We sat down with club captain Scott Matthews ahead of the new season to discuss what has happened over the last two years.
From the pandemic to Pontypool Park and everything in-between, the skipper spoke out in the first of a new series of columns that will give you a new perspective on all things Pooler.
There was massive frustration at the start [of the pandemic] with the season being cancelled and the season ahead but as a club and as a squad we knew there were bigger and more important fish to fry at that time.
The break was nice on the bodies. I’m sure myself and some of the other players have played with little niggles and injuries and it’s usually a long, hard season so to have that break was good on the body. For the fitness levels and the conditioning side of it, it wasn’t so great.
I remember we had a meeting at Pontypool United while the work was going on at the ground and it was great to see the squad, so many faces that we hadn’t seen in a while and it was like we’d never been away with the banter and camaraderie in the squad.
One thing we do as a group is we make sure that new players are brought in to our environment.
First things first you make players feel welcome. Everyone has added, some great players coming in, some players that I’ve played against for many seasons and it’s fantastic to get the opportunity to play alongside them.
Everybody who has come in has just added to the environment and I’m sure that they will be wanting to put their hands up, particularly in the early matches, and push some guys who haven’t been pushed and that’s only going to create a positive environment, the more we can push each other in the squad, the more competition for places we will have.
We haven’t had the luxury of having many pre-season friendlies so to have the opportunity to play the Bears was something that we were looking forward to.
We weren’t helped by injuries and also being out for 18 months, it was always going to be a tough game and a tough ask to go down there and put in a winning performance against a professional outfit and we certainly had a few harsh lessons that day.
Overall, it was a really positive experience, valuable minutes under the belt. We would have liked more but that’s the world of rugby. We don’t complain, we just dust ourselves off and look forward to the next game.
We are all ready to go. Maesteg Quins RFC came up into the league a few years ago and they’ve been ultra competitive. We’ve had some really tough games against them.
We know the threats that are coming but we’re also looking forward to putting our stamp on the game and looking to play the way that we’ve trained because we haven’t had much opportunity to do so.
After being out for so long there is no better feeling than coming in to the changing rooms, putting on that jersey and running up those steps and that’s something I personally can’t wait for.
When you’ve been caged up for so long, it’s going to be exciting when that cage door opens and you get that opportunity to put down all that frustration on the field. We’re ready, prepped and just grinding down the fine details.
Looking at the new ground, it’s obviously fantastic and the time, effort and money that Peter and Ben [Jeffreys] have invested has certainly paid dividends. It’s looking like a new place.
At the time I was like every other Pooler supporter, I was logging in during the pandemic on Facebook Live and watching the live updates as they came in.
We can’t wait to see people’s faces when they have the opportunity to sit down and cheer the boys on and it was just great to see Pontypool Park looking as good as it ever has.
We’d just like to thank Peter and Ben for giving the players and the management the opportunity to play in such a nice facility.
It’s looking like a brand-new ground up there, the stand looks phenomenal. It’s definitely a pitch that the players, myself as captain, and the supporters can be proud of.
There’s been a long tradition of healthy support at Pontypool, there’s no better supporters within the club game in Wales. The Pooler army are as good as anyone and to have that opportunity to play that first game with the new ground – we are hoping everyone is going to come down and support.
As a squad one thing we are very conscious of is the amount of people that do support and the amount of time, effort and hard-earned cash that will be spent on those tickets to come and support us and we won’t take that for granted.
The butterflies for myself and the rest of the squad will be there ready to run out and get that feeling playing in front of a big crowd again.