Aberavon RFC

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Aberavon RFC
Full nameAberavon Rugby Football Club
Nickname(s)The Wizards
Welsh Wizards
Founded1876;143 years ago (1876) [1]
Location Port Talbot, Wales
Ground(s) Talbot Athletic Ground (Capacity: 3,000)
ChairmanAndrew V John
Coach(es)Jason Hyatt, Lyndon Lewis
Captain(s)Ian Moore
League(s) Welsh Premier Division
2017-1812th
Kit left arm redborder.png
Kit left arm.svg
Kit body blackhoops.png
Kit body.svg
Kit right arm redborder.png
Kit right arm.svg
Kit shorts.svg
Kit socks long.svg
Team kit
Official website
www.aberavonwizards.co.uk

Aberavon RFC (Welsh : Clwb Rygbi Aberafan) is a rugby union club located in the Welsh town of Port Talbot, though the club's name refers to the older settlement of Aberavon which lies on the western side of the town.

Welsh language Brythonic language spoken natively in Wales

Welsh or y Gymraeg is a member of the Brittonic branch of the Celtic languages. It is spoken natively in Wales, by some in England, and in Y Wladfa. Historically, it has also been known in English as "Cambrian", "Cambric" and "Cymric".

Rugby union Team sport, code of rugby football

Rugby union, commonly known in most of the world simply as rugby, is a contact team sport which originated in England in the first half of the 19th century. One of the two codes of rugby football, it is based on running with the ball in hand. In its most common form, a game is between two teams of 15 players using an oval-shaped ball on a rectangular field with H-shaped goalposts on each try line.

Wales Country in northwest Europe, part of the United Kingdom

Wales is a country that is part of the United Kingdom and the island of Great Britain. It is bordered by England to the east, the Irish Sea to the north and west, and the Bristol Channel to the south. It had a population in 2011 of 3,063,456 and has a total area of 20,779 km2 (8,023 sq mi). Wales has over 1,680 miles (2,700 km) of coastline and is largely mountainous, with its higher peaks in the north and central areas, including Snowdon, its highest summit. The country lies within the north temperate zone and has a changeable, maritime climate.

Contents

The club was founded in 1876 as Afan Football Club, and changed names several times before settling on Aberavon Rugby Football Club. They joined the Welsh Rugby Union in 1887 and are feeder club to the Ospreys region.

The Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) is the governing body of rugby union in the country of Wales, recognised by the sport's international governing body, World Rugby.

Ospreys (rugby union) rugby union team

The Ospreys, formerly the Neath-Swansea Ospreys was one of the four professional rugby union teams from Wales. They competed in the Pro14 and the European Rugby Champions Cup. The team formed as a result of Neath RFC and Swansea RFC combining to create a new merged entity, as part of the new regional structure of Welsh rugby, that began in 2003. They are also affiliated with a number of local semi-professional and amateur clubs, including Welsh Premier Division sides Aberavon RFC, Bridgend Ravens, and original founding clubs Neath and Swansea. The regional area represented by the team has widely become known for rugby purposes as 'Ospreylia'.

History

Early history

Although not a founding member of the Welsh Rugby Union, rugby has been played at Aberavon since before the union's conception. In the 1870s Mansel tinplate works was built in the area, and its proprietors, Col. D. R. David and Sir Sidney Byass encouraged the local workers to form a rugby team. [2] The earliest game being recorded in the Western Mail on 4 November 1878 against a team from Bridgend. Like many early Welsh clubs the teams met at a local hotel, originally the dour Castle Hotel before moving to the more luxurious Hong Kong Hotel. [3]

<i>Western Mail</i> (Wales) newspaper published in Wales

The Western Mail is a daily newspaper published by Media Wales Ltd in Cardiff, Wales owned by the UK's largest newspaper company, Trinity Mirror. The Sunday edition of the newspaper is published under the title Wales on Sunday.

In 1882 Aberavon took part in the South Wales Challenge Cup, their first competitive game, and in the 1886/87 season Aberavon RFC applied to and were accepted into the WRU. By 1897 Aberavon RFC were able to boast their first capped player, when Dan Jones was selected for Wales to play against England. [4]

Daniel Jones was a Welsh international rugby union scrum-half who played club rugby for Aberavon and international rugby for Wales. He is known as being the first player to represent Aberavon at international level. Jones was a tinplate furnaceman by occupation and lived in Taibach all his life.

