The season was always going to be a hard and uncompromising challenge with such a big squad turnover in the summer and it turned out to be as tough as we expected. We had four main aims as a club at the start of the season and those were to (i) be competitive and stay in the Welsh Premiership (ii) bring our rugby budget to a manageable and sustainable level (iii) bring through the best local talent and (iv) work closely with the mini and junior sections of the club to create a vibrant hub of rugby in Blaenau Gwent. In big parts I felt we achieved some of those aims and we will continue to work on these and improve on them through season 2020/21.
The effort and work rate of the squad throughout the season was remarkable. Some players gained valuable Welsh Premiership experience in pressure situations and this will only benefit us long term. As a head coach all you can ask for is maximum effort and the desire to give their all and they certainly did that. We had some bad losses along the way but also some memorable wins no more so than an away victory in RGC when our squad was decimated. The raw emotion and the feeling generated from everyone (fans included) at the final whistle will live long in the memory.
I was really pleased with the new players’ attitude and performances; it’s always hard joining a squad in transition but they can be proud of their contribution to the season and they can look to build on their reputations as strong premiership players in the red, green and white shirt. Senior players (led superbly by Ashley Sweet our skipper) stood up to the challenges we faced as a squad and throughout a hard campaign they never once went into a negative space but kept pushing us forward. Rest assured the squad is extremely tight on and off the field!
There were some real signs of improvement in performance levels post-Christmas and, before the postponement of the season, we felt we were a very tough team to beat and were digging out some positive results. After the hard work of this season we have a positive outlook for the next campaign as we will have a settled squad, some boys are coming back from injuries and everyone is looking forward to getting back together to start working hard and representing Ebbw Vale RFC again.
I would like to thank all the back room and medical team within the club for their hard work throughout the season. They were fantastic and certainly very busy, and I am hoping we had enough players in the physio room this season to last a few seasons. Here’s to an injury free run next year. We are a very small coaching team and the work they all do is second to none but importantly they all care deeply about the club and you can do anything from that base. I would also like to thank Jon, Karl and the rest of the board for their full support and guidance throughout the year as lots of positive work and projects have been done superbly behind the scenes.
We would have loved to finish the season becausewe wanted to play those big games and earn the right to stay up in our own right (we wanted to earn everything we got). We worked all year for that target and although we were 8 points clear and a game in hand of the drop there were still 25 points up for grabs and I am sure some twist and turns were left in the race. But we fully understand the situation and the decision to postpone the season, which was the right, correct and only decision which could be taken. Rugby is not the priority now and rightly so.
There are bigger problems facing our community and the nation right now and from all of us at Ebbw Vale RFC 1st team squad we wish all the community, club members and supporters the best of health and hopefully everyone is safe and well. More importantly we would like to thank all the key front-line workers especially those in the NHS who are working extremely hard keeping us safe.
In this period of isolation, we have a clear communication plan with all players and staff with weekly check ins and the players are enjoying the new house party app (there is rumour that a team social has never been so full!). They are all working hard maintaining their fitness levels the best they can in the circumstances. Don’t worry this pre-season (whenever it starts!!) will be as hard as ever and our renowned fitness levels and work rate will be worked on fully.
The first game back on Eugene Cross Park next season whenever it is, will be a celebration / testimonial game featuring Ross Jones XV v Rob Sevenoaks XV so keep an eye out for details as they get posted. That will be a great way for the rugby to get back going in Ebbw Vale. I am sure you will look forward to attending and celebrating two great players and stalwarts of Ebbw Vale RFC in recent history. A fun day for everyone will be in store which is desperately needed in these times.
Lastly thanks for all the support this season, keep safe and I look forward to sharing a beer with you all as soon we can at the club. Take care all.