Back in the land of the living…
It seems like aeons since I watched the Wizards in action, although it’s actually five weeks. Since the home match with Bargoed on March 2nd, a longstanding arrangement for a weekend celebrating a milestone birthday for the good lady led to the match at Cardiff being missed by a fair old squad of us who were away in deepest Pembrokeshire for three days and nights, then the final rounds of the Six Nations meant a predictable gap in club fixtures before illness kept me away from Llanelli last weekend (although on reflection that perhaps wasn’t such a bad thing). Hence there’s more than a hint of withdrawal symptoms of some kind. Still, during those five weeks we’ve had the conclusion of another Welsh Grand-Slam triumph, with the stuttering start to the campaign over in Paris being a far cry from what was to follow, and meanwhile the further distraction provided by the dubious entertainment value of the ‘did they?/didn’t they?’ suggestion of a Scarlets/Ospreys merger, against the background of an apparent determination on the part of the WRU to lose one of the four existing professional teams and replace it with a North Wales region (which surely comes as no surprise). Whether that would mean the disappearance of RGC 1404, or RGC 1404 morphing into a fully-funded region, or RGC 1404 continuing to compete in the Premiership as the only feeder club for the new region is as yet unclear. Goodness knows quite how the Welsh squad players managed to remain focused on the Six Nations to such a degree while their very livelihoods were subject to so much doubt – it is something that makes their achievement all the more remarkable.
However, it may be best to get used to lengthy, fixture-free gaps, with next season guaranteeing just eleven home matches. It’s understood that the Premiership programme may not begin until October because of the World Cup, and while there’s also talk of matches against some of the Scottish club sides, at the time of writing there has been nothing definite agreed.
On the subject of the reduction in size of the Premiership, it pains me somewhat to observe our visitors today currently caught up in the fierce battle to avoid the drop. It’s a position they find themselves in due to the structural changes to the club game being enforced at exactly the wrong time for them – a couple or so seasons back Cross Keys were amongst the leading lights in the division, and it has to be said that matches between our two clubs have been amongst the most entertaining. On that note, who could forget the unique atmosphere generated here at the Talbot Athletic Ground last season by a large and extremely vocal contingent of travelling French supporters who came along for the event?
At this business end of the season, one can only feel for Keys’ loyal supporters, whose hopes rest on this afternoon’s outome and results over the next few weeks. Let us not forget just five years ago this month we at Aberavon were within forty or so minutes of relegation before the legendary Ian Moore crashed over beneath the crossbar to secure the bonus-point that rescued us from the drop. The weeks, days, hours and minutes leading up to that moment were not something I’d wish to experience again, and our visitors have my sympathy.
Enjoy the game.
One of the all-time legendary names in Aberavon rugby, Billy sadly passed away earlier this week following a long battle against illness. He will be remembered far and wide as a fearless, fearsome and competitive second-row forward who won six caps for Wales in an era when international caps came few and far between, but those of us who knew him will surely remember him as the embodiment of Aberavon RFC – tough and uncompromising on the field, but a gentleman in the true sense of the word off it. He remained a regular attendee at the Talbot Athletic Ground until quite recently, and his presence will be missed by all who were privileged to have known him.
Our thoughts are with his family at this sad time.