The evening started with the presentation of awards to several players for their contributions last season. The awards were given to:
Lee Evans (Player of the Year)
Steffan Jones (Newcomer of the Year)
Dai Langdon (Clubman of the Year)
Luc Jones was also recognised as the Young Player of the Year although he was unable to attend to collect the award.
Following the awards there was a question and answer session with the players and coaches. The questions and the answers given are below.
What will be the main focus for this season? Improvement, honours or both? BIC, WP or Swalec Cup?
Neil Edwards: Domestic Competitions to be the priority whilst the BIC seen as a mechanism to develop players and push conditioning levels. Also provides an opportunity to slot in the 5/6 Osprey development players that have been allocated to us this season.
Based on the gruelling pre-season and the influx of what seem to be some very good young and hungry players, what is an honest, attainable League position for the Club this year considering the very disappointing final League position last year?
Llyr Lane: The coaches know where we want to be but no target has been given to the players – where we finish is down to the boys. The coaches, however, have confidence in the players attitudes and their will to improve – shown by the fact that they are working on their conditioning away from the “official” training sessions.
What was behind the decisions not to keep Grav & Kipper for next season? Why weren’t they told earlier?
Neil: Don’t believe everything that you hear on social media – all he was prepared to say was that the club had been in touch with both players (Neil actually spoke to them as late as last week) and that all parties involved were fully aware of what was gong on. The new philosophy is to respect the history of the club but move on and improve the pool of players – to that end several new boys have been brought on board.
Where will we see the most improvement after all the pre-season work put in by the squad?
Dai Langdon: The squad fell short last year due to the lack of pre-season training. This year the boys have started the conditioning work back in June and it is obvious that there has been a huge improvement in fitness already. They need to work on the detail now.
Please will you tell us about what took place at the recent WRU national testing day for Principality clubs and how our players now compare with others.
Robin Sowden-Taylor: The boys had a very early start to pre-season training – in June – they were predominantly working on gym fitness – 2 gyms, one at the Ospreys facilities the other in the Cardiff area – to accommodate the boys from different areas. They had team building sessions in Merthyr Mawr & Aberdare. In July they moved onto pitch based sessions – developing ball skills etc.
The WRU Testing Day involved 20m and 40m speed tests as well as various conditioning tests The Neath boys performed well and finished top on average fitness levels. It is anticipated that the WRU will retest sometime around the autumn internationals. The club did their own re-tests in August – good to see where we are.
Neil showed footage of some of the testing.
Considering the Ospreys have allowed us to have some of their academy players once again for the up and coming season and having such events as the proposed training session in the coming weeks, are the links between Neath RFC and the Ospreys stronger than ever?
Neil: Onwards and Upwards!!! Relations are good with weekly meetings – we have been allocated 5 players from the Ospreys so far this season – the 6th player should be know shortly – not sure when we’ll use them yet.
How is the squad looking at the moment? Any more positions to fill or is Neil happy with how it currently stands?
Neil: We currently have 29 players registered and we are allowed a maximum of 32 plus the 6 Ospreys. We’re not quite finished yet but we’re nearly there.
Who does he think will be our biggest rivals for the title this year?
Lee Evans: Ever the diplomat……. Starting with Pontypridd he named all the teams in the league!!!! He did say that as normal at the start of each season we need to get the measure of our opponents.
Community relations. Are measures in place to ensure all local schools feel more involved with the club?
Mike Harrison: There is a big schools programme due to start in September with a 16-18 group starting this year. They have their first game on Monday (bank holiday) against Aberafan Quins.
Is the new National Sevens tournament a good idea or is it a distraction?
Alec Jenkins: It s good platform for young players to showcase their talents before the season starts
Will we be running a Development Team again this year. If so, are there any players there we should be keeping an eye on?
Neil: There will be a development team this season – several of last years squad have been invited to remain.
What values would you say we need to instil in the youth coming through? What values make our club great?
Neil: Lots of hard work and determination, working together as a team and pulling in the right direction
Pontypridd & a few other teams have gone for a power game, typically Neath has been about all action. Can we compete?
Nicky Downs: Yes we can compete – fitness levels have improved, it’s a good mix of boys and they are more developed as a squad. The boys believe that that can play the power game as well as the likes of Pontypridd.
Are there play offs this year? What do you think of them – an exciting end to the season or should the team that comes top be crowned champions?
Neil: Nothing that we can do about the setup
Have there been any indication or discussions about the likes of Adam/Ian/Duncan doing any coaching sessions with the squad – the idea was mooted at a supporters meeting last year
Marc Jones: After the Rosslyn Park game the boys were feeling pretty low – could do with some help with the interpretation of the new scrum laws. He had actually emailed Adam (Jones) to see if it would be possible for him to come along to a training session… waiting for him to come back to him
What does he think of the new B&I Cup format and the fact that we have to win two games to qualify whereas Pontypridd or Cardiff only have to win one?
Again nothing we can do about it. Domestic league is the focus
What is the reaction to the Rosslyn Park game? Any positives or negatives? Any injuries?
Adam Jones: The first half was full of positives – stuff that the squad had worked on went well but there was stuff that they hadn’t worked on. The boys learned a lot about themselves and had been going through the mistakes in training
Llyr: This is a new group – there are only 7 players remaining from last years squad, the 2013/14 season is the start of a new era for the club. They have to take small steps but make sure that they are going in the right direction.
Neil added at the end that he was committed to working with the supporters and wants to make sure that the players are available to meet to them after home games. Working on a format – possibly downstairs in the bar/lounge.
Finally, thanks to everyone who turned up on the night – supporters, players and coaches. We have everyone enjoyed and found it a useful occasion.
Keep an eye out for more Supporters Club events coming soon.