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 HomeBlackandAmberPort SportE-mail: root@thisisnotgwent.co.uk 

 

Opinion pieces from various rugby commentators

 

THE SYMBOLISM OF A POINTLESS JERSEY

 

Aug 23 - The annual release of the 'new shirt designs' for the Newport Gwent Dragons is normally of symbolic  interest. Firstly, it normally illustrates Rodney Parade Limited have no idea about their commercial strategy. Secondly, it normally underlines the gap between those running the club and their core support. Little has changed this year.

Chief Executive Stuart Davies revealed that there are now fewer Gwent based season ticket holders for Newport Gwent Dragons than there were for Newport RFC at the end of its professional era. Yet the jerseys are dominated by colours other than the famous black and amber associated with the city of Newport.

The 2015-16 home jersey has slightly more amber than previous years and has the name of the team on the left side of the breast. It has red and black on the socks, why not incorporate amber into them as well? The away jersey is an abomination, white and blue, supposedly modelled on the old Monmouthshire colours but easily confused with Queens Park Rangers.

Newport GD's are employing a new marketing manager at the entry level salary of £25k so presumably just want someone with little or no experience. Hopefully, one of the dissidents from the Newport General Meeting will apply!

Argus rugby correspondent Chris Kirwan has tentatively backed the dissidents and their right to question the commercial direction of Newport Gwent Dragons in a thoughtful piece in this week's paper. He said 'the emphasis of how the club is marketed close to home remains something that needs to be addressed...it is a risky strategy to potentially alienate where their core support hails from...they must not fall into the trap of trying to 'represent' people throughout the region."  

 

 

NEW CHIEF EXEC DOES NOT GET IT EITHER!

 

Mar 26 - Newport Gwent Dragons Chief Executive Stuart Davies has been in post five minutes and chose a show on BBC to make an utterance on the name of the regional rugby team based in Newport. He suggested that Newport and Gwent are dropped from the epithet. His aim, to make the region more like the Ospreys. He does not seem aware of the 12,000 plus who signed a petition to place Newport in the first place in 2003 or that the major part of the season ticket base for the team is drawn from the City. Irrespective of the failure to recognise Newport wherever possible by the marketing people at the region Davies etc. cannot be allowed to ignore the importance of identity in the branding of the team. Fortunately his remarks have met with a categorical response from the Board that the name will not be changing.

 

NEWPORT RUGBY AT ALL TIME LOW

 

Only in Newport would we put up with this.....

  • A professional side, Newport Gwent Dragons, playing at our ground, Rodney Parade that disassociates itself from anything to do with Newport.

  • A failing coach who cannot bring himself to say the word.

  • A team that does not play in the city's colours home or away

  • A director who says we should not shout the word out in support of a team that includes the name

  • A commercial director appointed from Pontypool RFC apparently to find ways of making to team more like his home town club

  • A semi professional team playing in the historic colours and name of our city that is forced to hand its best players and its captain to bitter local rivals

Remember we own and control the professional team! This situation is a complete joke.

 

 

DESPITE THE WIN, SIX THINGS THE NGDs LEARNT FROM PAYING AT EBBW VALE

  • The crowds will not sustain professional rugby even at knock down ticket prices

  • The trains only run to Cardiff

  • Its too far north

  • It always rains there

  • It is too small

  • Newport is the only place with the facilities and infrastructure for professional rugby and supporters in the locality

BIAS AGAINST NEWPORT RFC CANNOT GO ON

 

In its desperate attempt to behave as a region Rodney Parade Limited has done everything it can to work to release regional players to play for Premiership clubs in the locality. This policy has been to the detriment of Newport RFC - owners of Rodney Parade. Not only that we have had to put up with invasion by a small coterie of coaches and managers at the professional team with no interest in the development of Newport RFC. With the advent of Ebbw Vale to the Premiership the pendulum must swing back to those that own Rodney Parade Limited and pull the financial purse strings.

If the directors of Rodney Parade Limited sit down during the summer months I would suggest a few priorities for 2014/15 -

  • Continue to work in concert with partners in Regional Rugby Wales to ensure the professional tier of Welsh rugby is run by a management board of the clubs

  • Support the development of super / city based clubs with the opportunity for promotion or relegation from / to the Premiership tier

  • Retain the Newport identity in all playing kit, branding and merchandise and work to encourage supporters in the city to identify with the club and as part of the club's marketing strategy contact lapsed season ticket holders to find out what will get them to return

  • Ensure that Newport RFC is recognised as the elite semi professional club in the area and is provided with all necessary support to achieve this

 

Newport Gwent Dragons tried to launch a new logo for next season by getting fans to vote on it but had to shelve the poll amidst rancour and acrimony. I voted ten times for logo 1. I imagine it did not deliver the results that the Gwent faction were seeking, Ben Jeffreys "Commercial and Marketing Consultant"at Newport Gwent Dragons, tweeted: "Bad day. I tried something with good intentions but hold my hands up that I got it wrong. A humbling experience and one I will learn from." Ben, it is quite simple, the most effective way of marketing the professional side is for it to be based on the City it represents, called Newport and play in Black and Amber. The away strip can be whatever confection you like. The majority of current season ticket holders and fans are from Newport but they would be swelled considerably by the numbers of us who have walked away. Remember when this regional nonsense started we got 12,000 signatures together to put Newport in the name. Forget about logos, playing in Pontypool colours or Monmouthshire colours. Forget about all the politically correct stuff or coaches that constantly take the 'p' out of their employers. We have a world famous club with an established identity that was regional long before the term came into being.

 

LYN JONES SHOULD GET IT RIGHT

 

We were told we could not shout 'Newport' at Dragons home games so why is Lyn Jones allowed to continually mis-name the regional team that employs him. He constantly omits the name of Newport in an intentional and insulting way.

He said that the region should not have to accept mediocrity but we still have to put up with him as coach of the region next year despite the lack of any progress this year and his recent catalogue of failures as a coach. Take your hang ups somewhere else Lyn.

 

 

CHOOSE YOUR COLOUR, NOT YOUR TEAM!?

It is Judgement Day 2 at the Millennium Stadium on April 29 and supporters are being urged to pick their favourite colour. Amber appears to be the colour for Newport Gwent Dragons but there is hardly any on their kit. They play in black and sometimes Cardiff blue. There is no love for these teams, if you want colour, bring back the Black and Ambers.  

'RESEARCH' IN TO DRAGONS BRAND IS A JOKE!

So Newport Gwent Dragons have appointed a marketing expert to lead market research into the future of the Dragons brand. Pontypool loyalist Ben Jeffreys has been appointed as a commercial and marketing consultant with immediate effect.

The blurb states "Jeffreys will be responsible for reviewing the internal commercial structure of the club. He will also be tasked with launching a market research campaign that will help to determine the future direction of the Dragons brand. And he will be expected to oversee the implementation of the club's consumer and business-to-business marketing efforts."

He says: "I am looking forward to working alongside the management team to further enhance the Dragons brand, particularly by maximising commercial effectiveness and developing platforms that aim to embrace and connect with the wider region on a tangible level."

Gareth Davies, chief executive of Newport Gwent Dragons, added: "This appointment will assist us in plotting and planning the further development of our commercial activities, and will enable us to continue to build and strengthen Newport Gwent Dragons as a region."

Lets see now what will Jeffreys suggest? Ah yes, drop the 'N' word, eradicate any trace of Amber from the colours and play the odd game at Pooler Park. Easy to second guess that.

What a pile of tosh. The Dragons brand is an insult. A testimony to the creative genius of Marcus Russell.

1. The first thing to do with the Dragons 'brand' is to drop it altogether. It is a pointless, synthetic nickname that has nothing to do with Newport or the Monmouthshire area.

2. Play in colours people in the City of Newport identify with.

3. Do more to link with the City of Newport instead of ignoring it. Try to reconnect with the hundreds if not thousands of Newportonians who no longer give the Dragons the time of day.

Hopefully, all this nonsense will be consigned to the Civic tip once we have an Anglo Welsh League.

REGIONS MUST STICK TOGETHER

 

Dec 31 2013 - today could pass as a momentous day in the history of club rugby in Wales. The four regions will not sign the Participation Agreement drafted by the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) on the basis that there is no guarantee that the competitions being offered will be of the required standard to generate the necessary income to sustain their businesses.

The WRU under the leadership of Roger Lewis appears set on reducing the funding for the regions thereby allowing the exodus of leading internationals to England and, particularly, France, to continue.

Problems remain with key competitions. The Heineken Cup as presently constituted will not include English teams next year but is likely to include the French. The French, it appears, are still not content with the management of the competition (under the aegis of the European Rugby Cup) and may play below-strength teams.

The Celtic League underpinned by a new Sky television deal in 2014-15 may not retain Italian representation as their Union views their involvement as of limited value.

The proposed Rugby Champions Cup, a new European Cup, will not be delivered this year given the French commitment to the alternative Heineken Cup.  

The English and French domestic leagues go from strength to strength as clubs and their owners seek to break the shackles of their respective Unions. Club matches in each country are realising huge support with, for example, 74,000 recently for Harlequins' holiday game with Exeter. Players from all over the world are flocking to France to play in the Top 14 to enjoy the passion and commitment of playing in a competitive league with huge media profile. English rugby is an important focus for BT in their battle for sporting rights with Sky.

Both England and France took the decision to allow their established club and community games to prosper in the era of professional rugby. Their elite level is well established but there is promotion and relegation thus giving clubs the opportunity to reach the top of the pyramid. This meritocratic system has not been followed in the rest of Europe.

It is a well documented but Wales cast aside the model followed by the English and French. The regions have done little since their inception bar create the environment for the Welsh national team to flourish. They have struggled to create a rapport with fans, to realise revenue or to represent their geographical areas given that they are formed out of numerous rugby communities. However, the ranks of regional supporters were still swelled by the normal Christmas turnout of theatre-goers just to underline latent interest in the game.

The WRU is not interested in the club game it appears. The Celtic League and Premiership are merely there to provide the semblance of club rugby to show Welsh teams are participating even if it is not very good and does not mean very much to those involved. Since 2003 there are fewer supporters watching, fewer players and fewer clubs playing rugby in Wales. The success of the national team has screened out some of the huge underlying issues in our game. It needs urgent action.

With this back drop of administrative uncertainty there is an indication that the Welsh regions may find the courage of their convictions. They may be able to plot a path away from the malign embrace of the WRU. For Newport this could be the last chance to get back to rugby's top table. Fifteen fixtures in the Aviva Premiership with guaranteed funding of £4 million, without WRU central diktat, could be the fillip rugby in the City and the Principality needs. The balance could shift back a little, as it needs to, from our national team to the clubs and communities that are the life-blood of the game.

This is an opportunity not to be missed. The regions have shown a great deal of solidarity and nerve to date. It is vital they continue in this vein.

 

SHOW SOME BALLS!

 

The opportunity for Welsh super clubs to compete in an Anglo-Welsh League is one that should not be passed. Four teams in the Aviva Premiership is the shot in the arm that the club game here needs. It will wreck the union dominated Italo-Celtic mess that we have become accustomed to at club level with half strength sides and uninteresting fixtures. Bringing mighty clubs from England with fans, yes fans, to Newport on a Saturday afternoon will not only provide a shot in the arm for our City economy but it will put Newport RFC back where it should be, at the top of professional rugby in the UK.

The WRU will put up every conceivable barrier to stop this happening (our move to England that is) but provided the commitment is there from across the border and their broadcasting partners the economic and rugby logic in favour of it is irrefutable.

Newport County blazed the trail for it. Our rugby team and its owners, along with the other Welsh teams, should have the courage of their convictions. It is the revolution our rugby needs. There will be many political machinations ahead but when it comes to the crunch they will 'just' need to show some balls to make it happen.

 

 

LYN JONES

 

Lyn Jones is going to provide us with plenty of copy over the coming months, no doubt. Fresh from failing to meet the standard in England the Newport Gwent Dragons have taken a punt with him. Its risky and may have been for the right reasons but he has never had any affinity with Newport rugby and his discourtesy is already evident.

