Blacks during the 1990s, with his debut coming against Penarth in 1995, Abdul was called in on loan from Aberavon as Cardiff dealt with a series of injuries during the latter stages of the 2002/03 season.

The Rugby World Cup took place in Australia the following season, offering further first team opportunities for the wing in the absence of Tom Shanklin and Rhys Williams. 

It was against Ospreys that he truly made his mark, playing with and against cult heroes of the game in Wales: “You had these stars on show, with Ospreys bringing the likes of Scott Gibbs and Gavin Henson to the Arms Park that day.

“Henson was incredible. I’ve never seen a guy who could so effortlessly play a game of rugby and make it look so easy, but it was almost Jekyll and Hyde as once we started to get on top, I haven’t seen a guy give in so quickly and become easy to play against.

“In saying that, he was world class and one of the best players I’ve ever played against.

“You look at our side, you had the Robinson brothers and Dan Baugh and I got along great with them.

“Nicky and Jamie obviously understood the importance of the local rivalry but there was no one as good to play alongside as Dan. He was incredible.

“Him and Craig Quinnell had an edge around them up front, and Dan took us to another level. When you were looking for that little bit of inspiration, he always seemed to pull it off. 

“Off the field, he was pretty quiet and kept himself to himself but once kick off was approaching he had an energy about him. It’s hard to explain. Being around his persona, you’d get a spark off him and he demanded the standards around him.

“He’d lift you up when you needed it and was an incredible bloke. It’s just a shame he didn’t qualify for Wales, because he was definitely an adopted Cardiff boy!

“On that particular day, you had Dan smashing into contact, sucking the life out of Ospreys bit-by-bit and we all benefitted from that.

“Apparently the record of four tries still sticks to today, the boys love to remind me and give me stick about it!

“I remember the first one, receiving the pass from Craig Morgan and the next thing I knew I ended up on the bottom of a pile up. To be honest, I wasn’t even sure if I’d gotten it down until the 10 people on top of me had got off.

“For me, coming up against those big names, the first thing I wanted to do was make sure I held my own and not make a fool of myself but as the game goes on you start believing. I respected them, of course, but there was no reason I couldn’t show a bit more.”


And the former Rumney and Aberavon wing, who also represented Cardiff at youth level, certainly didn’t look out of place.

His four tries is still fondly remembered by those in attendance and Abdul admits it was a whirlwind experience: “It all happened a bit suddenly. I’d been playing for Aberavon but received a phone call to go on loan because Cardiff were short of players.

“Obviously you didn’t need to ask me twice because they were my home team and everyone wants to play for their home team, especially Cardiff. 

“The World Cup had kicked in so with players away representing Wales, it gave me an opportunity. Dai Young, in all fairness, was superb with me. He was straight and up-front with me about the situation because it was slightly difficult as I was in the fire service at the time.

“I couldn’t quit that job but we found a solution and Dai was happy with it.”

As well as representing his boyhood club, Abdul also saw it as an opportunity to follow in the footsteps of his own rugby idol - Cardiff try machine and fellow proud Rumney native, Steve Ford.

The former Cardiff wing explains: “A lot of people have various idols in world rugby, and there have been lots of them playing for Cardiff over the years, but for me there was only one guy that I always wanted to emulate and that was Steve Ford.

“What an incredible bloke. Not only was I lucky enough to have played with him at Rhumney, I also became good friends with him and he really looked after me over the years.

“When I was with Cardiff Youth and he was with the seniors, we’d share lifts and it was great to spend time with him.

“He was a freak of nature. I don’t know anyone else who could smoke 20 cigarettes, have a big breakfast and go on to play and perform at that level. It was unbelievable.”

Straight after the match, it was back to the day job for Abdul, heading for a night shift with the fire service that evening.

The four tries felt like a breakthrough for the wing in the Blue and Black jersey, having also crossed against Scarlets in Llanelli a week earlier.

His form continued into the next home game, with Dragons visiting the capital for a November derby. Abdul once again registered on the scoresheet, taking his tally for the season to six from six, but a cruel twist of fate would deliver a hammer blow.

“I remember scoring against Scarlets down in Stradey Park but a few weeks later we faced Dragons at the Arms Park, I wasn’t feeling 100 per cent due to a cold but you shake that type of thing off,” he added.

“I’d scored earlier in the game but later I turned quickly, with no-one around me, and I heard my ankle snap. I didn’t think much of it and tried to get up. But our physio Wayne Mortimer ran over and pinned me down with a judo-style move and tried to keep me still. 

“I had one look down at the ankle and immediately knew that’s that. 

“It was a long recovery for me but I was incredibly well looked after by the club. I couldn’t speak higher of Dai and Peter Thomas, who were great. Even three or four years later, when I still had to have an operation, they continued to look after me.

“I struggled with the pins and the plates in there, even when I tried to play again with Rhumney, and that’s when I knew I had to focus on the fire service. You had to take the career.

“As much as I’d loved to have been a one-cap wonder somewhere down the line, I was never going to be your Tom Shanklins where you pick up contracts throughout and continue to work in rugby after your playing career.”

These days, due to the injury, you’re more likely to find Abdul riding the waves on his surfboard but he remains proud of his unique tale and continues to enjoy visits to the Arms Park to this day.

He encapsulates the experience: “Being a part of the fire service is great and I even had some good publicity at the time because I was juggling the two careers. It was like taking a step back to the old days.

“It wasn’t easy and there were times where I had to cancel my electric for five days because we’d be out in Ulster or so on. 

“The fire service has been my family, but I’m also grateful for the time I spent with Cardiff and the characters I got to know. It’s incredible to look back on it.

“I still support Cardiff and I pop down to the Arms Park every now and again to watch. My mates are usually too busy talking and drinking, where I like to analyse and watch properly.

“I’ve ended up with a west Wallian girl, so we’ve been down to watch the games with Scarlets a few times but there’s no place like the Arms Park, is there?”

Only a limited amount of tickets are remaining for Cardiff's first home clash with Ospreys since 2013! Join us for what promises to be a brilliant occasion at Cardiff Arms Park - click HERE for tickets