Neath Rugby News

Neath RFC Pre-Season Supporters Day

Neath RFC will be holding a pre-season supporters day on Saturday 7th July, starting at midday. As the players will train in the morning of that day there will be an opportunity to meet this years squad and get to know them over a beer and a burger.

Also on the day we will be introducing our new kit suppliers who will be doing a presentation on the new range of kit they will be selling and how you can purchase it through an online club shop, which they will be managing the whole process of. Even more exciting is they will be presenting three Neath playing kit designs and supporters can vote on the day to choose which kit design will go into production for this season. The new kit suppliers spent a day recently at the Gnoll looking at the array of Neath squad photos on the clubhouse wall. They were really impressed by the iconic kits that the Neath teams have worn over the decades and thus they will be presenting a 70s design, an 80s design and a modern design for supporters to choose from.

There will be a presentation from the coaches and management about the progress of pre-season training with an opportunity to ask the players, coaches and management any questions about the forthcoming season.

We are looking to make it a very family orientated day so stay tuned for details of what else there will be putting on to make it a great day out for the family. If you have any suggestions of what you’d like as entertainment for the family on the day yourself please email our new representative on the Neath Operations Team, Gerald Morris on gerald.morris4@hotmail.co.uk

Finally there will be the opportunity to buy season tickets on the day as it will still be in the early bird offer period. We are just in the process of updating the administration documents and payment mechanisms for the season tickets and then the full details will be announced.

Please save the date, Saturday 7th July from midday. It’s going to be an action packed day with plenty to entertain the whole family.

Supporters Favourite Joins The Back Room Team

Recently retired prop and fans favourite Neil ‘Chalky’ White has joined the Neath rugby management team as Assistant Team Manager. He will assist current Team Manager Martyn Morris with all of the logistics, administration and management of the playing squad to ensure operations run as smoothly as possible. Before enjoying two seasons with Neath, Chalky played for Swansea for a season and for Aberavon for ten seasons so he is very experienced in all things Premiership in the Ospreys region.

The appointment will also give Martyn Morris, who was awarded with the Clubman of the year award this season, much needed help in running the rugby operations. Martyn commented on the appointment, ‘We’ve known for some time that this was going to be Neil’s last season as a player. He informed me of his desire to one day be a Team Manager which put the wheels in motion for this new role for him. He’s got a strong understanding of the Premiership, a willingness to learn and having played for Neath for the past two seasons he knows what a special club it is and what a privilege it is to be part of the team here.’

Neil commented on his new role at the Club, ‘having now finished playing I’m really looking forward to this new role and new challenge. Playing for Neath is one thing, but when Martyn offered me this role I was really taken aback and honoured at the opportunity to work alongside him and Lyn who are massive names in the history of the Club. I’ve always wanted to be a Team Manager and when I sat down with Lyn to discuss the role I didn’t quite realise the importance of it. It’s not just the administration and logistics you’ve got to get right, it’s also about helping the coaches and backroom staff create the right environment for the players to perform on the pitch. I’ve got a lot to learn but I’ve got no better people to learn off. I can’t wait to get started.’

NEATH – ACADEMY ALLOCATION

Despite the introduction of regional Under-23 sides for the new season, Neath will still hope to see plenty of four of their young Ospreys Academy stars – Keiran Williams, Tiaan Thomas-Wheeler, Reuben Morgan-Williams and Garin Lloyd in 2018/19.

All four have emerged from the Neath locality and represented either Neath or Swansea Valley Schools and have already worn the senior All Black shirt with pride, showing no little promise in the process.

But the Blacks will not be seeing Luke Scully, the young Seven Sisters outside-half who played so well at the end of 2017/18 as he has been signed by Worcester on a development contract.

It is unlikely too that Luke Price will be available as he is stepping up to the Ospreys senior squad following Dan Biggar’s departure to Northampton.

Neath team manager Martyn Morris said, “We will as ever be delighted to see Keiran, Tiaan, Reuben and Garin whenever they are available. They are all eager to learn, show an excellent attitude to training and with their roots firmly in the Neath District they know what playing for the Club means. We are glad that they are still on board and can still play a part in their development.”

Neath RFC Add To Operational Team

Neath RFC have formalised their backroom operational team to ensure the business of Neath RFC is run more effectively, smoothly and joined up. Neath RFC General Manager, Will Thomas, commented ‘when I got back involved at Neath there seemed to be a lot of people all working under their own steam and not maximising the effectiveness of each other and of the assets of Neath such as the Gnoll and clubhouse. I’ve put together an operational team that should ensure we are lot more joined up between the rugby department, the club house, the commercial and comms team and the supporters club.’