I know its three words as opposed to two, so maybe slightly more of a challenge to him. The team is called Newport Gwent Dragons not the Gwent Dragons. The Gwent Dragons is the failed entity that could not meet its obligations and did not attract any season ticket holders, the Marcus Russell one, the team that Tony Brown stepped in and renamed. It  is quite straightforward, perhaps his employer ought to remind him, or perhaps he is not aware?

 

BLUE AND BLACK

 

The new Dragons kit is frankly, a disgrace. Blue and black is the colour of ..Cardiff. The colour of Monmouthshire as far as I am aware is light blue, but its not of any relevance. The colour that is missing every season and that identifies the area and the city is of course, Amber. That would be the most effective piece of marketing the region could ever deploy. Isn't it about selling jerseys?But the region goes out of its way to adopt the colours of the other Welsh regions rather than our own.

 

 

PREMIERSHIP 'REFORM' IS THIN END OF THE WEDGE

 

April 30 - The WRU's 2012-13 reform plan for the Premiership is avoiding the main issue. The Premiership is being criticised by those searching for the answer to Wales' lack of success in modern rugby. The responsibility for this is not the fault of the Premiership but rests squarely on the shoulders of the regional entities and the bloated bureaucracy of the WRU.

The so-called reformers having imposed regional rugby on us now want to denude our club rugby of its identity. A ten team ring-fenced division will be dominated by regional requirements and without promotion/relegation will have reduced competitive edge. Newport will have their place preserved for perpetuity, no doubt, but at what cost to the development of the game and to our communities? As with regional rugby we will have, in effect, franchises licenced by the union to play in the Premiership. The ability of clubs to grow and develop from lower tiers of rugby will be largely ignored.

 

ANOTHER EUROPEAN SHAMBLES FOR TURNER

 

January 23 - Another shambolic European Cup campaign for Newport Gwent Dragons under current head coach Paul Turner has come to an end. The Dragons' complete failure in this competition belies the unbelievable decision by the Dragons Board to renew his contract. Under Turner the Dragons have lost twenty of their twenty four fixtures and have never beaten an English or Irish side. Their pathetic return includes an away win at Treviso, a victory at Newport over Castres in a dead rubber fixture and a double of over European giants Glasgow. In five seasons Turner has yet to exceed the number of wins in two seasons under Anderson and Ruddock. 

 

 

 

 

TURNERBALLS

 

January 13 - We don't currently have a section called 'Turnerballs' but perhaps we should consider it. According to Men of Gwent acolyte Andy Howell "Paul Turner has delivered a blunt message to his Newport Gwent Dragons squad telling them their jobs are on the line. The Dragons coach didn’t mince his words as he warned the flagging region’s soon-to-be out-of-contract players of the consequences of not performing at their best. Turner stated "It’s that time of the season. There’s no pretence about it, we have got to decide on one or another over a number of players. They have got to show us through performances they warrant a place in the squad.” It seems like there is one criteria for the players and another for the coach. He has consistently failed to perform but still warrants a place as coach, the players are not so lucky. Turner can thank in part brown-nosing journalism such as this.

 

 

NIGEL OWENS - CUT OUT THE CYMRAEG!

 

December 31 - He's clever that Nigel Owens, able to flit between English and Welsh at any given moment as he did in today's match between the Dragons and Scarlets in Newport. However, for a majority of the players they would not have a clue what he was talking about. As all players on the field were able to speak in English and Welsh surely it would avoid confusion and provide greater clarity if his instructions and comments to players were only in English? The odd comment in Welsh is fine but he seemed to use it an awful lot today. As far as I am aware there are no monoglot Welsh speakers playing for the Scarlets' or Dragons.

In addition, it would help if he and other referees stopped calling players by their first names. This practice smacks of over familiarity and may mean he is more inclined to penalise those who are not his friends? What about calling players by their numbers?

I don't expect the WRU to do anything about all this. They are too wrapped up in political correctness for their own good. Lord Islwyn

 

 

PREDICTABLE RUBBISH FROM JENKINS

 

December 23 - "Paul's commitment, pride and passion about the Dragons and Gwent Rugby is without question and we are delighted to retain his services until at least 2012," said Dragons Chief Executive Gethin Jenkins. "Over the past five seasons we have seen the Dragons grow as an organisation, team and as individuals and Paul has played a key role in this regard. We are pleased that he will continue to help us with our aims of continued growth and development and the emergence of local talent."

 

Any proper organisation would be setting objectives for their coach and if not achieved then they would relieve him of his responsibilities. A realistic objective for the Dragons would have been to finish as second or even third Welsh region in the Magners League and to set a points target total for Turner in achieving this. Apparently, the business plan for the Dragons is 'continued growth and development' , sounds more like horticulture than rugby. And 'the emergence of local talent', yes there are a small number of promising players coming through in to the main squad but there are still far more players from New Zealand than Newport in their first XV or first 22.

 

The statement from Jenkins extols the virtue of Turner's pride, passion and commitment about 'Gwent' rugby. Unfortunately, this is a negative not a positive. It is divisive and has nothing to do with the rugby on the field. It may sound good spouting on about these things from his London base but it does not sound good in Newport.

 

His re-appointment may be excellent news for his cronies in the Dragons set up and in the local media but is a disaster for Newport Rugby.

 

SHOCKING COMPLACENCY OF DRAGONS' BOARD

 

December 21 - The suggestion that Paul Turner's contract with Newport Gwent Dragons will be extended by a further two years is a shocking indictment of those responsible for running the regional side. The slight improvement so far this year in the fortunes of the side masks a record of failure that should not be tolerated in professional sport. Our table shows that Turner's inheritance from Chris Anderson has been squandered during four years in which he has been as interested in promoting his own agenda on 'Gwent' and 'stadia' as he has been in events on the field.

The prospects for Newport Gwent Dragons have not been assisted by the media. They represent Turner as performing valiantly in difficult circumstances and as able to get the best out of young players. This has not helped to improve the team and particularly our local media seem content with the 'brave Dragons' going down to narrow defeats or being outclassed by ordinary French opposition like Biarritz (currently eighth in the Top 14). The Dragons' board and the WRU seem likely to reinforce this view by rewarding failure again.

Newport deserves better, but it seems likely that the label of perennial under-achievers suits Turner. The chip on the shoulder mentality of the valleys will once again predominate in the region's thinking when the Board should be looking to get the whole City behind the team.

 

Newport Gwent Dragons - the story so far

 

2003/4  Coach - Mike Ruddock  Position - 3rd 72 points
2004/5 Chris Anderson 4th 50 points
2005/6 Paul Turner 8th 45 points
2006/7 Paul Turner 9th 39 points
2007/8 Paul Turner 8th 34 points
2008/9 Paul Turner 9th 33 points

 

WRU MUST ACT ON POOLER MISCONDUCT

 

October 17 - Pontypool's conduct in today's match with Newport was reprehensible. Aside from their lack of interest in playing rugby one incident in the match must be dealt with. Newport should report it and the WRU must deal with it. It is unforgivable for Pontypool's coaching staff to rush on to the field of play running twenty five metres to join in a brawl. More seriously a player already sent off the field of play also rushed back on the field to join the fray to mete out retribution against Newport players. This appalling behaviour (more akin to bar-room brawls in the wild west) should not be accepted at any level of rugby and sets a dreadful example for watching spectators, some of whom may think it is alright to join in too! In order to prevent it occurring again Pontypool should receive a severe punishment from the WRU.

The 2009/10 WRU Disciplinary Regulations cover the eventuality of a player re-entering the field. In the final paragraph of clause 6.2 it states "Finally, where a Player is sent from the field of play (yellow carded and/or red carded) for whatever offence and subsequently re-enters the field of play to involve himself with an incident, that Player will receive the suspension applicable to the original offence, along with a further 3 week suspension for re-entering the pitch having previously been sent off – either permanently (red carded) or temporarily (yellow carded)."

The WRU Regulations include clear rules about the responsibilities of the coach to comply with their Code of Conduct. It could reasonably be argued that their coach has brought the game into disrepute. The regulations can be found here http://www.wru.co.uk/downloads/pdfs/DISCIPLINARY_REGULATIONS_2009.pdf

Pooler officials ought to read them!

 

TABLE - TOPPING DRAGONS MY A**E!

 

September 9 - One game in and the Dragons have won the mighty Magners League. I kid you not! Orgasmically yours, the pisspoor South Wales Argus sprayed all over the front of its sports supplement yesterday and now leading factual columnist Robin Davey has also confirmed it in his highly regarded weekly essay. Their 23-6 demolition of Ulster was enough to seal it. Top coach Paul Turner will now be canonised, probably receive a fellowship from Newport Uni (along with everyone else) and be celebrated with a piece of modern art in his name on Commercial Street. The streets are covered in tickertape, our heads aloft watching the Red Arrows flypast etc. etc.

 

Actually, you can stop dancing down Dragon Way now. The regional side has won one game not the league, but its proponents are so desperate they are comparing it to Newport County. Newport County are top of their league, fifteen games unbeaten, eight games unbeaten in 2009-10, not one game unbeaten like the Dragons. They are in a competitive league with promotion and relegation and with a dream of League football in the future. That dream of junior football clubs is denied to rugby union clubs because of the sport's obsession with elite structures and provincial sides.

 

It is a bad comparison on so many levels but perhaps worst of all it is sloppy journalism. The Dragons have won one game. If past history is anything to go they will struggle when they face European champions Leinster in Dublin next weekend and most of their games beyond that. Newport County have played eight games won five, drawn three. The comparison detracts from their achievement, that's what the Argus should be celebrating, that County are top of the league.

 

JUNIOR DRAGONS !

 

August 3 - More rubbish through the post this morning this time to my daughter. She was a member of the Junior Black and Ambers and has a signed certificate from Rod Snow and Simon Raiwalui to prove it. It was free. Now she is being offered the chance to join something called the Junior Dragons for the princely sum of £25. They must have got her name and address off the other mailing list but I do not recall giving my permission to Newport Rugby Club to share her data with anyone else and I sincerely hope they do not pass this information on to any other organisations without my permission. Item 1 in the Welcome Pack is a letter from Paul Turner. I am sure it is not what any self respecting young supporter would be looking for as the first thing in their welcome pack and if they are labouring under the impression that Turnip has any connection with younger supporters they are completely mistaken. One can only presume at the inane drivel in his letter probably something along the lines "When I was a young Gwent boy playing rugby in the street, drop-kicking tin cans, side stepping sheep, the only team I wanted to beat was Newport. Now they are dead and buried please join the Gwent Youth organisation, and join the hordes of Gwent-isters who make the pilgrimage to watch the superbly coached Dragons as they fall to glorious defeats every other weekend against big-spending opposition." There is also an item in the Welcome Pack called a Junior Dragons passport, presumably this provides for free movement around the county of 'Gwent'.

Suffice to say my daughter will have the good sense to steer away from any organisation promoted by Turnip and his cohorts and shame on Newport RFC for allowing her personal data to be passed on this way!

 

Lord Islwyn

 

TURNER (AND JONES) MUST GO!

 

May 7 - The disastrous tenure of Paul Turner, Leigh Jones and their cohorts continues at the Newport Gwent Dragons. Once again the Gwentists seem destined to drag the team into a match with an Italian team in order to play off for qualification for the Heineken Cup. This is by virtue of the team finishing 9th in the piss-poor Magners League. Even if they avert this match their record under Turner has been a season by season regression, we are tired of saying it but only in Welsh rugby could such a shattering failure be rewarded with an extended contract! Here goes -

 

2003/4  Coach - Mike Ruddock  Position - 3rd 72 points
2004/5 Chris Anderson 4th 50 points
2005/6 Paul Turner 8th 45 points
2006/7 Paul Turner 9th 39 points
2007/8 Paul Turner 8th 34 points
2008/9 Paul Turner currently 9th 29 points?

In every season under Turner, Newport Gwent Dragons has been the bottom placed Welsh team in the competition.  Under the much maligned Anderson and Mike Ruddock they were the second placed Welsh sides. We are tired of Turner, Leigh Jones, apologists like Robin Davey and their  reports of spirited Dragons performances, valiant defeats and folksy rubbish about a non-existent county. There is no evidence of progress, or hope of progress in the future. In particular, Turner's much vaunted youth policy seems a ridiculous sham with more veteran New Zealanders than young Newportonians in the Dragons squad. We urge those responsible for directing the management of Newport Gwent Dragons to take the necessary business decisions now -

 

  • Sack Turner, Jones and their failed coaching team

  • And return this team to our city now

Lord Islwyn

 

GET RID OF THE ELVs!

