Davies is thrown in as Cardiff try to cash in

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Jonathan as Juninho is a pleasing image for Welsh rugby to conjure, but whether Jonathan Davies can do for Cardiff what the Brazilian has done for Middlesbrough without even playing a match will presumably depend on an unlikely surge in sales of Blue-and-Black merchandise.

Or alternatively on ticket sales. Davies was formally reintroduced to the rugby union world at the Arms Park yesterday, having been informed that he would have to turn out - probably at full-back - in Cardiff's Welsh League fixture against Aberavon which, to maximise the moment, has been put back to Sunday.

"I would have liked a bit more time to settle into the game," he said. Too bad. It has cost something in excess of pounds 60,000 to buy Davies out of the remainder of his rugby league contract with Warrington, and Cardiff can already sense an instant return on that investment.

Not that they had to find all the readies themselves. Chris Evans, an academic and businessman who happens to hail from Aberavon, contributed substantially to the buy-out, as did Jewson, the builders' merchant which will be using the returning saviour as part of its marketing strategy.

Davies's playing contract, once it is thrashed out, will be no different from that awarded to any other Cardiff player under rugby union's new professional dispensation. But in order for a career with Cardiff to be attractive enough, he had to be guaranteed an income more or less equivalent to that which he enjoyed in the north of England.

Cardiff have had their financial travails in recent times, so their own marketing of Davies has the wider function of ensuring the club's future solvency or even prosperity. They can reasonably hope for a 14,200 full house on Sunday, which would compare with a paltry attendance of 2,800 when Aberavon were last at the Arms Park, for the cup quarter-final last season.

An additional 11,400 people could amount to pounds 70,000 or more in gate-takings - and that makes their investment in Davies, even at 33, look a remarkably shrewd piece of business. Jonathan himself may have preferred to settle in quietly, but as he knows from his illustrious rugby league days, he is a commodity to be exploited no less now than then.

"It's another challenge I don't particularly need," was his curiously reluctant response. "The pressure is on, the expectation great, but you're going to have to be patient. It's not going to happen overnight. I won't be the same player as maybe I was when I left, but I've learned a lot of things along the way."

Nearly seven years have passed since Davies exchanged Llanelli for Widnes, and as it will be only five days since he exchanged Warrington for Cardiff when he resumes his rugby union career, he does not yet wish to join the debate about his chance of winning a 30th Welsh rugby union cap. "My first ambition is to establish myself in the Cardiff team."

On the other hand, if anyone can do it, Davies can. John Evans, the Cardiff chairman, greeted him thus: "I would say that, along with Gareth Edwards, he is the best player I've ever seen in my life." Clearly, a messiah in the making.

Comments