England Country in north-west Europe, part of the United Kingdom

England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Wales to the west and Scotland to the north-northwest. The Irish Sea lies west of England and the Celtic Sea lies to the southwest. England is separated from continental Europe by the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south. The country covers five-eighths of the island of Great Britain, which lies in the North Atlantic, and includes over 100 smaller islands, such as the Isles of Scilly and the Isle of Wight.

A victorious Aberavon team a day after beating a Cork team on a tour of Ireland, 13 April 1909 Aberavon April 13, 1909.jpg
A victorious Aberavon team a day after beating a Cork team on a tour of Ireland, 13 April 1909

In 1907 Aberavon RFC moved to the Central Athletic Ground and in 1913 Miss Emily Charlotte Talbot gave exclusive rights to the club to use the pitch and granted them a lease for 39 years, giving needed stability. An indicator of Aberavon's growing success occurred in 1908, when a joint Neath/Aberavon team was chosen as one of the teams to face the first touring Australian side. [5] The match turned out to be an ill played affair with poor discipline on all sides, the Wallabies eventually won the game 15-0.

Neath RFC Welsh rugby union club

Neath Rugby Football Club is a Welsh rugby union club which plays in the Welsh Premier Division. The club's home ground is The Gnoll, Neath. The first team is known as the All Blacks because of the team colours: black with only a white cross pattée as an emblem. Neath RFC is the oldest rugby club in Wales, having been formed in 1871. They are feeder club to the Ospreys regional team.

Australia national rugby union team national team representing Australia in rugby union

The Australia national rugby union team, nicknamed the Wallabies, is controlled by Rugby Australia. The team first played at Sydney in 1899, winning their first test match against the touring British Isles team.

In 1914 following the outbreak of World War I, the committee of Aberavon RFC decided that rugby football should cease until the end of hostilities. During the war years their ground was sectioned off to be made into allotments to help the war effort. [5]

World War I 1914–1918 global war originating in Europe

World War I, also known as the First World War or the Great War, was a global war originating in Europe that lasted from 28 July 1914 to 11 November 1918. Contemporaneously described as "the war to end all wars", it led to the mobilisation of more than 70 million military personnel, including 60 million Europeans, making it one of the largest wars in history. It is also one of the deadliest conflicts in history, with an estimated nine million combatants and seven million civilian deaths as a direct result of the war, while resulting genocides and the 1918 influenza pandemic caused another 50 to 100 million deaths worldwide.

1919-1945

In 1921 the Central Athletic Ground was relaid and a stand erected; Aberavon RFC returned to their home ground. During the 1920/21 season, W.H. Taylor of The Evening Post, dubbed the club The Wizards of the West. The name stuck and was shortened sometimes to 'The Welsh Wizards' or just 'The Wizards', the nickname stays with the club to this day.

In 1932 Aberavon Supporters Club reformed, after an initial attempt failed in 1920, and by 1932 they had begun producing the first official match programme. 1935 saw The Central Athletic ground being renamed the Talbot Athletic Ground.

Post World War II

In 1952 Aberavon RFC changed their shirt colours for the final time to red and black hoops; and later that year succeeded in becoming the absolute owners of the Talbot Athletic ground. The expansion of the local steel works in the 1950s also aided in bringing new enthusiasts to the area and this was reflected in one of Aberavon RFC's most successful periods. [2]

Twice in the 1970s Aberavon reached the final of the WRU Challenge Cup. On both occasions, in 1974 and 1975, the club lost by a slight margin to the tournament's most successful team Llanelli. In 1976 Aberavon played the Argentina national team which toured Wales and England and lost by 18 points to 6. [6] However,in the same season they defeated the touring Italian national team.

In 1988 disagreement between leading players and the club's committee over sponsorship issues and more generally the style and structure of the club's management escalated into a bitter dispute that ended with the majority of the previous season's squad leaving the club. As a result, Aberavon struggled for much of the following season, although they did upset the odds by defeating a touring Western Samoan team by 22 points to 11 on 26 October 1988. The poor results arising from this situation, however, led to the club being streamed into the second tier when the Welsh Rugby Union introduced a league system in 1990, and despite subsequently winning promotion to the top tier, they were never really able to sustain the position for any length of time.