 

Mar 30 - The experimental law variations (so called ELVs) have led to some of the most pointless and annoying periods of rugby I can ever remember watching this season. The aerial ping pong is not a direct consequence of the law changes but indirectly it is a result of the changes to the kicking and maul regulations that have given the advantage to defending sides. The ability to pull down the maul without penalty was not only dangerous and foolish but has left attacking sides without a valuable weapon used to commit defending players. Having differential numbers in the lineout allows the defending team an unfair advantage, packing the lineout to win the ball or putting extra numbers in wider defence. Thank heavens in the Northern Hemisphere we have not seen the mass change from penalties to free kicks. Three tips -

  • Scrap the ELVs

  • Stop changing the rules every time Australia or New Zealand has a bad World Cup.

  • Concentrate on better refereeing of the breakdown to ensure greater consistency throughout the game.

 

NEWPORT'S STADIUM

 

Mar 13 - The City Council's backing for the Rodney Parade development is very welcome. A huge effort and no little expense has gone in to this process thus far on the part of Newport Rugby and it is pleasing to see the City get behind, even if it was a narrow vote in its favour. Rodney Parade has been the spiritual home for rugby in Newport for so long it is brilliant to see that it will remain but in a modern setting. Let's hope someone has the foresight to get rid of the idiotic Dragon Way and put something with more resonance in its place.

 

At the meeting the familiar nimby councillors with their rather bizarre reasons against the development thankfully did not hold much sway. One thing is certain that for all the claptrap spouted after the planning success there is little doubt that this is Newport's stadium. And when it is built it should make that very clear. Black and Amber colours and the word 'Newport' should have a major place in the design. The other parts of the so-called 'Gwent' region, it is also certain, will make no financial contribution to this venture. As in fact they have made no contribution to Newport's regional team since the start of the desecration of our club game. These clubs and their local authorities are strangely silent on the matter. Newport will be putting the effort and the finance in to this project and should reap the rewards.

 

SAVE US FROM THESE RIDICULOUS GWENTERS

 

Jan 23 - 'Gwent legends' Garin Jenkins and Mark Taylor have called for Newport to be dropped from the Newport Gwent Dragons name. They want the only scrap of identity from the team name to be destroyed. I am sure this will satisfy those who believe that the team should be called just plain Dragons. This will leave it with a transferable nickname meaning just about anyone can support it from any part of Wales without having to worry too much about where it is based (currently the dreaded Newport). Maybe we should let have them have their way. After all this team can join the rest of the sanitised Welsh sides in the pointless Magners League in an increasingly irrelevant sport. Then the team could eventually move away from our City, perhaps a nice spot for a stadium just off the A4042 on the site of the 'Gwent' hospital that will never be built.

Newport Rugby Football Club, its history, traditions and supporter base were severely diminished as soon as the disastrous deal for a regional side was done with Ebbw Vale. Effectively, the club was reduced to minor status, and is now largely run by a heroic band of volunteers. It will NEVER return to the top of the professional game as long as the present structure of the game in Wales survives. Any serious rugby identity Newport had disappeared the day the 'Gwent' fiasco began and Brown fell in league with Russell.

But I am tired of these ridiculous Gwenters who offer nothing but want everything. Let them have their side, get out of Newport and good riddance.

 

John Frost

 

READ DAVEY AND WEEP!

 

Sep 8 - "The Dragons obviously need to win this one after their opening day home reverse against Glasgow, but for people to call for coach Paul Turner’s head after just one game is ridiculous. It’s a new team, for goodness sake, and while the defeat was disappointing it is clearly going to take time to gel as a team. Far too much emphasis is placed everywhere on quick fixes rather than being a bit patient even if patience has been stretched in the past with the Dragons. " The Argus today courtesy of R Davey. This on the day we have a 'don't panic' Corporal Jones - styley story claiming that Turnip should be given more time and patience from the dwindling band of fans who still turn up at Rodney Parade. How much more of this bilge do we have to put up with? Davey seems to back losers without any good reason - Steve Lewis, Paul Turner, the Dragons etc. He needs to get real the problem is Turner, his stupid Gwentist political utterances and the constant sniping against the only club and its supporters with a history and identity fit to represent our area of Wales. I am sorry we keep coming back to this same argument but it is true. Drop all the baggage and give us back our professional team.

 

The pity of it is Newport has a proud history of rugby journalism back to the days of WJT Collins (Dromio). They are being sadly let down by Davey and his opportunistic ramblings. This is an excerpt from an article addressed by a far better home grown journalist, Stephen Jones, to Munster fans in the Limerick Leader in January. It sums up the death of Newport rugby club and what the Black and Amber means

 

"I used to be a member of a real rugby club once - Newport. We had all the fervency of Munster, the local passions. In the villages and hamlets and suburbs of Newport and district, we held ownership. The history meant that the players realised they were only borrowing the jersey, for a tick of history's clock. In Munster, you have a whole book, by some obscure author, and endless memories of beating the All Blacks. We beat New Zealand, South Africa and drew with Australia inside six years in the 1960s; in 10 successive matches against the southern hemisphere giants the biggest defeat we suffered was by six points. We once went seven seasons without losing.

We are no more. The Welsh Rugby Union forgot what made Wales great. They took our club away. We still play at Rodney Parade, but now we are known as the Newport Gwent Dragons, or just The Dragons.
The stadium is never full, the team cannot even rise up the feeble Magners League, they play in pastel kit, the town no longer feels ownership or belonging, the players come from all over, Rodney Parade is almost a ruin. The team now represents a giant lump of east Wales, marked out on a map by crude straight lines.... Limerick still has its rugby heart and soul and is part of something very special, a life-force; but that Newport's rugby soul has been stolen away. One day we will get the team back. And how proud I will be of my brick in the Thomond wall when Newport, the city team, our team, and not the silly Gwent Dragons nonsense, come to play at Thomond Park, the theatre of pints and passion. On that day 26,000 seats won't be enough."


 

NEW ANGLO WELSH CUP

 

Aug 26 - More positive news. England plan to create a second professional league of 12 teams. The new Anglo Welsh Cup will incorporate our four sides, twelve Guinness Premiership and the top four of their second division. In addition, their remaining eight sides will play in a second tier competition against our top six Premiership sides. At last our Premiership sides will have something to play for even if there is no immediate way in to the regional rugby 'closed shop'. It satisfies England's ambitions to generate income through the period of the Six Nations tournament and gives our teams the lifeblood of cross border competition. Good news. The only difficulty will be that the playing budgets of our Premiership teams are less than a third of their English equivalents. The English spend more because of the lucrative prize of Guinness Premiership promotion. Will our sides be similarly ambitious without a structure that rewards success? Despite this no one should decry a positive step in the right direction.

 

FIFTH REGION

 

Aug 16 - The obvious solution to the fifth region debate initiated by Warren Gatland is to bring rugby back to the valleys of South Wales. The area feels no affinity with any of the major teams on the coastal belt - they also have a defined identity and could probably generate sufficient support. A South Wales Valleys team would probably generate a special atmosphere at matches with Newport and Cardiff. Yes, we could have those names back too and drop the ridiculous 'Gwent' tag. The only problem would be finding a suitable venue. Sardis Road is decidedly tired and would need plenty of development. But the smart money is on a dull Wrexham based venture.

 

REGIONAL RUGBY PROGRESS

 

Players not available to play for Wales

 

Newport 2000/1 the so called 'Bok and Ambers' - Adrian Garvey (South Africa - 28 caps), Matt Pini (Italy/Australia - 8/13 caps), Matt Mostyn (Ireland - 6 caps), Peter Buxton (England), Rod Snow (Canada - 61 caps), Simon Raiwalui (Fiji - 39 caps), Gary Teichmann (SA - 42 caps).

 

2003 - start of regional rugby. Stated aim to develop Welsh professional rugby talent.

 

Players not available to play for Wales

 

Newport Gwent Dragons 2008/9 the 'mostly uncapped All Black and Ambers' - Joe Bearman (England), Adam Black (England), Andrew Hall (Scotland - 1 cap), Hoani McDonald (NZ), James Alridge (NZ - 4 caps for Japan), Rory Sidey (Australia), Marc Stcherbina (Australia), Grant Webb (NZ), Tom Willis (NZ - 5 caps)

 

BACKING LEWIS WILL NOT HELP NEWPORT

 

Aug 7 - The news that Steve Lewis is up for election for the District A representative position with the WRU should worry everyone associated with Newport. Lewis along with his mates in the media will do everything possible to pursue their politically correct 'Gwentist' approach to rugby ensuring that every village side has a say in how rugby in Newport should be run. Lewis was at the forefront of the mythical consortium slavishly back by Davey and co. Only for it to be revealed as built on sand. Let us hope that the WRU has now handed back its 50 per cent share in the regional rugby side as promised so long ago. The running of professional and semi-professional rugby should be the responsibility of those clubs and not rest with interfering politicos like Lewis. The district representatives of the WRU should maintain their focus on the development of the amateur game.

 

Sep 2 - Thankfully Lewis did not make the grade and lost heavily to Ken Hewitt, the incumbent.

 

BRING BACK CHRIS ANDERSON!(?)

 

Jan 13 - Strange that Paul Turner is washing his dirty linen in public again? Robin Davey slavishly reports that Turner is in negotiations with the Newport Gwent Dragons board. Possibly to renew his contract. The only sane response to this situation is - why? What has he done in three years to merit any reconsideration? The answer is surely, nothing. Certainly, he has aired his ideological views about the so-called region. There is no doubt that he is committed to the mythical land that is Gwent. But let's put aside his boring non-rugby utterances. What has he done in a rugby sense to justify even a second look? Two of the worst defeats by any team playing out of Rodney Parade, to Italian sides with appalling records in any form of European competition....9th and 10th in the pisspoor Magners League..the almost impossible failure to qualify for the Heineken Cup. Even the much vaunted "making the most of a bad job" style of coaching could be seen as a mis-representation, player development, signings..hmm! I think the facts may suggest more than a few negatives there as well.

Throughout it all Turner has had a well oiled publicity machine in his favour from an obvious quarter but the fact remains that Chris Anderson had a far better outcome on the field (where it matters) with not dissimilar resources.

Isn't it typical of Welsh rugby to reward under-achievement? There are enough comfort zones already in our competitions and amongst our complacent administrators and players. It's time for the Board to show some balls. Do not even consider making the same mistake again!

Turner should take with him his baggage, his 'streets of Gwent' lyricism, his 'D' word, his 'G' word, his well oiled publicist and leave Newport to take back its rugby team. Islwyn

 

REGIONAL RUGBY IS NOT WORKING SAY ANGLO WELSH JOURNALISTS

 

Jan 2 - Stephen Jones - Rugby Correspondent of the Sunday Times - Sunday December 30 - castigates the notion of provincial or regional rugby clubs. When referring to Wales he says "there is growing opinion that the teams there are drifting and that they should be returned as soon as possible to the four cities which nurtured them over a century ago....in their heart, rugby's followers want to belong. Few of them feel part of a region. Many of them are addicted to the adrenalin thrill of watching a team from their history and also from their present, winning a big rugby match; and more to the point, playing that match in their own backyard. Kingsholm is some backyard but it draws one hell of a big family." For Kingshom five years ago you could have read Rodney Parade.

Steve Bale - Daily Express - January 2 "If ever a place needed an investment, it is Rodney Parade, but this piece of once-hallowed Welsh ground also needs a team worthy of the stadium development the board have stated will occur after this season. It also needs a team to play on it. Chairman Martyn Hazell has not made good on an undertaking to make a major international signing. Unless someone is found to finance a club who, in their original Newport incarnation had one of the finest histories in rugby, even this low-achieving side could simply dissolve."

 

WILL HE STAY..OR WILL HE GO? He will probably stay, but he might go, it is an easy story to write (for any journalist)

 

Dec 24 - A controversial 'Gwenter' could be staying at the end of the season despite calls for the end of his tedious reign. The person has been with the Draggedups since the arrival of regional rugby over four years ago and has almost been a regular member of the side.

