Written by John Davidson
Whitchurch High School is a large secondary school in Cardiff’s north-east. Built in 1968, it houses more than 2000 students between the ages of 11 and 18.
It was here, back in the early to mid 2000s, where Salford Red Devils outside back Elliot Kear went to school. Talented at both rugby league and rugby union as a youngster, Kear went on to break into Super League in 2009 with Crusaders and has since had spells with Bradford, London and now Salford.
The 32-year-old centre, winger or fullback has also played 27 Tests for Wales and is the skipper of the Dragons. Kear has enjoyed an impressive career to date, but might not be the most impressive athlete to come out of his school.
For you see Kear’s classmates include Gareth Bale and Sam Warbuton, one a Premier League footballer and the other the former captain of Wales and the British and Irish Lions. All three were in the same year at Whitchurch.
“We had a few successful lads in our year,” Kear told Everything Rugby League.
“It’s literally just a state high school. But we were quite focused on sport, we’re a strong rugby team, I wasn’t really involved in the football.
“I just knew we were a strong rugby union team. Gareth Bale coming through and Sam Warburton playing for and captaining the Lions – it was just one of those things.
“Everyone grew up two, three, four miles around each other. It was just one of those one-off years I guess.”
Bale broke into the Premier League with Southampton in 2006 and has had spells with Tottenham and Read Madrid. The winger has won league and cup titles in Spain, four Champions League crowns and 90 caps for his national team.
Warburton was a teenage prodigy who excelled at both rugby union and football. The flanker made his professional rugby union while still a teenager and went on to star with the Cardiff Blues, Wales and the Lions before retiring from injury in 2018.
Kear can remember the pair standing out in school, but had little idea what each would later go on to do.
“I think especially for Gareth and Sam, Sam was always a level above all of us at school physically-wise,” he said.
“He was making his debut for the Welsh Premiership team, which is the league below what the Cardiff Blues play in, in sixth form at 16, 17. So you knew he was going to go on to achieve pretty big things.
“But I don’t think anyone thinks they’re going to be at school alongside someone who’s won a Champions League two or three times, and the captain of the Lions. But I’m really happy for them, they’ve been credits to their sports.”
Kear has made his own mark in his own chose sport, rugby league, scoring 74 tries in 246 career appearances. He played against Australia and England in the 2011 Four Nations and has appeared in three World Cups, with the 2021 tournament a strong target at the end of this year.
Though in terms of his famous classates, Kear jokes: “I’d like to be on their wages, that would be nice.”
Whitchurch’s other sporting alumni from that era includes Paralympian Stephen Morris, Olympic goal medallist cyclist and Tour de France winner Geraint Thomas, and former Glamorgan and Surry cricketer Tom Maynard, showing perhaps there is something special in that particular school’s waters.