For 125 years rugby football has been played at the former mining village of Bedwas. Currently the club is unique in the Welsh Premiership Division. It is playing to a highly competitive standard in Wales’ top league while remaining true to its roots as a “community club”, owned and run by its members and serving the whole rugby community from Under 7s upwards and can even boast a newly formed girls Under 15 side.
According to Club Chairman, Mark Lewis, the club is now embarking on an exciting new phase in its rugby development. “For many years” he explains, “there was a natural rugby progression in our villages. Basic skills were learned pre school on streets and in welfare grounds. Secondary schools often had a rugby, “ethos,” and an enthusiastic, “rugby master,” who provided a natural pathway, developing players so the school had a 1st XV playing locally and up to County competition standard”.
“These were the players,” says Mark, “who came to clubs such as Bedwas to form a strong Youth XV and moved seamlessly through their rugby career to First team rugby and beyond”
The changes brought about from educational reform through to the advent of professional and semi professional rugby has, unfortunately, undermined this successful natural transition. The ambition in Bedwas RFC is not to recreate the conditions of a now by- gone age but to respond to the challenges the game currently faces in today’s social and economic climate.
“If a Club like Bedwas is to succeed” says Mark “it isn’t good enough just to play competitive Premiership rugby – even though that is important both for players and spectators and to provide role models for aspiring youngsters”.
“We have to be more hands on” he says “in promoting the game at all levels and encouraging the local talent through our own Club’s pathway so that local players can compete to play at their own local Clubs highest levels”
The strategy developed by Bedwas relies heavily on forging strong partnerships with the games’ natural allies. The WRU’s new emphasis on structured pathways for new players and the re establishment of a vigorous rugby tradition at school level, through the programme of schools rugby officers, provided an excellent opportunity. The Club itself has strong “community” credentials, an excellent and highly motivated coaching team at all levels and an open and progressive management culture, willing and able to respond to the new challenge. Finally, at Bedwas High School, there was a further willing ally in the shape of Head teacher, Peter Ward, himself a former Premiership standard player who was anxious to re build Bedwas as “rugby school”
“This summer” says Mark,” we will be celebrating our 125 year anniversary, but perhaps more importantly helping to put in place 3 key building blocks which will help us to meet our ambition of securing our future by nurturing our local talent”.
“With the help of WRU and school funding, a new School Rugby Officer will be appointed at Bedwas High charged with promoting rugby in school and strengthening the flow to Bedwas RFC, of players of all ages up to and including Under 18s”
“Secondly the very well respected and knowledgeable former Head of PE at Bedwas High, Mr Jimmy Stokes, will be joining the team at Bedwas with a mandate to support the development of coaching and playing at all Under 18 levels.”
“Thirdly, the Club with the generous support of a regeneration grant from Caerphilly County will be investing in a state of the art fitness suite at Bedwas High for the benefit of players, school and community.” Mark concludes, “ the physical demands of the modern game require higher standards of fitness and strength than ever before”
“If we are to compete with the best, we must be as prepared as the best and these new developments will help to bring that about,”