The 87-year-old, who also attempts to witter on about anything else that enter his head was asked about his future plans he would not reply other than to say: "We'll have to wait and see what my long-term future holds." When pressed further his only comment was, "We live in the present and can't worry about the past or the future." But he stopped well short of giving any indication that he would be staying with the newspaper. He admitted this year has not been the best in his career. "It's been a mixed bag," he said. "At the start I was in favour with Turnip (Dragoons leader), then I missed out on the Stadium story which was really disappointing, but I fought back hard and when we lost to that major Italian team I was at my brown-nosing best."

"We can find excuses, plenty of excuses for the situation we're in with the Dragqueens but at the moment it is all the fault of the die-hard Newport people, its the Gwent hordes I feel sorry for. After all, Newport is running the club, its in the name...continued on page 94.....although next week I may blame somebody else. I am certainly not to blame, although everyone hangs on my every word. I can say players are leaving/staying with out any information to support it other than their vague statements, likewise I can argue that the Dragoles will receive reduced funding or could go out of existence without evidence for this. The failures of the team on the field have nothing to do with the results. The results are the management's fault. The coach has no control over how the team plays, tactics employed. It certainly not the players fault either. Turnip is marvellous, have you heard his album 'streets of Gwent' it's stirring stuff. Although I exempt certain people from criticism like those that support the club financially, who I must not upset too much.....back to page 94

WHATEVER HAPPENS, THE COACH WILL BE SAFE

 

Nov 19 - The biggest defeat suffered by a team playing out of Rodney Parade in the Heineken Cup but not the most embarassing. Losing to Parma is still the ultimate. Welsh region Newport Gwent Dragons were taken apart by English Premiership club side London Irish in front of 6,000 aghast and very quiet spectators. London Irish could not not believe their luck. With Catt and Richards at half back they looked a class apart. Evans and Sweeney seemed mere amateurs by comparison. Their line out was super effective despite the Dragons having the tallest man on the pitch. The Dragons played three open sides for much of the game and left huge yawning gaps around the ruck area. But nothing was done until far too late in the game (the introduction of Bearman).  Evans was done like a kipper by Richards but Williams' introduction to the game on the hour was after the damage had been wreaked.

Kevin Morgan had a disastrous game at full back and contributed by errors to two of the Exiles tries.

The defeat had nothing to do with the relative squad strengths. Tactical errors were made by the Dragons coaches and they should accept that they have failed once too often. But no doubt the excuses are already being penned -"lack of money", "making the best of bad lot", "young boys courageous in defeat", "learn from it come back stronger", "streets of Gwent blah!blah!" It is all trite, patronising garbage. If the team was still a professional Newport side Turner and his cronies would be long gone but as this is not a proper side, merely an extended squad of the national team where results in important club competitions are a side issue, it does not matter. The team will qualify for the Heineken Cup in perpetuity barring miracles no matter how crap it is and it will never face the prospect of relegation. Regional team supporters and their disappointments or feelings of anger and frustration are irrelevant. Whatever the consequences, in Welsh regional rugby the coach and his multi-tasking associates can carry on regardless.

 

THE BIG DEBATE DROSS

 

Oct 26 - We appear to be having a 'big debate' in Welsh rugby to find out what went wrong in the World Cup. It is such a big debate that the answers have already been formulated by the WRU and their subservient media.

Exclusively I can reveal their conclusions are

- We need a foreign coach on the grounds that it that the last Welsh one was not as good as the one before, even though the last overseas coach we had was awful. Anyway, a Southern Hemisphere coach is bound to support our pisspoor regional rugby system.

- We need to destroy the Premiership as it has failed to develop players for our red-hot regional teams. The Premiership is the last vestige of club rugby with its backward view of the world based on identity, supporters and promotion and relegation. These are all things that must be removed from our game in Wales. Therefore, it must also be blamed for our failure in the World Cup.

 

The 'Big Debate' could, of course, look at our professional tier, the players, coaches and all the followers on paid for by television revenue received by the WRU. What about analysing our dreadful performance in meaningful competitions? Unfortunately, nothing will be allowed to cast doubt on the latest in a long line of mistakes made by the WRU in administering rugby in Wales. We could ask what we have gained by removing a proper hierarchy from our club game not allowing clubs the opportunity to progress up and down the pyramid? We could ask why the WRU has any role in the professional game, should they not just get on with developing the amateur and international game as per the RFU?

 

The media has not offered any insight in to the parlous state of our game. We have the worst journalists commenting on the game in Wales in our history. Robin Davey, Andy Howell, Simon Thomas etc. are not opinion formers. They have nothing to offer. We also have a group of incoherent former players who have their own puny media careers reliant on BBC Wales / S4C's close relationship with the WRU. (I criticised rugby coverage on BBC Wales in a Newport RFC programme article once and was advised it could not be included as they are 'sponsors' of our game via the television contract). This group of players and journalists cannot even countenance any changes to professional rugby and are quite happy rambling on about who should be Elite Performance Director. Quite frankly, who cares when our rugby is dying?

 

As ever Paul 'streets of Gwent' Turner has offered his solution. Effectively get rid of the Premiership and replace it with an 'A' league of regional teams. This would mirror the English structure where for all its faults there is a wealth of home-grown young playing talent. But Paul, what about the rest of the English method? You cannot simply take the parts that suit your regional agenda. We need to look at strong club identities, promotion / relegation, more freedom for clubs to invest in the market place and seek out business investment and sponsorship. The 'A' league will suit the needs of any lazy regional coach who cannot be bothered to watch club games. Turner's reputation as a coach who develops young players is open to question anyway.

 

Perhaps therein lies the answer to the appalling state of a professional game. We need to do everything we can to tie our playing structure in with the most successful league in Europe, the Guinness Premiership. The WRU should do whatever it can to bring our professional and semi professional teams in to the English fold. If not possible immediately it ought to be preparing for it in the future. The pointless Magners League is a commercial and playing disaster and it is obvious in the short term we would be better off with a six team professional league. The Irish and Scots regard the Magners League as a joke, so we should take them on at face value.

 

Getting in to the Guinness Premiership and English league structure would reinvigorate our club rugby but it would have to be at a substantial price. This is the challenge for the WRU, it would have to renegotiate cross border agreements, television contracts, sponsorship etc. But the price of failure to do this is the end of professional rugby in Wales.

 

CLUBS 3 OTHERS 1

 

Oct 10 - It was rugby's most exhilirating weekend in recent memory. England summoned up all their doggedness, sheer guts and composure under pressure to see off cocky Australia in a titantic tussle. Even better, France pulled past now traditional bottlers New Zealand in a stunning match in Cardiff. Fiji joyously dragged South Africa back level before failing to hold on. Argentina were made to play for fifteen minutes at the end of their disappointing game by plucky but ineffective Scotland. Rugby union captured the spotlight, two sleeping giants of the Northern Hemisphere awoke leaving Henry and Connolly nursing broken strategies and plans.

And best of all it was players from the club teams of Europe who led the way. England, France and Argentina are drawn from the strongest club based leagues in the world. When the chips are down the players showed they knew how to handle pressure and close games down. They also showed that they are more than a physical match for anything the southern hemisphere can throw at them. England's front row (Sheridan, Regan and Vickery) made mincemeat of their vaunted Aussie opponents. Sebastian Chabal left in McCaw, Collins and co. in his wake as he made his entrance as the ultimate impact player on Saturday. Pichot and Hernandez continued their show as the best half back pairing in the championship. All these guys play in meaningful competitive matches, week in, week out. They put their bodies on the line every time sometimes at the expense of their international ambitions. But when it came down to it they had the steely determination to confront their opponents head-on and the composure to close games out to claim victory.

They do not play in half baked fixtures that are rehearsals for the national team. They rarely play in front of less than 10,000 fans. They have club supporters, not high street or armchair fans. They always play to win. They have top class officials, sponsors, facilities. They get results - look at the Heineken Cup, Six Nations - when it matters. Their club structures are competitive all the way down the pyramid - not just at the top. And yet we cannot see the writing on the wall.

OPTION 1 - We should be doing everything we can to play in the best competitions and allow our clubs to flourish in the market place of professional rugby. We have to find a way in to the Guinness Premiership, offer the RFU a significant entry fee and get in to the English league hierarchy further down the structure as well. It will reinvigorate our rugby and who knows some of the success may be rub off on our players. 

OPTION 2 - Carry on as we are. In which case we might aswell abandon professional rugby, do an Argentina and let our best players go on to play in the French and English leagues.

 

TURNER - THE VERDICT

 

Oct 3 - Top Welsh coach Pauline 'Turnip' Turner has issued the verdict all of Welsh rugby has been waiting to hear. Paul strolled the 'streets of Gwent' with top sports journalist Robin 'scoop' Davey and delivered the following in depth analysis of our rugby crisis -

 

"We lost to Parma, no sorry Fiji, its not the end of the world. There must be an international equivalent to the Challenge Cup out there somewhere. And strictly Come Dancing is back on Saturday anyway".

"I am ruling myself out of consideration for the Wales job. I am quite happy destroying Newport rugby for the time being. There is very little left for me to destroy at international level".

"Every other level of rugby is crap, the Premiership, the academies, everything. The only thing that is not crap is regional rugby. It has been a soaraway success. The players in the Premiership are vastly overpaid and it is not an effective breeding ground for young talent. Whereas at regional level we are not getting proper recognition for our success."

"Things may be low at the moment but I saw a boy in Newbridge drop kick a can over a Smart car shouting out 'Gwent!Gwent! Gwent!' It brought a tear to my eye. That boy will go on to greatness in our glorious fatherland/region one day."

 

LOST FOR WORDS?

 

Sep 30 - Are you lost for words at the Welsh defeat to Fiji? Despite the brilliance of the match Wales came second to a team with hardly any set piece play or kicking game. They gave the Fijians the ball and were unable to contain them defensively.

But this is not an isolated instance. The 2005 Grand Slam win has masked our continuing decline as a rugby nation. That is the crushing reality of the failure to reach the quarter finals despite having been placed in the easiest of the available pools.

Welsh players and teams are consistently failing at all levels of competitive rugby. There is no evidence that the structure put in place by the Welsh Rugby Union is producing results or allowing the game to flourish. Our performances in the Six Nations and the Heineken Cup fit the same bill. There is little point in blaming Gareth Jenkins and his coaching team when they do not have the quality of player available to take Wales forward in major competitions.

Just to look at one aspect of play for much of yesterday's game yesterday the Welsh seemed overwhelmed by the intensity of general Fijian play particularly when they were taking the ball forward or in the tackle area. They are not used to high intensity rugby. It is rare they play in it.

Some further thoughts -

The Magners League is a pointless waste of time. We need to link up with the English, we have nothing in common with Ireland and Scotland.

We need competitions with meritocracy allowing new teams to come through, ring fencing teams makes for boring competitions and takes the marketplace out of rugby. There are too many comfort zones for our players, teams and administrators.

Give us proper clubs in proper competitions.

Before the march Fijian outside half Nicky Little stated Welsh players. He was right.

Give Newport back its youth team.

Andy Howell does not what he is talking about. See here. But you knew that already.

Eddie Butler in the Observer today "The only way forward in Wales is to live at the table of England. It is what made Welsh rugby what it is. Isolated in her own company, or the company of fellow Celts, Welsh rugby has polarised towards the romantic notion of a running game. But when Welsh clubs had to cross the border to Gloucester and Bath, they had to have a pack, too. The clubs of the east, from Pontypool to Ebbw Vale, from Newbridge to Newport, used to provide the pack-horses for the dancers of the west. All the clubs of Gwent are in a state of disrepair, discarded by those that chase the dragon of fancy."

 

BEST NEWS IN AGES

 

Sep 6 - The news of the planned redevelopment of Rodney Parade as the venue for our city's rugby teams is the best news since the regional disaster got under way in 2003. It took Newport City Council to bang heads together and to finally get everyone to admit that a city centre stadium offers the best solution for professional rugby in the area. And since Rodney Parade was already there, why not use the infrastructure available and design a new stadium on the site? Financed by land sales and residential apartments within the development and no doubt underpinned by finance from the City Council the proposal offers the first optimistic note for Newport fans in some time. Well done to everyone involved.