When rugby union turned professional in the mid-1990s, it quickly became clear that Aberavon RFC had neither the financial resources nor the ambition, at least at committee level, to seek a return to the upper echelon of the Welsh club game, instead appearing to settle for a regular position in the second tier, much to the frustration of their loyal supporter base. Financial difficulties encountered by several Welsh clubs, most notably by neighbours and great rivals Neath who went bust on at least two occasion (only to be "bailed out" by the WRU and a team of local businessmen), served only to reinforce this cautious approach until the realization that in such circumstances club committee members may find themselves liable for uncleared debts. This in turn led to the club being incorporated as a limited company run by a board of directors, which was essentially what the players were seeking in 1988. With a management structure more aligned to the professional era now in place, there followed a highly successful period under coach Chris O'Callaghan (who had been one of those players to have left the club in frustration twelve years earlier, and who had been approached by the club's committee in November 1999 to take the helm following a string of disastrous results), but promotion to the game's top tier was then repeatedly blocked by successive rule changes made by the Welsh Rugby Union (on one occasion a matter of a few weeks before the season ended), until the game in Wales was restructured in 2003, at which point Aberavon RFC found itself frustratingly outside looking in as the new professional "regions" were set up.

In May 2002 Aberavon and Pontypool finished at the top of Division 1 on the same number of league points and the same number of tries but the Wizards took the title on a better for/against points ratio. Aberavon then faced a two-legged play-off with Caerphilly, who had been relegated from the Premier Division. Aberavon lost the play-off (66-27 on aggregate) and remained in Division 1 for the 2002/3 season. The play-off was scrapped after this season.

In May 2003, the same scenario as the previous season occurred with both Pontypool and Aberavon locked in a two horse race for the title. Due to the clubs' original January fixture being rearranged, the league title would be decided in a winner-takes-all clash at the Talbot Athletic Ground on 13 May 2003. Aberavon were defeated 40-12. They finished the 2002/3 season as Division 1 runners up after winning the championship the previous two seasons.

Since then the club has gradually established a good working relationship with the Ospreys regional team, with O'Callaghan eventually stepping down from the coaching role in 2004 to be succeeded by Kevin Hopkins, who in turn was succeeded by current incumbent Simon King, and currently working with the region in the development of talented young players.

Club nickname

Small red toy wizards adorn the tops of the rugby posts at their ground, and the figure of a wizard has adorned the players' kit as the club's emblem since the mid-1970s. One theory of the nickname 'The Wizards' is thought to have been based on the many workers who came to Port Talbot in the 19th century from the Carmarthen area, strongly associated with the legendary wizard Merlin. So many of them lived in one street that it was named 'Carmarthen Row'; Talbot Athletic Ground was built near Carmarthen Row. The more generally accepted view, however, is that the nickname was coined by South Wales Evening Post reporter Bill Taylor during the 1920s, when he dubbed the highly successful Aberavon team of that era "The Wizards of the West".

Club honours

Current squad

Note: Flags indicate national union as has been defined under WR eligibility rules. Players may hold more than one non-WR nationality.

PlayerPositionUnion
Ricky Guest Hooker Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg Wales
Christian Richards Hooker Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg Wales
Gareth Harvey Hooker Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg Wales
Mike Harris Prop Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg Wales
Neil White Prop Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg Wales
Lloyd Howell Prop Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg Wales
Rowan Jenkins Prop Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg Wales
Anthony Edwards Prop Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg Wales
James Jones Prop Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg Wales
Ian Poley Prop Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg Wales
Ryan Bevington Prop Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg Wales
Gavin Ronan Lock Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg Wales
Ian Moore Lock Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg Wales
Chris Gittins Lock Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg Wales
Rhydian Gierat Lock Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg Wales
James King Lock Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg Wales
Aaron Bray Flanker Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg Wales
Darryl Thomas Flanker Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg Wales
Chris Davies(c) Flanker Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg Wales
Justin Tipuric Flanker Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg Wales
Ben Thomas Flanker Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg Wales
Sam Williams Flanker Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg Wales
Richard Morris Number 8 Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg Wales
Nathan Brown Number 8 Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg Wales
PlayerPositionUnion
Rhys Webb Scrum-half Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg Wales
David Pritchard Scrum-half Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg Wales
Daniel Davies Scrum-half Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg Wales
Andrew Jenkins Scrum-half Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg Wales
Jamie Davies Fly-half Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg Wales
Ben John Centre Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg Wales
Ashley Beck Centre Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg Wales
Chris Tossell Centre Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg Wales
Liam Gadd Centre Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg Wales
Will Price Centre Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg Wales
Steve Davies Wing Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg Wales
Richard Thomas Wing Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg Wales
Paul Bamsey Wing Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg Wales
Chris Lewis Fullback Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg Wales
Luke Hathaway Fullback Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg Wales
Marc Bennett Fullback Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg Wales

Notable former players

The below list contains players that have represented Aberavon and have been capped at international level.