The operational team will consist of:
Will Thomas, General Manager
Mike Price, Director and Club Secretary
Dai Shaw, Director
Gareth Howells, Commercial and Marketing Manager
Keith Hatherall, Club House and Events
Gerald Morris, Special Projects & Supporter Engagement
Supporters Club Representative (Len, Dawn or Huw)
Colin Chapman, Website Manager
Martyn Morris, Team Manager

The operational team will meet fortnightly and work together focusing on the four main aims of:
Creating a Winning Neath RFC
1. Maximising and Diversifying Income for Neath RFC
2. Interacting With The Neath Supporters and Neath Community
3. Developing A Winning Facility
4. Better Communicating Our Activities

Mike Price, Director of Neath Rugby Ltd, commented ‘it’s clear that we will have a new dawn on the pitch next season with a top class Head Coach in Lyn Jones and some exciting new playing talent joining the Welsh All Blacks. We need to make sure that our off field operations match the professionalism and results of the guys on the pitch so that we can keep getting better season upon season.’

Will Thomas added ‘it’s really good to be working again with some old faces like Keith on the club house and events side of things and he also brings with him an abundance of commercial experience along with a load of energy, he definitely makes things happen.’

The team will continually be looking for experienced and skilled volunteers to join them. We’ve got some big plans for Neath RFC and the Gnoll over the next twenty four months and if you have a skill set that you feel could help Neath RFC please contact Will Thomas on wthomas873@gmail.com

DAI MORRIS M.B.E.

Neath rugby people – indeed, rugby people across the globe – will be delighted to hear that former Welsh All Blacks and Wales back row forward Dai Morris has been awarded the MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list.

Dai Morris joined Neath in March 1963 making his debut against Loughborough Colleges and rapidly established himself in the all-powerful Neath pack of the time as an iron-hard, scrupulously clean, try-scoring No.8 with an uncanny instinct for being in the right place at the right time.

He was an integral member of the Neath team which carried all before them in winning the Welsh championship and the Anglo-Welsh title in 1966/67 and his talents were recognised by the Welsh selectors when he won his first Wales cap against France in Paris on April 1, 1967.

That was to be his first of 34 caps (a then record for a Neath forward, overtaking the great Rees Stephens) through to 1974 and Dai’s final cap against England. He also played in then non-capped games against Argentine (twice in 1968), Fiji (1969) and Canada (1971).

A quiet, self-effacing and most widely respected member of the successful Wales sides of the time, Dai was an outstanding support runner, never far away from the ball, so much so that the great Gareth Edwards dubbed him his “Shadow” and this invaluable quality helped Dai make many tries for Wales.

He scored 6 tries himself too – his first coming in only his second international against England in 1967, then against Ireland (1969), Australia (1969), Scotland (1970), France (1970) and his last against Australia in 1973. He toured Argentina (1968) and New Zealand (1969) with Wales but was a reluctant air-traveller and this probably cost him his place on the Lions tour of 1971.

He established a new record for a Neath forward in 1964/65 when he crossed for 23 tries. That feat was matched by fellow back rower Mike Thomas in 1970/71 and, alongside Scotland international Wilson Lauder, they formed a brilliant back row in the Neath centenary team which created special history by winning the inaugural Welsh Cup in 1971/72.

Dai’s outstanding footballing skills shone through too in the sevens game and he was a member of the Neath teams which won the Snelling Sevens in 1964 and 1970.

Despite suffering a career-threatening knee injury in October 1974, Dai battled his way back and carried on playing for Neath until 1977 when he departed the first-class scene with over 400 appearances for Neath and he scored 146 tries for the Blacks. He also appeared for the Barbarians and for many other select and representative sides but his career was not done as he continued playing for many years for his home village club Rhigos RFC.

Neath secretary Mike Price said, “Without any doubt at all, Dai Morris is one of the best and most popular rugby football players ever to grace the great Game. Everybody at Neath congratulates him on this honour which is very well deserved – his recognition by Her Majesty is entirely appropriate and the award will be truly appreciated in Neath and across Wales. ”

* The Neath club has double reason to celebrate as an MBE was also awarded to Janet Waldron, daughter of Ron, for her services to education. So it is congratulations all round !

TIAAN LINES UP AGAINST JAPAN U-20

18 year-old Tiaan Thomas-Wheeler will make his Wales U-20 debut at centre tomorrow against Japan at the Stade Aimé Giral in Perpignan (kick off 17:30).