Better this than the weasel words of Robin Davey and his promise of some far off consortium with no business plan and a desire to destroy Newport RFC. Interesting to read the words of Paul Flynn MP the other day on his website about this group

"There have been tantalising approaches by a shadow consortium. They visited me and I was left with more questions than answers. They did not show their hand and the suspicion is that they were outsiders out to make a killing out of Newport historic rugby loyalty. Who Knows?"

The main imperative now is getting the stadium built and ensuring that Newport RFC remain its owners. I am a shareholder and while I wholeheartedly welcome the development nothing should be done to undermine the institution that has played there and run the place for so long.

There is the also the little matter of where the teams should play in 2009-10 while the development is under way. It makes sense for Newport Gwent Dragons (or whatever they are called by then) to play at an established ground with sufficient seating for its season ticket holders, able to provide bars and corporate hospitality and with adequate floodlighting particularly for tv coverage. Looking around the nearest to the mark is Cardiff Arms Park. There is no way they could play much more than a friendly at the poxy grounds of our regional outposts and why should they? Torfaen, Monmouthshire and Blaenau Gwent will not be investing a penny in the new rugby stadium for a team that supposedly represents them. Newport Stadium, although a better prospect, would need significant additional seating and temporary bar facilities. The latter may be a more suitable venue for Newport RFC (if the City Council can sort the pitch out and move Llanwern FC elsewhere) as it can accommodate 1-2,000 comfortably.  

With the stadium development Newport can once again influence its destiny as a rugby city. Who knows with a vibrant city and increasing population and more pride in being a Newportonian the momentum may be unstoppable. But that's for another day. On the rugby front, this was the best news in ages. Lord Islwyn 

 

  

DOMESTIC RUGBY SHAMBLES part 94

 

Aug 10 - The new rugby season is underway. Gareth Jenkins is taking a beating for the disastrous defeat (62-5) at the hands of England but it is hardly his fault that he does not have the playing talent at his disposal to combat a mighty English pack. Should Jenkins be taking the blame for the inherent weakness in our game?

Regional / Celtic rugby is characterised by poor forward play and a lack of intensity in the tackle area. There is a competition for the ball on the ground due to the interpretation of the laws in the Celtic countries but frequently our forwards are lazy and do not roll away from the tackled player once the tackle is over. Our set piece play is generally poor, we have few dominant line out jumpers and our game is not producing powerful scrummagers. The front row battle in England or France means that you face Sheridan, Marconnet, de Villiers, White, Hayman etc. in domestic action week in and week out. English or French tight forwards are constantly being pressurised and confronted by the calibre of their opponents, including overseas players attracted to their League competitions. 

Matches between our regional teams are rehearsals for the national team and do not have the level of naked aggression and frankly the nasty edge required. The players know one another too well. There are too many comfort zones for them. Prior to the England match stories were invented for our national press to indicate that the Welsh training camp was a battle zone with players knocking chunks out of one another. Surely they should be doing this on the rugby field in matchplay as well?

 

The new domestic season will be with us shortly. The Scottish Rugby Union's takeover of Edinburgh is undoubtedly a negative blow to the Magners League. It means Stephen Larkham will not be joining them and will seek offers elsewhere. Meanwhile, the piss-poor Magners League has failed to attract an international signing of significance compared to the huge influx of Springboks and All Blacks into France and England. Long may this continue, the marketplace should be allowed to dictate where players play rather than the unions, who have made such a mess of governing the game.

 

Newport Gwent Dragons have yet to make a signing of note. We were promised a Russian but Vladmir Putin won't let him leave the homeland. No, I got confused with the Litvinenko saga again, sorry. Paul Turner will be scouring the world from 'Gwent' born talent, but eventually he will realise that there is very little out there and most of it is not from his mythical paradise. Indeed, he will also realise that the non-Gwent talent has no intention of playing for him anyway. By the way Paul, 'we' did not sign Gary Teichmann. 'Newport' signed Gary Teichmann and you are no Tony Brown.

 

The proper Black and Ambers will be stepping out in the ultimate village league, the Premiership, which is becoming almost as pointless as the Magners League. The WRU make up the rules as they go along. Promotion and relegation are needless side-issues. And anyone who says the playing standard in this League has improved is joking. Dwindling crowds are a barometer of spectator interest in this competition and for many who watch the games it fills in the gap between beers on a Saturday afternoon off. It is providing very little in the way of up and coming talent and for the clubs there is no hope of progressing or developing as there is a bar on moving up to the regional level. It is highly likely that Neath will be the dominant force in the Premiership again. Lord Islwyn

 

 

A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN

 

Jul 28 - We are promised a feast of rugby in the Magners League by the apologists for regional rugby. Its interesting to compare the squads being assembled by the respective leagues next season other than domestic movements. Find attached notable international signings

 

MAGNERS LEAGUE

 

Glasgow - Daryl Gibson (New Zealand), Leinster - Ollie Le Roux (South Africa), Edinburgh - Stephen Larkham (Australia)

 

GUINNESS PREMIERSHIP / Division 2

 

BATH - Michael Claassens (South Africa), Paulica Ion (Romania), Butch James (South Africa) BRISTOL - Graeme Beveridge (Scotland), Kevin Maggs (Ireland) GLOUCESTER - Lesley Vainikolo (Bradford RL), Gareth Delve (Wales)), Alasdair Dickinson (Scotland), Alasdair Strockosch (Scotland), Jeremy Paul (ACT Brumbies/Autralia), Gareth Cooper (Wales), Chris Patterson (Scotland) HARLEQUINS - De Wet Barry (The Stormers/South Africa). LEICESTER - Mefin Davies (Wales), Aaron Mauger (New Zealand), Owen Finegan (Australia) LONDON IRISH - Tom Curran (Australia), Jeremy Staunton (Ireland) NEWCASTLE - Ross Beattie (Border Reivers/Scotland), Carl Hayman (Otago/NZ) SALE - Luke McAlister (Auckland Blues/New Zealand), Scott Lawson, Rory Lamont (Scotland), Julien Laharrague (France)

SARACENS - Chris Jack (Canterbury Crusaders/NZ) WORCESTER - Rico Gear (Canterbury Crusaders/NZ), Greg Rawlinson (Auckland Blues/NZ), Sam Tuitupou (Auckland Blues/NZ). DIV 2 / Northampton - Joe van Niekerk (SA)

 

FRENCH TOP 14 / Division 2

PERPIGNAN - Percy Montgomery (SA), Chris Cussier, Nathan Hines (Scotland) CLERMONT AUVERGNE - Jon Smit, Marius Joubert (SA), TOULOUSE - Byron Kelleher (NZ), Macus di Rollo (Scotland) BIARRITZ - Ashley Willemse (SA), TOULON - George Gregan (Aus), Andrew Mehrtens (NZ), Lawrence Sephaka (SA)CASTRES - Kees Meeuws (NZ) MONTAUBAN - Scott Murray (Scotland), STADE FRANCAIS - Simon Taylor (Scotland) 
 

 

ANDERSON v TURNER

 

Jul 10 - Chris Anderson the former Newport Gwent Dragons coach has been chastised by Robin Davey and others for criticising the poor set up of professional rugby in Wales. Anderson described it as fifteen years behind the times. Davey fires back in today's Argus "for Anderson to hit out at Welsh rugby in the way he has beggars belief. For a start what does he know about rugby union? Precious little on the evidence of his 12-month tenure at Rodney Parade." Well, any review of the record book may tell a different story. Anderson's brief tenure as coach was highly successful when compared to Paul 'streets of Gwent' Turner.

 

ANDERSON 2004/5 Celtic League Position 4th Points 50

TURNER     2005/6 Celtic League Position 8th Points 45

TURNER     2006/7 Celtic League Position 9th Points 39

 

ANDERSON 2004/5 Heineken Cup POOL 5 2nd Points 15 (won 3, lost 3)

TURNER     2005/6 Heineken Cup POOL 1 3rd  Points 6 (won 1, lost 5)

TURNER     2006/7 Heineken Cup Did Not Qualify

 

Anderson's 2004/5 Heineken Cup team were the highest placed Welsh team in the qualifying stages.

 

Not bad for someone who hasn't got a clue about rugby union!

 

TURNER'S ROLE IN 'STADIUM' PLAN NEEDS TO BE REVIEWED

 

June 10 - On May 4 the South Wales Argus trumpeted a Jerry Sherman type take over of Newport Gwent Dragons and the proposal to build the Steve Lewis Dome at an undisclosed site within the City of Newport. Six weeks on, despite the calls from Newport City Council (May 18th) and Newport Unlimited (June 6th) there is still no sign of the consortium or its backers.

It is worth reflecting now on the intial coverage of this apparent fiction. The sullen presence of Steve Lewis, the dead hand of Robin Davey and enthusiastic backing of Paul Turner are all to be seen and/or heard. Indeed, Turner was extolling the virtues of this plan to supporters during the Dragons' ill fated venture to Clermont Auvergne. Apparently, he spent a lot of time pushing the interests of this idea and working with those involved. Was this at the expense of time spent working for his employer? And what exactly was his connection with the new group? Was he promised a rugby position in return for his support for their aims? As a solid man of Gwent no doubt he would have fitted in with their view of Welsh rugby. The questions should now be asked. It was an unsettling episode and reassurance should be sought that Turner was working in the best interests of his current employer.   

 

HOW HAZELL SHOULD RESPOND TO TURNER

 

May 21 - So Paul Turner has made a much publicised request for major investment from Martyn Hazell in players for the coming season.

Turner has just guided Newport Gwent Dragons to a narrow victory over a plucky but poor Calvisano side to ensure their place in next year's Heineken Cup. In their three away fixtures in this year's Heineken Cup the Italians mustered 23 points and conceded 140 points. They shipped 50 points at home to Neath Swansea Ospreys. But Turner's Dragons conspired to almost lose to them.

For the second year running Turner guided his team to bottom slot of the four Welsh teams. This year they were a full 18 points adrift of the third team, Llanelli. They were ninth as opposed to eighth. In 2004/5 under the much maligned Chris Anderson they were........fourth.

In Turner's first season he finished off matters with a humiliating defeat at the hands of Overmach Parma, the only time in the short history of regional rugby that a Welsh professional team has pulled off the near impossible and failed to qualify for the Heineken Cup.

His signings - Hinton, Jess, Stewart etc. have reflected a poor sense of judgement and look at all the players that have come and gone. I won't start a list it will take up most of the website. Their departure is invariably attributed by Robin Davey to lack of ambition, facilities, better prospects elsewhere etc. The departure notes could be written by Turner but few of them want to stick around and carry on the good work wih him. 

Time after time we are told he is good at getting the best out of young players - well, put him in charge of the academy set up then! Get a proper coach in to run the senior side and get rid of the failures and show ponies surrounding Turner who only have an interest in preening themselves for a future Welsh coaching role.

Off the field he has pursued his own political agenda. His 'streets of Gwent' refrain at every turn has bored away a whole generation of Newport supporters who have no interest in what happened when he grew up amongst close knit communities, butties, sheep worriers, and constant choral harmonies in a non-existent county. Neither do they have any interest where Blaenavon is or how everyone is getting on in Aberbeeg.  

The hand of Turner has been evident in the trumped up stories about a takeover bid for Newport Gwent Dragons and a possible San Siro like stadium complex for 5k Dragons fans and 1k County fans. He has wittered on for most of the season via his mouthpiece Davey about such a scheme. And now thanks to two blokes and a company registration he can indulge himself a little. Through the columns of the Argus he has spent too much of his time undermining the Board of the Newport Gwent Dragons, questioning their motives and saying he does not have the tools to do his job, excuse, blah blah. But at times you are left to question who Turner is working for, I am sure his current employer is often left wondering that one every day of the week. 

Each defeat is justified by "we only had kids out there" or "it was a great night for Gwent rugby even though we lost". Heroic, battling, gallant young Dragons are eulogised by Robin Davey as they lose to mighty Connacht or Edinburgh. At some point the coach or manager has to take responsibility for events on the field. He has yet to.

Too often in rugby, particularly Welsh rugby, failure is rewarded. In a proper competitive league Turner would have been sacked by now. 8th and 9th in the Celtic League consecutive seasons and a season of European Challenge Cup rugby is seen as progress using the peculiar standard applied by Davey and other apologists. They have allowed the coach to get away with murder and to pursue a personal agenda detrimental to the future of rugby in the city of Newport. Martyn Hazell's best investment plan would be to show Paul Turner the door!   

