The following is an end of season address from Pontypool RFC chief executive officer, Ben Jeffreys:
It has been a truly outstanding season for Pontypool RFC and the club is on course to achieve its longstanding objective of securing a return to the Principality Premiership division next year.
Having dominated the National Championship division and embarked on an inspirational National Cup run last season, the bar was set exceptionally high if the club was to match last season’s exploits.
As we now know, Pooler surpassed all achievements to become the first club in National Championship history to record a 100 percent win record.
This outstanding achievement also heralded the first time that the club has ever recorded an unbeaten season in its storied 149-year history!
Becoming ‘The Invincibles’ is symbolic of our drive to establish Pontypool RFC as a true force within Welsh rugby once again.
With every passing season, our ambition to make Pooler the best club side in Wales is increasingly becoming a reality.
But our present success has been driven by learning from our failures.
The sensation of falling just short of securing the club’s return to the Premiership in 2016 was more than one of sadness. It was confirmation that our approach as a management was failing and much soul searching was required if we were to ever enjoy meaningful success.
Many viewed being consigned to at least three seasons in the National Championship as the millstone around the club’s neck that would result in its demise, but we viewed it as a golden opportunity to reinvent how we operated, from top to bottom.
Having subsequently appointed Leighton Jones to the role of head coach, we began to strategise a way in which we could establish a team culture that would lend itself to having the vision to look several years down the line, as opposed to the short-term lens we previously placed on achieving our objectives.
In short, we needed a team who not only wanted to achieve Premiership rugby, but one that would be patient in building a return to the promised land with the Pontypool RFC crest proudly displayed on one’s chest.
Central to Leighton’s vision of long-term success has been the fostering of relationships with our neighbouring clubs to produce a supply chain of talent with an affinity to Torfaen rugby. This, combined with securing the commitment of established squad members from further afield, has proven to be a winning formula.
I continue to be in absolute awe of everybody involved in taking Pontypool RFC out of the abyss and driving the club into one of the most successful periods in its history.
Our coaching and support staff have worked tirelessly to bring about much needed stability to our rugby operations. Having such a strong team at the helm has enabled us to periodically refine our standards and skillset, rather than constantly fighting fires and replenishing less committed personnel, as was previously the case.
Our squad have been simply outstanding. In the two seasons since the Premiership was ring-fenced, the club has won 43 out of 44 National Championship matches and have earned two successive National Cup quarter-final appearances.
Many members of the squad continue to rebuff countless offers from Premiership clubs and that is testament to their character. We do not simply have good rugby players - we have good people who respect the heritage of this rugby club.
Our volunteers continue to be the heartbeat of Pontypool RFC and I am eternally grateful for their enduring sacrifice and commitment in ensuring the club remains the focal point of the town. They truly are the unsung heroes of Welsh rugby.
Lastly, to our supporters – the ‘Pooler Army’ – your everlasting support of Pontypool RFC is hugely valued. We are delighted to have experienced the highest average attendance figures at Pontypool Park since we embarked on this journey and this shows that the appetite for rugby in Pontypool remains as strong as ever.
It has been a truly exceptional couple of seasons for Pontypool RFC, but we are acutely aware that next season is of primary importance. Everything we have worked for as a club will be defined by what is achieved over the next twelve months.
This is a battle that Pontypool RFC is well equipped to win we are looking forward to the challenge.
Until then, it just leaves me to wish you a safe and enjoyable close season and we look forward to seeing you back at Pontypool Park in August, where our quest to achieve Premiership rugby commences.