“THERE’S not too many people who have got MBE’s from where I come from.”

Mike Nicholas has spoken with great pride about representing his birth and adopted towns as well as his former clubs on his recent visit to Windsor Castle to finally receive the MBE he was awarded in the 2020 New Year’s honours list for services to rugby league in Wales.

Warrington Guardian:

Port Talbot-born Nicholas, 75, who has lived in Warrington since he joined The Wire from Aberavon in 1972, was accompanied by his son Christopher for a Covid-delayed ceremony with Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal, whose love for sport includes rugby.

And as ever with Nicko, as he is known by many, he has tales to share about his date with royalty – to do with plasterboard, James Bond and Batman!

“It was a great experience and Princess Anne was brilliant. You felt as if you were making an effort to represent where you come from and how you’d developed the game and how much you’d put work in,” said Nicholas, who is president of Wales Rugby League.

Warrington Guardian:

“She understood the overview of everything, and we ended up talking about the steel works (in Port Talbot) and that we’ve got to keep it open otherwise there’ll be no more steel in the country.

“It was a really rich experience for me and where we come from everyone’s proud of the fact. There’s not too many who have got awards like this. It’s really for my family and my deceased mother and father, who would have loved it.

“It was just a wonderful day. It’s the way they go about it, they made every person around you feel their worth. It was the reverence, it was amazing.”

Warrington Guardian:

Nicko said the only disappointment was not being able to have more of his family, including his other children Morgan and Evie, in attendance due to Covid restrictions.

His brothers Clive and Geoffrey and his immediate family in South Wales sent him a greeting by video on the day of the ceremony (watch above).

Clive said: “Best wishes. You’ve come a long way since mam chased you round the block with a sweeping brush!”

Nicko highlighted some of the funny moments of the day, including the initial meeting with security staff on the three-mile drive approaching Windsor Castle.

Warrington Guardian:

“My son got caught out because he has a nice car but he had plasterboard in the boot and didn’t realise how rigorous the security searches would be,” laughed Nicko.

“He said ‘sorry about that, I couldn’t get to the tip’. Then they went under the car with mirrors and you can understand. They all had Kalashnikovs while walking round.”

The pair were royally dressed for the occasion, Nicko in a suit provided free for the day by Neil Shaw at Groom Hire on Horsemarket Street.

Warrington Guardian:

Nicko said: “My eldest Chris is very personable and a good looking lad.

“Somebody said he looked like he could be the next James Bond. So I said what does that make me and he said: “You’d be the villain in Batman – The Penguin, in the suit.”

Nicholas spoke of his passion for rugby league in Wales and all over at the time his honour was announced.

“I’m president of Wales Rugby League, but even if didn’t have an official position, I’d still be promoting rugby league because of the passion I have for it," he said.

“I have a personal crusade, a gospel according to Nicko if you like.

“It’s my life, my raison d’etre, even from when I was young. I enjoyed watching Billy Boston and other Welsh players at Wembley.

“I’ve always felt comfortable in rugby league and I’ll contribute whatever I can, as I love the game that much and I think it’s often unjustly treated.

“I’ll always be here to stand up for rugby league as it’s a great game. Everyone who plays it respects the game and it should be flourishing at Welsh and international level.

“I enjoy what I do now, helping out in North Wales, still visiting people in the south, plus I help out at Warrington Wolves with the foundation and I like to teach the young players the history of the club, showing youngsters their “Wall of Fame” to let them know what they can achieve.”

He turned out for three rugby union clubs in Aberavon, the Harlequins, Green Stars and Wizards, before signing professional forms with Warrington in 1972 where he made 142 appearances, a number of them as captain.

He won six caps for Wales, all of them in the European Championship, before finishing his playing career at the Blue Dragons.

Nicko has been actively involved behind the scenes for rugby league in Wales since 1981 when, alongside another former international player Dai Watkins, he helped set up Cardiff City Blue Dragons.

He became team manager for Wales Students RL in 1989, before having that role for the full Wales men’s side between 1993 and 2000.

He founded South Wales RLFC in 1996 in the first season of summer rugby league and became WRL president in 2003, helping to set up the Welsh domestic competition that still runs today, and assisted in the establishment of three of the clubs – Torfaen Tigers, Bridgend Blue Bulls and Aberavon Fighting Irish.

He is still the honorary president of the Bridgend club.

In 2005, he was a co-founder of Celtic Crusaders and helped bring in backers to the club in its early days and he also sat on the board of South Wales Scorpions in their early days.

Nicko, a Warrington Wolves Hall of Fame inductee, was added to the RFL’s role of honour in 2012 for his outstanding service to the game, while he was inducted into the WRL Hall of Fame in 2017.