 

FATE OF NEWPORT RUGBY MAY LIE WITH SHAREHOLDERS AND WITH BROWN

 

May 7 - There is every reason to believe that those running Newport Gwent Dragons will be happy to surrender control of the side...if the price is right. The Welsh Rugby Union through Chief Executive Roger Lewis has indicated that it may be necessary to review the Participation Agreement for regional rugby if the takeover bid goes ahead. This is a clear indication that Newport RFC's controlling interest in the Dragons would disappear as would the prospect of the new entity being a Newport standalone. Steve Lewis, a backer of the bid has trumpeted the prospect of overseas signings should it go ahead. Robin Davey has claimed that a new stadium will be built to serve the new team.

So far then, a lot of talk but no detail. We have become accustomed to this from Davey and Lewis.

There are two key interests missing in all this - Newport Rugby Football Club and Rodney Parade. No mention so far of either. In order to finance their dream will these 'Gwent' businessmen need to sell off the prize asset currently in the possession of the shareholders of Newport RFC - Rodney Parade

If this comes to a vote every shareholder should remember their responsibilities to 132 years of first class rugby in Newport. They should remember the duty to those who have worn the famous black and amber and their responsibility to ensure that Newport RFC is preserved and also the name of 'Newport' is preserved in any future professional / first class team representing the area. They should also not be persuaded or tempted to sell the family silver for short term personal gain. 

The role of shareholders will be crucial - RP requires a one member one vote ballot of shareholders and a 75 per cent vote in favour.

The role of Tony Brown will also be vital. Despite his illness and recent lack of contact with the club his recommendation is likely to influence shareholders. Although it should also be remembered that his good intentions set up the Dragons  their existence has been troubled on and off the field and they have never adequately replaced the Newport professional team that went before. In other words supporting the WRU and getting in to bed with Ebbw Vale was one of the biggest mistakes ever made by Newport RFC. In effect, the club disappeared whereas both Cardiff and Llanelli survived as standalone entities. In the light of this historic error it is to be hoped that the Tony and the Board use their influence to extract every possible advantage for Newport RFC from the consortium and that there is a satisfactory conclusion to this.

 

COUNTY CAN BE A BIG PLAYER IN LEAGUE FOOTBALL

 

May 2 - Newport County proved in the last couple of weeks that it is well on course to regaining football league status within 4-5 years. The hardcore support is unfaltering and the undercurrent of potential and passion for the club is endless. I truly believe if County were in Cardiff City’s position we’d be averaging much more than the miserly 12/13000 that CCFC are getting in the second tier of English Football. The identity and pride of the County being a true people’s club is also heart-warming and should

ensure the club remains in good hands. I have been looking at the populations of regional clubs within the English premiership and it makes interesting reading. Discounting the teams from the huge major cities of England it certainly makes you think just what could be achieved!

 

1st Portsmouth (189k)

2nd   Reading (143k)

3rd Middlesbrough (142k)

4th Newport (140k)

5th Bolton (139k)

6th Blackburn (105k)

7th Wigan (81k)

 

When you consider where Bolton are currently lying with a similar population to Newport it just shows how far careful and considerate planning can take you. I would also consider County to potentially be bigger than Fulham, Watford and possibly Charlton but because of the London factor I couldn’t work this out on a population basis. My vision for the medium-term future of NCFC is a football purpose only stadium with no athletics at all. I see this as the key factor of progress as I don’t believe Spytty Park in it’s current guise is fit for league football. I would then like to see all four sides of the stadium moved closer to make a compact more intimidating ground whilst retaining the current land for future development. I see no reason why in about the year 2025 we should not be in Bolton’s position of European football and a 25,000 all-seater stadium.  The future’s bright, the future’s Amber! O.Dyke

 

 

'TOP TEAM IN GWENT' GARBAGE

 

Apr 27 - Newport will finish their Welsh Premiership season against Pontypridd aiming to be the 'top team in Gwent' according to our local rag. Apparently, Ebbw Vale are vying with them for the honour of being top dog in a mythical county. What a load of codswallop. Newport are the top team in the locality, always have been, they run the regional team there is no honour to be contested. Anyway, some title.

The pity of it is that despite their longstanding pre-eminence that as Newportonians we are not able to utter the 'N' word when referring to the professional team for fear of arrest by the regional rugby thought police. And we have a pale shadow of the real Black and Ambers playing in the village league. The rugby identity of the City is at an all time low ebb. We have allowed idiots like Turner and Davey to dictate their ridiculous agenda at the cost of the Black and Ambers. Now we have Newport sidelined in a pointless Welsh competition and the Newport name virtually excluded from an equally pointless Celtic League. The worst of all possible worlds. But as I am constantly reminded we must move with the times. After all, that's progress! Lord Islwyn

 

ENGLISH AND FRENCH CLUBS ARE RIGHT!

 

Apr 5 - The decision by the English and French clubs to pull out of the Heineken Cup is a welcome one. By so doing they are battling for the future identity of the game of rugby union in the northern hemisphere. These two major nations are the last bastions of club rugby and long may they continue. Their domestic leagues are thriving with huge media focus, international appeal and matches played in ever larger stadiums before a growing audience. Between them they have provided nine of the eleven winners. In 1999 when Ulster were victorious there were no English sides in the competition.

Their decision may be based on their desire to ensure that the English clubs obtain equal representation on the board of the European Rugby Cup but it is also motivated by a desire to redress the unfair balance of power in competitions. English and French domestic competitions are season long events with play off and relegation issues in which teams are at full strength and highly competitive. The Celtic League is by contrast a joke with half strength Irish teams for much of the season, and Scottish teams for the most part barely above the Welsh Premiership standard. The final irony is that 9 of the 11 teams in the Celtic League despite the pisspoor quality of the event are allowed entry in to the Heineken Cup whereas only 6 teams from France and England are normally permitted. 3 of the 6 English teams have made it to the semi final stage this year. The imbalance is totally unfair and prevents some English players from the opportunity to play in the Heineken Cup at the same time as their Celtic cousins are virtually guaranteed a chance to compete in it, despite being rubbish.

Perhaps it is time for the English and French clubs to organise their own competition away from the dead hand of their domestic unions and the province dominated Celtic League. They can generate their own income, sponsorship and television revenue without the interference of organisations like the RFU and WRU.

And perhaps our Welsh 'teams' can be a little less sanctimonious about the issue? Who the hell are the Ospreys anyway? They have wasted money on big signings to play Connacht and Glasgow and then bleat at the English and French because they are 'selfish' for wanting to control their own destiny and run their own competitions. Without big matches against the major English teams those signings are pointless. Hazell's Dragons now look like they knew what was happening all along. Even though they didn't. Their Premiership Plus squad now seems like a sound investment for a season without competitve rugby in Wales.

Hopefully, the decision by the English and French will be the reality check northern hemisphere rugby needs. Let freedom reign, let the clubs control their destiny and allow market forces to flourish and remove the controlling interest of the unions. The pity of it is we have not got club owners in Wales with the financial clout or the guts to stand shoulder to shoulder with the English and French. Lord Islwyn

 

Basil Brush

BASIL BRUSH SAYS "I'M NO PUPPET" AS HE VOWS TO BACK DRAGONS

 

Feb 28 - Following months of tiresome press speculation the wait is over. Basil Brush has emerged as the new backer of Newport Gwent Dragons. Brush says he will invest heavily to ensure the success of the regional team. He immediately denied suggestions he was a stooge of the existing Board of Directors "The very idea that there is someone controlling my actions is an outrageous slur. If you want proof of this I suggest you talk to Mr. Derek or one of my new friends at CBBC!"

The popular entertainer will provide much needed new investment to the Dragons in return for them providing an outlet for 'Brush' merchandise including the well known soft drink "Pokey pola". Small tweed capes will shortly be available in the Club shop with very small amounts of black and amber evident. Tweed will also become an important part of next season's Dragons' away strip. Basil's cousin Mortimer will also be joining the Dragons' coaching team as part of the deal - he is growing a small dark moustache in order to meet the exacting qualifying criteria for the role.

Basil enjoys strong Gwent connections "I passed Newport once before, on the motorway..is that in Gwent?" His aunt Cissie ate a Pot Noodle once. Basil also has a nephew 'a delightful young cub' who used to live in Monmouth and remembers seeing the Dragons on television once "He quickly turned over to watch Emmerdale, it was really interesting, the lead up to the Tom King murder, a bit more atmosphere than the rugby".

Brush announced that although Rodney the Dragon was a 'dear friend' he was a 'little short on personality' and therefore would be joined by a new upbeat mascot Basil the Fox next season . Basil expressed deep concern for the whereabouts of old chum Tommy the Tiger. A shaven headed Tommy, it is rumoured, has recently entered a rehabiltation clinic following months of depression watching Premiership rugby.

Basil said he was a huge fan of coach Paul Turner. "I have all his albums". He particularly liked his moody classic "The Streets of Newbridge". He was delighted 'Mr. Paul' has turned his hand to fiction and has enjoyed his fantastical works on the lost world of 'Gwent'. He was not sure about his prowess as a rugby coach but had heard that he was 'not very good'. 

Dragons Chairman Martyn Hazell commented "It is great to have Basil on board. He is a unique figure in the world of entertainment (just like me) and will bring a keen business brain to our organisation. He is making a big personal commitment to our much loved team. Now hopefully everyone in Newport will get behind our team as long as they don't shout Newport, even though they play in Newport etc.etc." After much rambling Hazell denied suggestions that Brush will rename the team from 'Dragons' to 'Foxes'. "With Basil behind us, we will reach for the stars, it will be Boom! Boom! time for the Dragons".

Robin Davey was unavailable for comment, but is aged 94 etc.

 

DAVEY WINS COVETED ORDER OF THE BROWN NOSE AWARD

 

Feb 20 - Robin Davey has been awarded the coveted Order of the Brown Nose in a specially organised event held in Newport this evening. The journalist has slavishly praised the works and utterances of leading rugby thinker Paul Turner and has become a foremost supporter of the regional rugby sect, the Dragons. The Order of the Brown Nose is a richly deserved honour and has a fine history (Stalin, Lenin, Mussolini etc.).

It is believed that Turner has entranced Davey with his visionary approach to rugby, his stories of the Gwent fatherland ('those Gwent streets'), his love of Romanian forward play and small moustaches.

Davey used his weekly newspaper column today to paraphrase an article by a Belfast journalist who claimed that Turner is "ahead of his time as a coach and observer of the game." The article had 'caught his eye' Davey said. I am surprised he can see anything with the view he has of the world.

The same journalist (Peter Bills) obviously a forward thinker himself referred to the team as Newport Dragons but that's another matter.

Unfortunately, Davey's eye for a story has meant that he has not provided any serious comment as yet on the departures of Gareth Cooper and Ian Gough. We are told Ian Gough's departure is in part due to Goughie's frustration at the inadequacy of facilities at Rodney Parade. It will be interesting to see if Ian Gough confirms this or if it is wishful thinking on Davey's part. Will Davey be looking for a burly Romanian to replace Goughie, merely a man of Gwent?

Davey has explained how Paul 'continues to do everything within his powers to try to make the region a success.' This was prior to the defeat by Parma, the most humiliating defeat for any professional team playing out of Rodney Parade. After it Turner said "I always said we weren't good enough for the main European competition and I don't know why everyone is so afraid of the Challenge Cup...It is just a stage in our development, no-one is happy about it but we see it as an opportunity..I'm not embarrassed". Robin did not comment on those remarks. When Turner's Dragons conceded a 13 point half time lead and eventual victory to Llanelli in September and the coach commented "That was a great night for Gwent rugby", Davey did not have cause to criticise him.

When the leading thinker took his team on a bus trip around 'Gwent' Davey could not see the joke as sat-nav receivers came up with 'Ghent'. Then Turner stated he was "looking at two big Moldovian forwards, a prop and a lock, playing in  Russia but with Romanian parents, which would avoid work permit problems for players outside the EU." Davey barely raised a titter. Instead he turned his grammatical guns on first, Newport rugby supporters and then, Newport rugby directors challenging them to see the error of their ways, to stop living in the past, extolling the virtue of free buses from Garndiffaith and urging everyone to follow the teachings of Paul.

