Support from a top trailer maker is helping a new generation of rugby players from North and Mid Wales reach for the stars.
Ifor Williams Trailers have signed a two-year agreement to sponsor the academy teams at Rygbi Gogledd Cymru (RGC) which was set up to fast-track the region’s brightest rugby talents.
As a result, the kits of the male and female Under 18 sides along with the Under 16 team will be emblazoned with the firm’s distinctive logo.
The club was originally founded as RGC 1404 in 2008 which is a nod to the date rebel prince Owain Glyndwr founded his Welsh Parliament in Machynlleth.
They attract players from across North Wales and Mid Wales, from as far afield as Newtown and Llanfair Caereinon.
The ultimate aim is for a senior RGC player to make it all the way to the Wales international team, following in the illustrious footsteps of rugby luminaries like Dewi Bebb, Robin McBryde and George North.
After a period of pandemic paralysis, RGC is back in the cut and thrust of something approaching normality in the world of rugby competition and their base at Parc Eirias in Colwyn Bay is buzzing once more.
General manager Alun Pritchard said: “Our ambition as a development region is to grow the game of rugby in North Wales and to provide a platform for all ages, gender and ability to be involved in the game of rugby.
“Like everybody else we’ve been affected quite hard by Covid but we’ve employed new coaches and support staff for the Under 18 and Under 16 teams.
“We want to see the North Walian players have the best possible opportunities, so by bringing in a good standard of coach at those younger age groups, we can develop them as well as any other region.
“We’re also very much part of the wider community RGC which is why Ifor Williams Trailers is such a good fit because they too are also community-oriented.
“However, they’ve developed at a national and international scale so it’s a massive company based in North Wales.
“We’re a regional team but we’re trying to promote ourselves nationally through the Welsh Premiership and we’d like to kick on and have that international status as well.”
Richard Sullivan, a Sales Account Manager with Ifor Williams Trailers, was back on familiar ground.
As a schoolboy, he was part of the RGC Under 16 squad and still turns out regularly in the front row for his hometown of Ruthin.
He said: “I am proud that Ifor Williams Trailers are supporting the academy teams at RGC because this is where our future stars are going to come from.”
It was a sentiment endorsed by Shift Leader Wayne Williams who played for rugby for a variety of teams, including Ruthin, Bala and Bangor, for 25 years, mainly as a prop.
He said: “When I was playing, there was no pathway so that you could improve as a rugby player. In those days you had to go down south but now there is a route for them.
“What they’ve done here over the years is brilliant and the facilities here are outstanding.”
Among those benefitting is centre Martha Howatson, 18, from Llangernyw, who has joined the newly-formed women’s team, having started out with the Llanrwst-based Nant Conwy club.
She said: “I have been here about three weeks and it’s going very well. I am enjoying it more and more.”
Also having a ball was her friend from Llangernyw, number 8 Mali Edwards, 18, who added: “Girls in North Wales have never had an opportunity like this before so this is a great honour for us.
“The fact that the Welsh Rugby Union has given professional contracts to women representing Wales at international level is a real inspiration.”
Back row forward Evren Ozbilen, 18, from Mold, has been with RGC since he was 15, and is grateful for the grounding he’s being given..
He said: “My ultimate ambition is to go professional hopefully, to go as far as I can and try to push my limits. I’d definitely like to play for Wales one day, 100 per cent.”
Fly half Tom Jarman, 18, from Newtown, stays in North Wales during the week and is studying sports science at Llandrillo College.
He said: “There’s an amazing set-up here. You might think it’s better down south but RGC has got everything you need.
“The new coaches are brilliant and then you’ve got RGC first team players helping as well so there’s a connection as well between the under 18s and the first team.
“My personal ambition is to get into the Wales under 20s next year and then see where things go after that and hopefully play for the Wales international team.”