  

Since the restructuring of the game in Wales, the route for club players to gain international honours is via the game's professional tier, therefore it is unlikely that any future player will be selected for international rugby directly from the club. However, in recent years representative honours have come in the form of invitations to play for the world-famous Barbarians FC. In 2006 Richard Morris was called up to represent the Barbarians in the annual Remembrance Match, scoring the first and last tries in a 33-25 victory. Two years later it was the turn of lock Chris Gittins to represent the Wizards in the same fixture in a 33-14 victory.

Games played against international opposition

YearDateOpponentResultScoreTour
1908115 OctoberFlag of Australia (converted).svg  Australia Loss0-15 1908–09 Australia rugby union tour of Britain
1931128 NovemberFlag of South Africa.svg  South Africa Loss3-8 1931–32 South Africa rugby union tour
1935114 DecemberFlag of New Zealand.svg  New Zealand Loss3-13 1935-36 New Zealand tour
1947125 OctoberFlag of Australia (converted).svg  Australia Loss9-19 1947-48 Australia tour
1951117 NovemberFlag of South Africa.svg  South Africa Loss0-22 1951–52 South Africa rugby union tour
1954123 JanuaryFlag of New Zealand.svg  New Zealand Loss5-11 1953–54 New Zealand tour
1957128 DecemberFlag of Australia (converted).svg  Australia Loss3-5 1957–58 Australia tour
1973124 JanuaryFlag of New Zealand.svg  New Zealand Loss3-43 1972-73 New Zealand tour
19766 OctoberFlag of Argentina.svg  Argentina Loss6-18 1976 Argentina tour of Wales and England [10]
19761 NovemberFlag of Italy.svg  Italy Win13-41976 Italy rugby union tour of Britain
19829 November Flag of New Zealand.svg New Zealand Māori Loss6-34 1982 New Zealand Māori rugby union tour of Wales
198826 OctoberFlag of Samoa.svg  Samoa Win21-11 1988 Samoa rugby union tour of Britain and Ireland [11]

1 These matches were played by a joint Neath/Aberavon team.

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References

  1. Rothmans Rugby Yearbook 1981-82 ed. Vivian Jenkins ISBN   0-907574-05-X
  2. 1 2 Fields of Praise, The Official History of the Welsh Rugby Union 1881-1981, David Smith, Gareth Williams (1980) pp27 ISBN   0-7083-0766-3
  3. Fields of Praise, The Official History of the Welsh Rugby Union 1881-1981, David Smith, Gareth Williams (1980) pp100 ISBN   0-7083-0766-3
  4. Fields of Praise, The Official History of the Welsh Rugby Union 1881-1981, David Smith, Gareth Williams (1980) pp467 ISBN   0-7083-0766-3
  5. 1 2 Fields of Praise, The Official History of the Welsh Rugby Union 1881-1981, David Smith, Gareth Williams (1980) pp300 ISBN   0-7083-0766-3
  6. Jenkins, Vivian (1977). Rothmans Rugby Yearbook 1977-78. Macdonald and Jane's. pp. 52–53. ISBN   0-354-09020-8.
  7. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 7 December 2013. Retrieved 2014-06-06.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  8. Fields of Praise, The Official History of the Welsh Rugby Union 1881-1981, David Smith, Gareth Williams (1980) pp464 ISBN   0-7083-0766-3
  9. The Rugby Clubs of Wales pp48, David Parry-Jones (1989) ISBN   0-09-173850-4
  10. Jenkins, Vivian (1977). Rothmans Rugby Yearbook 1977-78. Macdonald and Jane's. p. 52. ISBN   0-354-09020-8.
  11. Jones, Stephen, ed. (1989). Rothmans Rugby Union Yearbook 1989-90. London: Queen Anne Press. p. 38. ISBN   0356178625.