9th May 2018, 15:59
Wales Premier and junior leagues kick off this weekend
Wales Rugby League’s domestic leagues kick off their 16th season on Saturday 12th May with matches at four different levels.
Valley Cougars are the defending champions of the Premier League, having won a dramatic final in Cardiff last year and as such, they hosted the season launch last Friday where players posed for photographs.
The opening fixtures in the Premier League on Saturday 12th May, sees just two fixtures - the Cougars host Rhondda Outlaws at Treharris RFC (kick-off 2.30pm) whilst Glamorgan Wanderers sees Cardiff Blue Dragons take on Torfaen Tigers (kick-off 2pm). Cardiff also host Torfaen in a triple header of junior matches on Sunday from 11am.
Dafydd Hellard, head coach of Valley Cougars, said: “We’re confident in our own ability. We’ve a new build-up of a side this year as we’ve had a few players going to League 1 sides, but we’ve another opportunity this season to achieve. Everyone will be wanting to take our scalp as we’re defending champions and that’s the only motivation we need.”
Nick Fish, coach at Rhondda Outlaws said: “Numbers have been good in training so far this year. We’ve a great relationship with our hosts at Pontypridd RFC on and off the pitch. We want to play a good exciting brand of rugby and the pitch at Sardis Road will suit our style of play. We’ll be going into every game believing we can win, if we didn’t we wouldn’t be in the league, but we know it will be a tough opening game.”
The Premier League, in the first half of the season, will have a unique seventh entrant with Cardiff Blue Dragons having enough players to field two sides. Their development team, which will be known as Cardiff Athletic, have chosen to face each side once and won’t be eligible for the play-offs. All results against them will count in the final table. This, rather than playing friendly matches, has been done to ensure competitive games that sides will fulfill. They kick off their season in week two.
Alf Harvey, director at Cardiff Blue Dragons said: “Last year was about putting the club back on the map and this year, it’s the next step. We want to get into the players and perform well. We also want to have a good junior season, emulate Torfaen and get all four of our sides into finals. We’ve Torfaen first up and we’ve a great relationship between the two clubs. Cardiff Athletic is the initiative we needed to do to bridge the gap between under 17s and seniors. It’ll also give new players as adults, a side to play for and increase their appetite for the sport without giving them any pressure other than to achieve.”
Ian Newbury, head coach of Torfaen Tigers, said: “We’re running all age grades again and our aim is to make the final at every level. We haven’t managed to get any silverware for a few years now so we want to not just reach finals but take them a step further and win. We’ve linked up with Warrington Wolves so we’re building on that to help grow the game in the Torfaen area and give our youngsters a pathway into the professional game and also get more Welsh players into Super League.”
Llanelli Knights will replace West Wales Raiders in the Premier League and they are expected to utilise a number of the former Raiders players who have not gone on to professional level this year. They kick off their junior season this Sunday with matches at Bridgend Blue Bulls at under 13 and 15 level, starting at midday.
Neil Davies, head coach of Llanelli Knights said: “We’re going to take it game by game. We’re quite ambitious but we know it’ll be a tough first season. We’ve a few old faces coming back but the intention this season is to develop the new brand and establish ourselves as a force to be reckoned with. The junior sides have been long established under the Raiders name and I’m sure we’ll be able to keep up the excellent development work they’ve done over the years.”
Jon Hansen, coach at Bridgend Blue Bulls said: “We want to progress further and get the titles back, and that’s at every level, 13s, 15s, 17s and first grade. We’ve a link with St Helens and that’s extra motivation for our youngsters as they have something big to aim for.”
The junior leagues also see another new club in Penlan Wild Stallions of Swansea, who will play at Mynydd Newydd Playing Fields in Swansea. They have entered a side at under 13 level.
They and Aber Valley Wolves both start their campaigns on May 13th.
Matt Brooks from the Stallions said: "We are looking forward to our new venture into Welsh Rugby League. We have already received a great welcome by all involved and plenty early support in starting our new team. We are hopeful that we can develop as a club within rugby league, and promote the game within our area too."
Jason Oates from Aber Valley Wolves said: “We want to get through to the finals, we play to win. We’re especially strong at under 13s side with 40 players currently in training so we want to get more players into the professional game. A few of our lads are currently playing at Wigan which we’re really proud about and we’ve some more good talent coming through.”
PREMIER LEAGUE - Cardiff Blue Dragons v Torfaen Tigers (2pm), Valley Cougars v Rhondda Outlaws (2.30pm)
JUNIOR LEAGUES - Cardiff Blue Dragons v Torfaen Tigers (U13, U15, U17 – from 11am), Bridgend Blue Bulls v Llanelli Knights (U13, U15 – from midday)