St. david's press

Nerves of Steele

December 2016

Reprinted with revisions
Feb 2017




978 1 902719 504




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St.David's Press

Nerves of Steele


Phil Steele
with Anthony Bunko

Foreword by Dennis Gethin


'What’s most impressive about Phil Steele’s story is how he has ridden terrible waves of depression, loss, injury and disappointment, often sinking into unimaginable troughs of despair, but has fought back to forge a career working in the sport he has always loved: rugby.'

'Phil is a big part of the make-up of Welsh rugby. His familiar face and voice on television and radio is a staple diet of rugby reporting today. Phil is extremely popular with all the players - and a very funny man!'
Sam Warburton, Wales and British & Irish Lions captain

'In the early 1980s when Welsh rugby was not exactly overflowing with gifted players, I went to cover a match at Rodney Parade where one player that caught my eye was an unknown young full back named Phil Steele, he was a breath of fresh air.’
Barry John, Wales and British & Irish Lions

‘I’ve been lucky enough to get to know Phil during my time as Wales coach. He is an excellent broadcaster who genuinely wants Wales and Welsh players to excel and I respect his friendly and personal approach. I also admire the fact that he has been able to do this while facing personal and life changing challenges.’
Warren Gatland, Ireland, Wales and British & Irish Lions coach

'I found traditional learning in a classroom very difficult and Mr. Steele, as he was known to me then, gave me a release from the classroom by introducing me to a rugby ball knowing that I was at my happiest out on the pitch.  That was the start of my sporting journey and I owe Phil a lot for his time and effort, on and off the field, and for the great support and advice he gave me and my family.'
Lee Byrne, Wales and British and Irish Lions

Phil Steele embodies all that is great about the culture of Welsh rugby. His strength of character and sense of fun are all the more impressive given some of the dark and devastating times he has endured. His candour in discussing his experience of depression has given others the courage to do the same and helped remove the stigma of an issue that touches so many people. I am proud and privileged to call him a friend.'
Carolyn Hitt, Writer and Broadcaster


Phil Steele, the popular and widely respected rugby broadcaster and after-dinner speaker, is known for his humour and jovial demeanour but the truth is that the man who can make audiences cry with laughter has fought a life-long battle against crippling bouts of depression and anxiety, heightened by heartbreak and tragedy in his personal life. Nerves of Steele is a remarkable story and reveals the real Phil Steele, a man known only by his very closest friends and family.

The Cardiff-born 'Ely Boy', who dreamed of playing for Wales, suffered his first bout of debilitating clinical depression when he saw his promising rugby career with Newport RFC wrecked by injury at only 23, just as his eye-catching performances had earned him a call up to the Wales B squad.

The curse of mental illness and its malevolent twin, chronic anxiety, hung over Phil for years who describes his suffering as 'like living under a cloak of constant unease' and at times even sapped his will to go on living. His vulnerability was repeatedly tested by losing both parents whilst still in his twenties, his younger sister to alcoholism and his beloved wife Liz who died from a brain tumour aged 48, only a month after being diagnosed.

Nerves of Steele is, however, an uplifting story of how, despite all the mental anguish and personal tragedy, Phil’s determination, strength of character and infectious personality has enabled him to conquer his condition and live a full and rewarding personal and professional life.

With mental illness believed to affect one in every four people, Nerves of Steele will resonate with those that have experienced it themselves as well as their loved ones who've also been affected by it - and offer them all real hope for the future.


Foreword by Dennis Gethin
1. Plaster of Paris - and Panic
2. My Family and other 'A' Levels
3. The College of Knowledge
4. In a 'Newport State of Mind'
5. Marriage, Birth and Deaths
6. Drinking at the Well and Speakeasy
7. Special Kids, Special Times
8. To Be or Not To Be ... A Teacher?
9. Headphones and Headaches
10. Team Kate
11. Blowing the Whistle on Depression


Also of interest

'this rugby spellbound people'
The Birth of Rugby
in Cardiff & Wales

The King's Cup 1919
Rugby's First 'World Cup'

Spikey - 2 Hard to Handle

The Indomitable
Frank Whitcombe

The Wizards
Aberavon Rugby 1876-2017