Pontypool RFC chief executive officer, Ben Jeffreys, believes the club is ready to put the disappointment of last season behind them as they prepare for another tilt at promotion to the Indigo Premiership.
The club will spend an eighth season in the Specsavers National Championship after falling just short against Llanelli RFC in the promotion play-off back in May. The 27-16 defeat came at the end of a three-year journey that had seen the club denied the opportunity to return to the top rung of the Welsh club game due to ring-fencing imposed by the Welsh Rugby Union.
Jeffreys has no complaints with the result of the play-off, believing Llanelli were the better team on the evening, but admitted it had been difficult to process the magnitude of the loss in the weeks following the match.
“Any time you suffer a big defeat, you want to put it right straight away,” said Jeffreys. “In this case, we’ve had to sit on that disappointment for a couple of months and that’s been challenging for all of us.
“But as the summer has rolled on, the raw emotion has eased and we know the best way to respond is to bottle all of the emotions we felt in Aberavon and use that as our fuel to carry us forward into the new season.
“We have a great team and that hasn’t changed because of one result. The club is on a healthy footing and we have everything in place that will allow us to keep pushing forward.”
After a busy summer of welcoming new arrivals to Pontypool Park, Jeffreys is looking forward to seeing the team return to the field of play ahead of a season that will see automatic promotion return to the Championship. Last month, the Welsh Rugby Union confirmed that the 2019-2020 season would see a simple promotion-relegation system come into effect.
The objective is clear; win a fourth consecutive league title and Pooler’s long-held goal will be achieved. However, with the addition of Bargoed RFC, Bedwas RFC, Cross Keys RFC and Neath RFC to the league, it is set to be the club's toughest league campaign since the 2015- 2016 instalment.
In preparation, the club has arranged a challenging pre-season schedule. Pooler will play teams from across the bridge, as Leighton Jones' men aim to find added form and fitness ahead of their league opener at home to Beddau RFC on Saturday 7th September.
“Leighton and the coaching staff have taken a different approach to our pre-season schedule and I think we will see the benefits of visiting a few teams from across the bridge to see how they operate,” said Jeffreys.
“We know how important it will be to start the new season with a bang and by stepping outside of the Welsh rugby landscape for a few weeks, it will give us a fresh perspective and has the added benefit of providing a great experience for our supporters.”
Jeffreys readily acknowledges the important role the Pooler Army will continue to play next season and with over 300 season tickets sold already, the appetite for rugby in Pontypool is clearly as strong as ever.
“Our supporters have been absolutely incredible and their unwavering support over the last couple of months in particular has been key to us being able to move forward from the playoff.
“We felt like we let them down in May, but they have put their arms around us and made it clear that they are proud of the team and are going to stand with them every step of the way.
“It’s just what we needed to pick ourselves up over the summer. We have something very special at this club and it transcends rugby. We are a family and I firmly believe that this togetherness will be the glue that sees us achieve many more great things over the next twelve months.
“We are ready for the challenge.”