Tiaan, a student at Neath College, made his senior Neath bow at the Brewery Field in April and impressed many observers. Also in the side are Bridgend hooker Dewi Lake who played twice for Neath last season and Neath College winger Dewi Cross while Max Llewellyn is on the bench.

The game will be televised live by S4C.

PROPS SIGN ON

As pre-season training fast approaches at the end of this month, Neath have added to their front row strength by adding two big young prop forwards – Keelan Marney and Tyla Murvai.

In strictly alphabetical order, Keelan Marney, a Neath College and Glynneath product, is now 21 and has already played for Neath but spent last season with Pontypridd. With strong roots in the Melyn area of the Town, Keelan is the heavier of the two and is raring to go with his home town Club.

Tyla Murvai joins after a very successful season with Championship high-riders Trebanos after graduating from Vardre Youth. The 20 year old electrician who works in Neath is 6’1” tall, tips the scales at over 18 stones and, like Keelan, can play on either side of the scrum.

The pair will comprise a solid bunch of front row technicians alongside the previously announced new signing Luke Garrett (Dragons) and the already established Ben Uphill, Ryan Thomas and Liam Tobias.

Neath coach Lyn Jones said, “The Neath club has a tremendous tradition of producing top-quality front row forwards and it is essential that we have a strong scrummaging base ahead of what is a very important season.

“Tyla and Keelan are both good scrummagers – they have the physique to compete at this level and will benefit from a pre-season with us. We look forward to them coming on board, working hard and fulfilling their potential by making an impression with us.

“If they put in the hard work expected of them and all Neath players, we believe they could come on very quickly,” said Jones who as coach has never worried about giving deserving youth its chance.

Former Neath internationals Duncan Jones, Adam Jones and Paul James are obvious and recent prop examples.

So it is welcome aboard, Keelan and Tyla – train hard and Gnoll supporters look forward to seeing you both in the famous All Black shirt.

Aaron Bramwell Returns To Neath

Neath RFC have re-signed former Neath RFC favourite, full back and centre Aaron Bramwell from Bedwas.

Next season will be Aaron’s third spell with the club having amassed 130 appearances for Neath from when he started out at seventeen years of age. Aaron played all way for the Wales age grade levels in his formative years being capped at U16, U18, U19 and U21 level. He also played for Wales for two seasons on the World 7s circuit.


Images courtesy of Len Kowalski of www.lensworkphotography.co.uk @neathtog

Thirty two year old Bramwell will bring a lot of Premiership experience and also versatility as he can play equally well at full back, centre and has also slotted in at outside half and wing during his Premiership career.

The Glynneath product who lives in the Cimla in Neath commented on his excitement in returning to his home club. ‘I’m really happy to be back at my home town club that I supported as a kid and really looking forward ot putting back on the Neath shirt as it means a lot to me being a Neath boy. Next season is shaping up to be a crucial year and I’m going to work hard to get the club back to where we belong, competing at the top of the Premiership as should be expected from such a historical club. I hope to take this opportunity with both hands and can’t wait to work with Lyn Jones and Paul Williams.’

Neath RFC Head Coach commented on the signing ‘Aaron clearly brings much needed experience and versatility to us. Equally important in bringing Aaron and Ashley Evans back to Neath is we want a team that is representative of the town and the supporters of Neath. Aaron in particular is a real fans favourite so I know he’ll be very warmly welcomed back.’

So, welcome back on board Aaron – everybody is looking forward to seeing you run out again at The Gnoll and brining success back to Neath.

WELCOME BACK ASHLEY EVANS!

Neath RFC have re-signed former Wales Under-20’s wing Ashley Evans from Llanelli.

The Glynneath-based three-quarter who works in the Neath area, returns for a second spell at The Gnoll having made 30 appearances already for the Welsh All Blacks up to 2015/16 when he departed mid-season for Parc-y-Scarlets.

Ashley has regional experience with both Ospreys and Scarlets and figured regularly in 2017/18 for the Llanelli in the Premiership where he has made 37 appearances.

Educated at Llangatwg Comprehensive School then at Neath College, the 5’11, 13 stone winger who turned 24 last month will add extra quality to Neath’s back division next year.

Talking of his return to The Gnoll, Ashley said, “To be honest, I never really wanted to leave but at the time Llanelli offered me a second crack at making a return to full-time rugby. Neath were very good in not standing in my way then and it would be nice to re-pay that by scoring a few tries in what is a handy-looking back division.

