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STORM TAKE TOP AWARD

3rd September 2012, 13:46

STORM TAKE TOP AWARD

... and leading coach Baker is also honoured by Wales Rugby League

By Gary Baker

PENALLTA Storm's incredible success in junior rugby league has been recognised with a top award from the Welsh governing body.

And the club, founded just three seasons ago, could scoop a British title as well as they have been nominated in the national rugby league Volunteer Community Awards.

Also, Russell Baker, coach of The Panthers who play at Pontyclun, has been named the Adult Coach of the Year.

The Storm have been chosen as the Club of the Year by the Welsh Rugby League for their rapid development in the valleys.

Such has been the growth of the sport among the teenagers of Penallta and the surrounding Mid Glamorgan district that one of their former players, Rhodri Lloyd, has gone up north to play for Super League giants Wigan Warriors while nine others are linked with the South Wales Scorpions age group academies.

Both the club's Under-15s and Under-17s teams topped their respective Junior League tables and made the Grand Finals, with the Under-17s squad continuing a remarkable run of success.

That particular squad has lost just one match in three years, which was their very first game as Under-15s in 2010 when they went down 28-26 to Blackwood.

Paul Davies, head coach of the Under-17s, said: "We have people from Caerphilly, Senghenydd and other places nearby coming to train and play and we are getting about 23 boys each week."

Davies' team beat Treharris Pheonix 40-28 in their Grand Final to keep the unbeaten record intact, while the Under-15 side, who won five out of six league games and drew the other to top their table, defeated Neath Port Talbot Steelers by 36-20 to take their championships.

Now they have landed this Welsh Rugby League Awards crown to add to their trophy cabinet, and Davies added: "It's great for the club. Rhodri is a prime example of a player who was with Caerphilly, tried rugby league and is now at Wigan.

"We have a good number of other boys here who, if they put the time and effort in, can go places."

Meanwhile, Baker, 46, from Rhoose, hopes that The Panthers can climb further up the rugby league development ladder after their own successful campaign.

The Under-14 squad won the Welsh Grand Final after a tough clash with Aber Valley Wolves. But their victory maintained an unbeaten campaign.

Baker said: "We have obviously had a really good season. We had some new players coming into us and it was a case of getting them used to the basics of rugby league.

"They have all played rugby union before and the players really enjoyed it this season."

The wide area covered by The Panthers, that stretches from Pontypridd to the Vale of Glamorgan, also serves to help bring players, who may otherwise be on opposing teams in union, together in one side to play league.

"The camaraderie is there. These are person skills as well as rugby skills," added Baker.

But he added the award was very much a team effort, with assistants and club volunteers Alistair Davies, Neil Gibbon and Dai Blacker all playing their part in The Panthers success.

"Next year our aim is to develop from where we are now and we will try to retain our success," added the coach.