Chairman’s End of Season Review
Saturday 25th April would have seen us enjoying the first game of the Cross Border Competition against the Scottish Super 6 with Southern Knights being the visitors to a sun drenched Eugene Cross Park.
Instead we all find ourselves in a once in a lifetime situation with a global pandemic changing our daily lives completely and possibly leading to a new normal after the current restrictions are lifted. It is fitting that the nation gathers each Thursday to thank all the key workers who are keeping food on the shelves, vital utilities running, building field hospitals in weeks and our health needs superbly catered for by all our truly heroic NHS staff. As a club we all will have family, friends and those attached to the club working in these areas and all our thoughts are with them as we ahope to emerge out of a dark period safe and well to enjoy our game and lives as soon as the authorities have the Pandemic firmly under control. In the meantime please do all you can to support all of these latter day heroes by staying home and following the requirements that have been placed on us.
As Greg outlined in his review, the season was a tough affair as we went through a transitional period on and off the field. For the more recent supporters it was a new experience to be in a battle at the bottom of the table and not at the top. Many of the players brought in have gained invaluable experience in this fight that will allow them to contribute to the future success of the club.
One of the contributory factors to our struggles has been a truly amazing injury list that kept our medical team of Dr Rhys Thomas and physios Rhys Shorney and Saran Wyburn extremely busy. It was only on our final game that the 23 named by the coaches on a Thursday actually were the 23 who represented the Steelmen in a game, such have been the injury and availability issues that have dogged the coaches and medical team over the season.
Three performances stand out for me. RGC away where we only had 21 players available but the 21 showed real steel that day in gaining a fantastic away win against all odds. The noise generated by the travelling faithful was also something to proud of. The display of forward play in defence at Llandovery, earning a draw in the worst conditions I have ever attended a rugby match in, was also a special day. Finally, the performance in beating Pontypridd at Eugene Cross Park with some Alamo like defence allowed the players to gain the win they fully deserved.
Our results improved markedly in 2020 as new recruits added quality to the team in what was a very competitive Indigo Premiership Division. The players, coaches and officials of the club were confident that we would maintain our Indigo Premiership status on the field and were disappointed not to be able to do this but were fully supportive of the decisions and measures put in place by the WRU around rugby in Wales.
As Chairman I would like to thank the Chairman, CEO and staff of the WRU for the manner in which they have dealt with the crisis, providing help in ensuring clubs survive the pandemic. The communication process to the club’s officials has also been first class and it is right that we as a club publicly state our support, confidence in and gratitude to Gareth Davies, Martin Phillips and all the staff at the WRU for the swift, clear and sensible decisions taken.
Off the field I would like to pay tribute to Karl Offers as Club Secretary for the last 18 months who has done a superb job in what has been a testing period. His work in completing a few tricky transfers during the season, particularly around Christmas, was above and beyond the call of duty. Mark Hathaway in his first season as Treasurer has replaced Alan Gall, a tough act to follow, with professionalism whilst modernising and cutting some of our off the field costs. In most clubs the post of President is an Honorary one, the club is fortunate to have Mark Powell QC as our President who works hard alongside the officials in any capacity required. These officials are backed up by a great bunch of volunteers who man gates, put programmes together, sell them, run buses, look after mascots, serve food, run social media and manage kit.
Another important part of the season saw the club welcome the Mini & Junior Rugby Section officially to the club. This will be an important element of the future of the club as the financial landscape of Welsh rugby changes. There will be a further exciting development in this area which will be revealed to you all in the next few weeks.
This year we had a significant number of sponsors without whose backing we would be unable to operate as a Premiership club. Their financial backing and enthusiasm for the club is of immeasurable value. The donations from The Friends of Ebbw Vale and individuals has been of tremendous assistance in the last 12 months and long may it continue.
Through the off field work, increased sponsorship and realigning of our cost base we will enter the next months having reduced the club’s debts by around 70%. This is a great achievement but we still have to focus on completing the job in the next 12 months which I believe is a realistic target.
I would also like to finally pay a special tribute to the players who stuck with us despite our financial situation and retained a great work ethic and team spirit despite our on field struggles. The very small coaching group of Greg, Lewis Roberts and Team Manager Darren Venn worked tirelessly through the pre season and in season to ensure we remained as an Indigo Premiership Club, accepting the financial circumstances and just getting on with the tasks in hand without complaint. All of the above deserves huge thanks from us all.
Finally a big thank you to all our supporters for sticking with us in a tough season that seemed to reserve the monsoon rain conditions for game day and we look forward to seeing you all again in the near future.
In the next few weeks we will be releasing information on our squad retention and recruitment. Prior to this we will be providing details of the coming season Coaching Set Up
Ebbw Vale RFC
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