13th August 2010, 05:21
Kear supports Dragonhearts for final push
Elliot Kear has given his support to the Wales Dragonhearts...
Crusaders, South Wales Scorpions and Wales full-back Elliot Kear has given his support to the Wales Dragonhearts who take on Scotland Bravehearts this Saturday in Edinburgh in a winner takes all title clash (2.30pm).
Kear, who will turn out for South Wales Scorpions against York City Knights at The Gnoll this Sunday, is one of 27 Welshmen who have played professional rugby league following appearances in the most successful Welsh rugby league team in history.
Wales are currently second in the group having beaten Ireland and lost to Scotland. Their mission for this Saturday is to win, and win by as much as possible.
A victory will take them above Scotland in the table but England, also on one win and one defeat, are close behind. However Wales' points difference is currently 20 points better than the English so should they win in Glasgow, it will be a nervous wait for the result of the Ireland v England game.
The side began life as the Wales A in 1991 when they played their first game beating the touring Russian club side, Moscow Spartak at Swansea's St Helens ground in 1991 played before the first team beat Papua New Guinea 68-0.
Their first ever international was in May 1994 when they were so close to beating England, but went down 14-10 at the Morfa Stadium in Swansea. This game may not have sent shockwaves around the country and did not receive the publicity that recent "A" internationals have done, but did produce a new star. Jason Lee was promptly signed by Warrington and ended up playing seven times for the full Welsh national side, scoring four tries in the process.
Lee was just the first of many players from the Wales "A" or "Dragonhearts" side to turn professional. Since the four team competition started in 2002, Wales have fielded 130 players, with 27 of them eventually playing professional rugby league. Future professionals Aled James, Gareth Honor, Richard Singleton and Pete Moore lined up in the first side that beat Scotland 40-22 in Glasgow alongside former Gateshead Thunder player Stuart Singleton.
Dean Scully, Darren Ryan, Richard Johnston, Neil Davies, Damien Hudd, Paul Morgan, Neil Dixon, Lloyd O'Connor, Karl Hocking, Marcus Sainsbury, Grant Epton, Carle Ellis, David James, Christiaan Roets, Tom Burnell, Lee Williams, Elliot Kear, Ashley Bateman, Steve Parry, Gil Dudson, Jamie Murphy, Shaun Owens have been the other Dragonhearts players who gone on to play professional rugby league in some shape or form.
Plus the now current Wales Rugby Union star Richard Hibbard played one game for the Dragonhearts, coming on as a substitute in the 28-18 win over England in 2003 in his native Aberavon, while a year later, Tom Brown, now with Cardiff Blues, took to the field in the 56-12 win over Ireland at the old Cardiff Athletics Stadium before winning his lone full international cap against Scotland in Glasgow a few months later.
Elliot Kear, now in the Crusaders first team squad, owes a lot to his Dragonhearts opportunity.
"I had the opportunity to play for them in my first year as a senior but I was injured," he said. "Then when I was at Crusaders Colts a year later, Dan Clements gave me the opportunity against Ireland then at Hull versus England in the Final where I was man of the match.
"It really did me good, I wanted to play for country and at the time the Dragonhearts was the team I was aiming for, that was my ambition.
"It's really good for developing game in Wales to have the Dragonhearts, the side are playing really well this year and have come on leaps and bounds."
Wales played a few friendlies up until 2001 but it was when the new Cheltenham Regency Trophy was introduced that the side and concept really started to take off.
For the first four years, Wales were virtually unbeatable. Ten wins from their 12 games saw them take the trophy with a canter on most occasions. The first, in 2002 in Cheltenham, Wales went into the game as massive underdogs against a more experienced England Lionhearts side and beat them on their own turf to win the first of four successive crowns.
Wales' only blip in this competition so far has been in 2006 where, largely due to the advent of Celtic Crusaders, the Dragonhearts found themselves weakened and finished third in the table, gifting England Lionhearts their one and only title so far.
In 2007, it was business as usual as Wales were unbeaten again, wrapping up another excellent campaign with a commanding 39-18 win over England at Blackwood Bulldogs. 2008 and 2009 saw similar campaigns, as Wales kept hold of their title despite stiff opposition from the ever improving Irish side.
The Dragonhearts' legacy isn't just the number of professionals that the team has produced, it's the concept that many players are now able to represent their country in a way that wouldn't have been able to ten years ago. Pre Celtic Crusaders, this was the team that got all the headlines in the Welsh newspapers and online, and they helped to give the game a boost in our country.
The 2010 side now go into their final game of their season this Saturday against Scotland and who knows what this opportunity could bring for the current crop of Welshmen should they take the title.
WALES DRAGONHEARTS (from): Paul Emanuelli (Captain) - Valley Cougars, Chris Watts - Valley Cougars, James Allen - Valley Cougars, Troy Brockbank - Valley Cougars, Dan Smith - Bridgend Blue Bulls, Gareth Howells - Bridgend Blue Bulls, Chris Holcombe - Cardiff Demons, Scott Bessant - Newport Titans, Kristian Hawkes - Newport Titans, Kevin James - Valley Cougars, Liam Williams - Valley Cougars, Craig Fox - Bridgend Blue Bulls, Graham Hughes - Cardiff Demons, Tylon Mafi - Bridgend Blue Bulls, Shaun Owens - Bridgend Blue Bulls, Ryan Sadler - Valley Cougars, Mark Jones - Valley Cougars, Steve Williams - Valley Cougars, Craig Griffiths - CPC Bears, Rhodri Morris - Valley Cougars, Kyle Blake - Cardiff Demons.