As I say a richly deserved honour. A triumph of bluster over reason in the great tradition of journalistic self interest.

 

* - this award was made in my living room. My cat accepted the paperweight denoting this award as Robin Davey was not in the living room at the time.

 

THE PREMIERSHIP, WHAT IS IT GOOD FOR?

 

Feb 1 - Paul Turner's agreement with Kevin Hopkins recently that Newport Gwent Dragons and the Ospreys will play an 'A' fixture begs a few questions. The purpose of the fixture is to bridge that 'gap' between the Magners League and the Welsh Premiership. Turner states in the recent advertisement for the idea in the Argus "The A team format will allow us to blend a team including fully professional, Premiership and development players in a competitive environment and at a standard which gives us a stepping stone between the Premiership and fully professional level." Obviously there is a huge leap of faith for Turner between the Welsh Premiership and Magners League fixtures against the Munster third XV or indeed mighty Borders? I think not. The argument does not stand up. The Welsh Premiership is supposed to be the environment for this kind of fixture but self evidently nobody is interested in it. Turner has underlined this. His regional agenda will eventually see an end to clubs and games will be little more than trial matches for the region and the international side.

The Premiership is currently a piss poor competition of pointless matches watched by fewer and fewer spectators.  It is only given credibility by the continued existence of historic club names even if the teams do not live up to the past. There is no evidence that it is producing an influx of new talent in to the Welsh professional tier. Look at the foreign players that joined our professional teams this season in an effort to improve their performance. It receives little or no coverage and rarely produces rugby of any quality. Now Turner is trying to undermine it further. If this fixture and concept go ahead there will be little point to the Welsh Premiership and with it the last vestiges of club rugby in Wales will be gone. Lord Islwyn

 

DAVEY IS A DISGRACE part 95

 

Jan 9 - Robin Davey's moniker as Chief Sports Writer of the Argus is as superficial as the team he spends so much time writing about, Newport Gwent Dragons. Like the name of regional team he purports to be all things to all men but stands for very little.

He started the week by extracting a statement from Martyn Hazell, Chairman of Newport Gwent Dragons about the future of the professional team. Having bullied Hazell and co. to produce this statement Davey's actions left the reader with a curious feeling - one of sympathy for Hazell. Here was the sincere if rambling statement of a man personally committed to the Dragons and willing to underwrite them with his own money. It was clear that Hazell was hurt by Davey's ludicrous insinuations of misuse of central funding and his criticism of the failure to attract outside investment from other benefactors. Hazell's statement gave the impression of being slightly out of his depth but with a determination to ensure the Dragons do not go in to debt and live within their means.

Moving aside from this apparent 'success' Davey turned his fire on the agitators in his midst. These unnamed individuals it appears have successfully maintained the publicity spotlight on the campaign for a Newport standalone on a par with Llanelli and Cardiff. They are according to Davey "fortunately a minority.." but "the agitators' have been banging on about this issue now for over three years, ever since the inception of regional rugby, and they're still at it, boring the pants off everyone but themselves." This is not true some of us realised early on that a mistake had been made concerning the name of the regional team. We campaigned for the change, petitioned the general public and when the name changed we bought our season tickets. Without us it would never have got off the ground. We gave it a go particularly as so many of our favourites, Percy, Snowy, Fozzie still graced Rodney Parade. Some of us supported the team for two years before making our decision. We sat in a passionless environment watching a team playing in white with a puerile nickname take on half strength Irish sides before waking up to the fact that there might be better things to spend our money on. When we were told we could not chant 'Newport' and the team did not represent our City it was the final straw. We walked away, feeling betrayed having campaigned for Newport in the name, finally realising that this was not our team. 

 

Davey may castigate us but we can still dream that one day we will have a Newport professional rugby team. After all the current team is subsidised and under written by our club and plays out of our ground. And most of its supporters and season ticket holders come from the City of Newport, even if there is a significant shortfall on previous years.

 

Davey asks what team we want to support "Is it the Newport team which lost five times to Caerphilly in season 1998-99 when crowds dwindled to around 800? Were these people on the terraces then?" Yes it is. And I was. But he would not realise what we are talking about. He does not recognise the strength of feeling on this issue. He is a mere journalist flitting from one favoured team to another. We are indelibly Newport rugby supporters.

 

He also states "they even objected when the Dragons wore orange jerseys against Cardiff Blues at Christmas, though that's the colour of the Multiple Sclerosis Society and the Dragons were trying to help that worthy cause. I ask you." This is a contemptible slur without evidence or justification. But as his agitators are unnamed Davey can chastise them with impunity. It is further evidence that he has lost the plot but it is very sad to read such a statement in the South Wales Argus. It is not journalism more opinion masquerading as abuse.

 

Despite Davey's protestations this issue will not go away. 'The agitators' should dig in and continue the fight. It is clear they are winning the argument.

 

Lord Islwyn 

 

 

YES, ENOUGH IS ENOUGH

 

Dec 19 - The Dragons' mouthpiece has said it himself 'enough is enough'. A large crowd of rugby theatregoers at Rodney Parade on December 27th will not conceal the bleak outlook for Newport Gwent Dragons. There is no benefactor in sight, no sign of squad strengthening apart from possible signings from Moldova, there is no identity or passion for the team despite plentiful supplies of free tickets and jerseys, the coach appears to be more concerned with promulgating myths about forgotten counties than he is with events on the field. To cap it all there is even the prospect of Steve 'Ebbw' Lewis having a major influence on the administration at Rodney Parade Limited including Newport RFC. Apparently there will be another  advertorial extolling the wonders of Lewis in the Argus today. To let him loose at Newport and its environs would be an act of corporate vandalism of the highest order.

 

Perhaps Davey is now waking up to the fact that his beloved Dragons are destined to finish bottom of the pile year in year out. He deserves credit for realsing that there is something beyond the freeloading that so many rely upon in his profession. He acknowledges that the current directors are incapable of the investment and ambition required to take the professional team forward. Tony Brown after all was a benevolent outsider who was introduced to Newport and stayed long enough to take control of matters. But now the original band of brothers are back in charge. Investment from outside is certainly needed. However, investors (even if they are sufficiently mad to want to throw their money away) also need to be attracted by a brand, identity and potential for improvement. The Dragons brand means nothing and is synonymous with so many other sporting teams particularly in Wales. Can Davey bring himself to accept that the concept is not working and that the brand needs to be remodelled? I will not spell it out but there is an obvious brand already available.

 

'Enough is enough', yes, we have had enough of the endless propaganda and political correctness of those pushing the 'Gwent' agenda. Davey has been at the forefront of this and has not resisted the opportunity to demonstrate his opposition to a Newport standalone in vehement terms. He has pushed every publicity button possible even exaggerating support from far flung areas of the former county. He has given Turner undue deference and made readable Hazell's Prescott-like utterances. But there is time to draw back from this. The realities of commerce and business were the drivers for including Newport in the name in the first place. They are now the drivers for further change. Davey has had many previous incarnations, he is well able to reinvent himself again - possibly now as the voice of the supporter rather than the coach or the board?. Like it or not, as an opinion former, he has a key contribution to make to this discussion about the future of the professional team in Newport. It is about time it was started.

 

HAZELL MISSES THE POINT AGAIN

 

Nov 29 - The decision by Newport Gwent Dragons to support the Welsh Rugby Union's proposal to buy (again) Stradey Park to save the Llanelli Scarlets from the ultimate embarassment is no surprise. The Newport Gwent Dragons Board and in particular their Chairman Martyn Hazell rarely has anything constructive to say or to offer professional rugby in Wales or elsewhere for that matter.

The proposal to buy back Stradey Park is akin to the desperate rescues of ailing enterprises in British industry who could not compete in the marketplace and spent way beyond their means. For British Leyland or Rover substitute Llanelli Scarlets. It may have been forgivable had this not been the second time the Scarlets have faced oblivion. But professional rugby in Wales still has to confront the market hence the supporter has to contend with the WRU running our professional competitions, regional rugby and pathetic nicknames that ridicule our rugby heritage.   

In yet another no-brainer from the tedious Robin Davey we are offered Martyn Hazell's daft perspective on all this "There is also a sting in the tail for the local authority in Newport from Hazell. "Huw Evans (Llanelli benefactor who now wants some of his investment back) has vowed to give some to Carmarthenshire County Council if it goes ahead," he said "They will then build a new stadium for the Scarlets; Cardiff City Council are bending over backwards to build a new stadium and it's the same with the Ospreys. Where does that leave us here with our council?"

Remember Martyn Newport Gwent Dragons is not a Newport team, you do not want Newport to be chanted at its matches! So if you are referring to 'our council' presumably this is a reference to all local authorities in the region covered by the professional team?If so let the Council Tax payers of Torfaen, Monmouthshire, Blaenau Gwent etc. cough up their fair share for any financial contribution towards a stadium for your unloved team. If you want a new stadium to be considered in the city of Newport with the support of 'our council' perhaps you can do what you can to give the professional team back to the people of our City - it is as simple as that!

 

Lord Islwyn

 

NOW IS THE TIME!

 

Oct 30 - Now we know former WRU Group Chief Executive David Moffett believes the regional experiment has run its course and we should return to the brand names of Welsh club rugby (with the exception of the Ospreys area). New Group Chief Executive Roger Lewis has talked of the need to retain the traditional names. We also know within the WRU there are those according to the Western Mail and others that believe the set up was a complete mistake. We know Gwentist Steve Lewis has been effectively sidelined.

That makes the reaction of Martyn Hazell to Moffett's comments all the more disappointing. Does he not realise the profound mistake still being made? Has he not comprehended that the time is right to push for the standalone status that seemed to be so elusive previously?  Moffett has given the green light to the club and to its supporting organisations to make their voices clear and without qualification. Let us hope the parochial and disastrous Gwent era can now be put to one side and we can all move ahead behind a team and a brand that is known the world over and can be marketed to the widest possible audience. Now come on Davey, Hazell, Godfrey, FONR, Supporters Club reps! Let's hear you make a joint statement or a common cause - get behind a professional team called just Newport playing in Black and Amber (with regional responsibilities of course). Lord Islwyn

 

NEW STADIUM IS A PIPEDREAM

 

Robin Davey pursuing his own news agenda, Paul Turner speaking outside of his brief, Chris Blight with ideas above his station. Yes that just about reflects the lead item on the back page of the Argus tonight. Davey has wasted endless column inches talking about the 'inadequate' facilities at Rodney Parade. Turner has constantly criticised it and by implication the Board of Newport RFC/Rodney Parade Ltd. (whatever they are called). Blight has already had one stadium built for his team with significant contributions from the taxpayers of Newport as a general sports facility.

Why should the taxpayers of Newport fork out for this new facility when Rodney Parade is privately owned and Newport RFC are a semi-professional club? How would other finance be raised - presumably by the sale of Rodney Parade and agreement with majority shareholder Tony Brown? Newport Gwent Dragons are allegedly a regional rugby team. If they were to play at this new stadium what contribution would Blaenau Gwent, Torfaen, Monmouthshire and Caerphilly councils make to such a development? What contribution for that matter would the rugby clubs of the area (now proclaiming their love of the Dragons) be prepared to make? More to the point what would happen to Newport RFC?

And why anyway would the City Council already committed to massive regeneration projects in the City want to devote finance, time and energy to such a project when the benefits to Newport are so unclear? Lord Islwyn

 

A SHAMELESS PROPAGANDA RAG

 

Propaganda is a specific type of message presentation directly aimed at influencing the opinions or behaviour of people, rather than impartially providing information. An appeal to one's emotions is, perhaps, the more obvious propaganda method, but there are varied other more subtle and insidious forms. On the other hand, a most common characteristic of propaganda is volume (in the sense of a large amount). Individually propaganda functions as self-deception. Culturally it works within religions, politics, and economic entities like those which both favor and oppose globalization. Commercially it works within the (mass) market in the free market societies. Definition courtesy of Wikipedia, the wonderful online encyclopaedia.

