Frank Whitcombe, from Grangetown , was a talented boxer and rugby union player before switching codes and making a name for himself – regarded by many as an all-time great of the sport – during the 1940s.
But Frank, whose brother George played for Cardiff City and for Wales at baseball, died tragically early at the age of just 44 in January 1958.
The story of his life is told in The Indomitable Frank Whitcombe, written by his grandson Martin and published 70 years after Great Britain’s legendary Indomitables tour to Australia in 1946.
Working-class Grangetown heritage
The idea for the book came about back in 2014 when Cardiff was European Capital of Sport.
As part of those festivities – which saw Frank and George Whitcombe voted as local heroes – Martin gave a talk in Grangetown and after which was persuaded he should turn his grandfather’s tale into a book.
It talks about how rugby league scouts spotted him while he was serving in the Army and, because league was a professional sport, he was lured north, later making his name at Bradford Northern (now the Bradford Bulls).
“I am incredibly proud of my grandfather and his Welsh working-class heritage in Grangetown and of this book which has been a joy to research and write with my friend Bill Bridge,” Martin said.
“With the Whitcombe family archive and the kind assistance from the rugby league fraternity, we’re delighted that the book contains so many great and previously unpublished photographs of Frank’s rugby career with Bradford, Wales, and Great Britain.
“Frank was made for rugby league and he enjoyed a glittering career in professional rugby. He quickly created a big impression on the Great Britain selectors and he was chosen for the famous 1946 Indomitables tour of Australia.”
Martin described that trip as “arguably one of the most famous sporting tours to have left these shores”.
And he added: “Frank excelled as the tourists made history and won plaudits from antipodean fans and media alike as the team became the first, and to date only, GB tourists to win a rugby league test series undefeated Down Under.
“I am also very grateful for the support we received for the book from the rugby league great and fellow Welshman Jim Mills as well as from union’s Fran Cotton, whose family are steeped in rugby league history.”
• The Indomitable Frank Whitcombe – How a Genial Giant from Cardiff became a Rugby League Legend in Yorkshire and Australia is published by Wales-based St David’s Press