“I’m looking forward to committing myself to Neath in the Premiership and I am really excited about working with a top class coach like Lyn Jones. I know a lot of the boys already and Neath have made some really good signings, looking towards the top end of the table next year rather than the bottom.”

Neath RFC Head Coach Lyn Jones said, “Ashley is a very talented player who has a lot to offer. He is a sound all-round rugby footballer with good skills and positional sense. He has already packed in a lot of experience and is now entering the prime stage of his career as a wing. We will be looking to bring the best out of him over next and future seasons.”

So, welcome back on board Ashley – everybody is looking forward to seeing you run out again at The Gnoll.

HALL of FAME – HIGHLIGHTS

Neath Rugby Supporters Club Annual Presentation & Hall Of Fame Induction Evening

The annual awards evening was a great success.
A summary of the awards are as follows:

Neath RFC Supporters Club Hall Of Fame Induction 2017/18:
Grahame Hodgson
Mike Richards
Carl Gnojek
David Morgan
Adam Jones

Neath RFC Hall Of Fame Presentation
Supporters Club Player Of The Year
Sion Crocker

Neath RFC Hall Of Fame Presentation
Departing Players Awards
Geraint James
Aled Morris
Matthew Pearce
Matthew Davies

Neath RFC Hall Of Fame Presentation
Magic Moment – Matthew Davies


Neath RFC Hall Of Fame Presentation

Most Improved Player – Liam Tobias

Neath RFC Hall Of Fame Presentation
Best Newcomer – Mike Evans

A FOND FAREWELL

Now that the dust has settled on the 2017/18 campaign, Neath RFC bid a sincere thank-you and a fond farewell to some familiar faces who will not be around next season.

Of the forwards, prop Neil White who joined in 2016/17 from Swansea after playing over 200 games for Aberavon has decided to hang up his boots. In his two seasons, Neil made 43 appearances for the Blacks but says, “I will still be around whether it’s giving a hand with the kit or whatever. Rugby is a big part of my life and always will be.”

Hooker Aled Morris is heading for warmer climes as he has accepted a post in Bahrain and will leave during the summer. “Neath means a lot to me,” said Morris who has made 66 appearances for Neath. “There was a tear in my eye when I left the field at Carmarthen on Saturday. Whenever I return there is only one place for me and that is The Gnoll.”

Giant lock Matthew Davies will be taking up a full-time contract with the Scarlets. Having joined Neath from Nantyffyllon, he has the physique to play at the top level and has developed this season with 34 appearances to date. “I love being at Neath,who gave me a chance after the Ospreys lost interest,” he said, “but a chance to play full time is too good an opportunity to turn down. If it doesn’t work out I’d like to come back to Neath.”

Meanwhile Luke Scully, the Neath College outside-half who has been playing on permit from Seven Sisters is heading to Worcester and a full-time Academy contract. It is a tragedy for Welsh rugby that this exciting talent is being allowed to leave the Principality as he has already shown outstanding potential for Neath but all at The Gnoll hope that one day he will return.

Prop forward Geraint James (85 appearances) is joining Aberavon while utility back Geraint Llewellyn (28 appearances) is to pursue opportunities closer to home. Team Manager Martyn Morris said, “On behalf of the club and its supporters, I would like to thank all the departing players who have served Neath well. The past season was a very difficult one for us, it was often a case of ‘all hands on deck’ and these lads answered the call. We wish them every success for the future.

“With injuries afflicting several others who started the season with us, we have room in the squad and have already announced four new signings – Regan King, Luke Garrett, Scott Andrews and Lloyd Evans. Further signings have been completed and will be announced just as soon as their existing contracts expire in line with the Premiership protocol.”

GARETH WILLIAMS

Neath RFC is saddened to learn of the death of former Bridgend, Wales and British Lions No.8 Gareth Williams after a lengthy illness.

Although very much a Bridgend man, Welsh Secondary Schools cap Gareth’s first-class debut actually came with Neath when he appeared at the tail-end of the 1974/75 season having been recommended to the Club by school-master Grahame Hodgson but Bridgend was his home club and he went on to enjoy a very distinguished career at the Brewery Field.

Neath secretary Mike Price said, “I was still in school when Gareth played for Neath but I remember him playing, if memory serves me right, alongside Wilson Lauder and Steve Williams in the back-row in a tight win over Newport in an absolutely torrential downpour at The Gnoll. Gareth was a very talented rugby footballer, one of the nice guys of Welsh rugby and the Neath Club’s sympathies are extended to his family and many friends.”