The rebirth of Pontypool RFC, since its near extinction in 2012, is well-documented. Essentially starting from scratch in the winter of 2012, the club has slowly and steadily rebuilt itself under the guidance of the Jeffreys family and head coach, Leighton Jones - writes Andrew Deering.
League titles, forthcoming ground improvements and cup runs have tended to dominate the headlines at Pontypool Park, but the creation and implementation of a community initiative has been just as significant, when measuring the continued improvement of the club.
Started in 2017, the initiative, headed up by Jones and Tony Clarke, had numerous objectives. It sought to cultivate a greater attachment to the club amongst the younger generation, forge greater ties with local clubs and encourage a greater number of children and teenagers to take up the sport.
These principle aims have taken on different forms. The most prolific of which has been the club's midweek training sessions. With 1,639 boys and girls benefiting from the scheme over the first two years, various local clubs and their youth sections have enjoyed the expertise and know-how of Pontypool RFC players as they're put through their paces at Pontypool Park.
The most visible part of the initiative has come in the form of curtain raisers matches. Over the last two seasons, sixteen of the club's senior home matches have enjoyed the addition of a curtain raiser. It involves two local youth sides participating in a small-sided match during the early afternoon, before enjoying a post-match meal ahead of forming a guard of honour to welcome the senior teams onto the field ahead of kick-off.
The final part of the initiative is the Pontypool RFC Schools Cup. Containing only Year 8 teams in its first year, the finals day of the competition was held at Pontypool Park, with the victorious teams being awarded trophies to commemorate their achievement. Due to its success, the competition was expanded to include Year 7 and Year 9 teams last season, with 385 boys and girls having taken part over the last two seasons.
Pontypool RFC's Community Outreach Coordinator, Tony Clarke, had this to say when reflecting on the first two years of the initiative. "When you look at the figures and the interest involved in the scheme, you get an idea of the success we have enjoyed since its inception in 2017.
"The feedback we have had indicates things are moving in the right direction and we look forward to carrying on the initial good work that has got us to this point. If we in some small way help the local youngsters to lead healthier, more active lives, then I for one will be extremely pleased," said Clarke.
The initiative will return for the 2019-2020 season, with the club once again looking forward to working with local clubs and schools.