Newport Gwent Dragons match programme for the game against Bayonne is as shameless a piece of propaganda as you are likely to read. It makes several attempts at re-writing history. It's use of words is cunning and manipulative. Paul Turner looks forward to the upcoming cross border clash "It will be great to renew Gwent v Bristol derbies". As far as I am aware Gwent never played Bristol. He also looks foward to "pitting his wits against ...a couple of ex-Gwent players in Jason Strange, Gareth Llewellyn and Craig Morgan". First of all, a couple is normally two and so far as I am aware neither Gareth Llewellyn or Craig Morgan have played for clubs in Turner's mythical county. Gethin Jenkins, erstwhile Commercial Director remarks that everyone has been 'greatly encouraged' by the support that the team has been receiving at home. The implication being that it was not there before and anyway isn't it remarkable that the people in the ground are supporting the home team?

On page 30 we are treated to "Gwent's Great Matches" or rather Newport's 53-17 over Newcastle in 2002. The article has nothing to do with Gwent and indeed there is no reference within the narrative to the area.

Throughout the programme is the heading 'Men of Gwent'. Never mind the women of Gwent you can follow your own team.

It is noticeable that the references to the 'N' word are getting fewer and fewer. Turner and co. are slowly weeding them out. If you repeat a lie (i.e. Gwent) often enough it sticks. Those of you who claim it will change from the inside look like you have lost. The propaganda machine has won. Lord Islwyn

 

TURNER CLAIMS HE HEARD A FAN SHOUT "DRAGONS" AT LEICESTER

 

Oct 2 - In an amazing and hysterical outburst coach Paul Turner claims he saw a Dragons supporter getting behind his team at Welford Road on Saturday. "It is another sign that people are coming around to us. I distinctly saw and heard someone shout 'Come on the Dragons' at the match'. This person will signal to the Gwent hordes that they should get behind our team. We have turned the corner I am sure one supporter could easily become two (perhaps he could bring his wife or even his aunt) and before you know it we will have enough to fill a taxi or a small minibus for an away match". The supporter was later identified as a Leicester fan and stated he had little idea what the Dragons coach was talking about. "I was shouting to my mate down the front of the stand 'Come on the bar's open' - next thing I know Paul Turner stuck his thumb up to me and some twerp called Robin Davey interviewed me and claimed I had saved Gwent rugby. We were playing Newport I said. Gwent is in Belgium anyway isn't it?" etc.etc.

 

TURNER FAILS TO TRACE FATHERLAND

 

SEP 25 - Paul Turner's attempts to take his squad on a tour of the fatherland of 'Gwent' foundered last week. The satellite navigation on the bus could not locate an area called 'Gwent'. Those on board not least the players and Dragons Director Will Godfrey were shocked to find that 'Gwent' could not be found and did not exist. Turner has previously referred to the hordes of 'Gwent' rugby supporters who would follow his 'regional' team. It now appears they may not exist at all. Instead Turner explained there had been a misunderstanding. On the way to Belgium he provided the team with a passionate defence of his Flemish roots and said that the conveyor belt of talented Belgian players must continue to flow. The new team name Newport Ghent Dragons is to be considered by new WRU Chief Executive Roger Lewis next week.

 

ghent

  Ghent  (left) - possible site of new stadium.

  The new Dragons region (Belgium)

newregion

 

 

 

 

 

 

EBBW LEWIS JOINS THE BOARD

 

SEP 21 - Steve Lewis, "Chief Executive" of the Welsh Rugby Union has joined the Board of Directors of Newport Gwent Dragons. The future of Lewis is unclear following the appointment of his namesake Roger to the Group Chief Executive position earlier this week. He must be personally disappointed that he has been overlooked despite a well oiled media machine working in his favour. No good news article relating to Welsh rugby recently was complete without a quote from Ebbw Vale's finest.

Lewis obviously with plenty of time on his hands will now turn his attention to destroying any remaining semblance of 'Newport' influence on the regional team. This is a potentially dangerous development. Martyn Hazell has organised a batallion of Newport-leaning Directors to join at the same time as Lewis but they will lack influence and more importantly financial clout. As Lewis said in the Argus "They (the WRU) are putting £2.6m into the Dragons and other regions and need a representative on the board to safeguard their interests.All I'm interested in is having a robust and sustainable professional rugby organisation representing South-East Wales." No doubt the team will be cleansed of its Black and Amber kit and we will all be reminded of the Gwent fatherland and  its hordes of expectant rugby fans at every turn.  

Supposedly the WRU are taking up their 50 per cent share in the Dragons. But in practice they should keep out of the business of running a rugby club. Their rugby is not too hot - Gower Park/Neath, Llanelli etc. And I know there is every evidence that Hazell and co. are not up to it since the departure of Tony Brown but even they have little to learn from Lewis. Why should they trust anything he says? It was Lewis (and Pickering) who poached Mike Ruddock from Newport without any consultation or discussion with Brown. While he is an employee of the WRU and given his past history under no circumstances should Lewis be allowed to influence what happens at Rodney Parade. Lord Islwyn

 

The Grand Sham

 

The first gland slam for Wales for 27 years in 2005 sent the nation into ecstasy, yet that success masked the ripping apart of our national game at club level.

Wales with a team made up of players from some of the old great clubs such as Newport,Bridgend and Pontypridd managed to secure a grand slam against all odds,with attacking play not seen in the northern hemisphere for many a year. Coached by old school trainer Mike Ruddock who had considerable success with Swansea in the 90’s the team represented the start of a bright new(false!) dawn in Welsh rugby. This was seen by the pen pushers at the WRU as a justification for regionalism yet most of these players, some of whom were once amateurs, were honed and brought through the much maligned Welsh pyramid system.  

Whilst we all enjoyed the success in 2005, I did so with a tinge of scepticism, knowing what was to be proclaimed in the weeks following. It is sad to feel any sort of resentment towards your country of birth, but with some of us the feeling for our home town team is more than the feeling for our country. I would rather watch a big Newport-Cardiff derby than a Wales-England derby for instance. This feeling of resentment towards Wales however is not an isolated incident, there are many supporters of grass roots rugby in Wales who feel disillusioned by the whole setup these days. I remember the magic of international five nations day in Cardiff, the crowd at the old Arms Park was mostly made up of club followers, now it is watched by theatre goers’ and people with only a passing interest in the Sport.

Of course our game was run by a rather crazy frog like character from down under at the time, a place where the identity-less and the stupidly-named takes precedence. The Australian Capital Territory Brumbies anyone? Thought Not!. Rugby in Wales, unlike England and Ireland where elitism is still in place, is the people’s game. It’s time the powers that be gave it back to us…………O.Dyke

 

THE NEW SEASON

 

AUG 23 - The season is only a couple of weeks away but there is no sense of expectation for me. The Black and Ambers are not the old Newport in any sense - they are a second squad for the Dragons. There is no interest in their success. I have a lessening interest too. The Premiership is a poor quality product and above it there is nowhere to go. I still have not bought a season ticket but I will probably - just to be able to shout 'Newport' without fear of contradiction. But I still have this nagging doubt, where will the money from my £100 ticket go? No one can answer that question, nobody ever answers straightforward questions at Newport Rugby anymore. 

As for Newport Gwent Dragons their progress is of no interest to me. The management and marketing of the team has been a disgrace. The pandering to a non-existent group of supporters at the expense of Newportonians may salve the conscience of the Gwenters at the WRU but it has served to alienate many Newportonians and former Newport supporters. If you do not believe me look at the large and vocal group on the Talk Newport and Gwlad websites. 

Godfrey and Hazell made their statements about the Dragons' not being a Newport team and not shouting 'Newport' at their matches and they have to live with the consequences. Anybody who believes that these people are capable of securing the interests of the Newport club must surely have grave doubts given these statements. Neither is capable of making a coherent public utterance and I think we can forget about a proper standalone for the forseeable future!

On the field Paul Turner has surveyed the talent available in the non-existent fatherland of 'Gwent' and signed a host of foreign players with little pedigree. Colin Charvis may prove to be a good signing if he can get fit. But Turner has been a poor coach and has spent too much time whingeing about 'Gwent' , lack of facilities, new stadia when we knew he could not do the job in the first place.     

To cap it all the Dragons despite their shite marketing, pisspoor season ticket sales, abyssmal coach are now going to play in a bastardised form of Black and Amber. They have no identity themselves so they want to steal Newport's without changing their bizarre name! There are those who regard this as a significant step. But it seems more of an act of desperation to me. There need to be many more significant steps before I would begin to support this team. I gave it two years and frankly that was enough.

So the new season beckons a newly sponsored Celtic League, a feeling of expectation and excitement abounds, but not in this small corner of the 'Port. Lord Islwyn

 

THE SECRET WORLD OF NEWPORT RUGBY

 

AUG 2 - Tucked away in Robin Davey's piece about the delay to plans for Stradey Park was a little snippet about the plans for another rugby ground much closer to our hearts. We were told "It now appears major ground developments at Rodney Parade could be jammed because of local authority environment demands while there are financial issues with the WRU about a major new training barn, which the other regions all possess." So, the plans that no one has seen have now been stalled by 'environment' demands, whatever that means? Could it be that the plans do not exist at all and are a figment of Davey's over-exercised imagination, and their failure to materialise can conveniently be blamed on the City Council? Perhaps someone at Rodney Parade would like to share with Newport rugby supporters and shareholders exactly what their intentions are for the ground? Perhaps they would like to outline the reasoning behind their proposals for development and begin a dialogue with supporters regarding the future of the professional team?  And while they are at it explain the relationship with the WRU regarding the running of the team, the position concerning the WRU's shares and any options available to change the name of the team. Oh, and explain what happened to the Chief Executive's position. A chance conversation at the bar with Will Godfrey and co. should not be the way to conduct business.

Sceptics are sadly all regarded by the brown nosing Welsh press as either anti-regional activists, diehards or dinosaurs. But the reverse is the case. Many of us want to see a strong, forward looking, commercially powerful Newport team. A little more openness might heal the wounds opened since the advent of regionalism and help to dispel the impression that those who run Newport and the Dragons are weak, lacking in independant thought and running scared of the Welsh Rugby Union. Instead of trying to impress the WRU by making politically correct coded 'Gwentist' noises, speak to the many supporters who regard you with increasing suspicion or who are no longer interested in you. Who knows - you may draw strength from it and it might help to reassure those supporters that the professional side could be a Newport team after all. Lord Islwyn

 

MORE GUNFIRE AIMED AT NEWPORT

JUL 15 - The 'Western Mail' has consistently failed to provide any sensible critique of the regional rugby fiasco. They recently published an adoration of the Ospreys lauding their 'triple-pronged' attack on all competitions next season not pausing to comment that last season was the first time a Welsh team had failed to progress from the pool stages of the European Cup. Newport Gwent Dragons humiliation against Parma is also long forgotten. 

Now with typical zeal they have attacked the Newport based region (known only as the 'Gwent-based' region in its pages). Pisspoor soccer journalist Paul Abbandonato was allowed out of the nursing home to comment as follows "The position of the headquarters - in the heart of Newport - still sits uncomfortably with many of the region's potential rugby support and the fact that the region have refused to use an out-ground as the Blues and Scarlets have done, continues to provide a bone of contention for those in the Gwent valleys." Cardiff Blues out-ground would be the Millennium Stadium in erm, Cardiff, and our west Walian cousins have totally given up on Wrexham.

Abbandonato goes on to insist "A permanent move away from Rodney Parade - to a custom-built arena around the Cwmbran Stadium area would almost certainly allow the region's identity to improve, while a game or two at Vale's Eugene Cross Park would certainly stimulate the interest in that area of the region." This is the same mentality that insists that the regional hospital should move away from Newport. Suggesting that a new arena should be built away from the City has nothing to do with practicality and more to do with spite. It probably has nothing to do with rugby or business sense for that matter. Amenties, transport, availability of hospitality and accessibility should all determine where games are played. Hardly any public transport services pass near to Cwmbran stadium and as for Ebbw Vale there is one road in and out, it is twenty miles from the M4 but it will have an hourly train service to Newport by 2010! Abbandanato should realise that like Llanelli and Cardiff the region should concentrate on its strength and win back the hundreds if not thousands of supporters who have deserted the team and were loyal supporters of ...yes, lets say it..NEWPORT. Lord Islwyn

 

THE TRUTH MACHINE

 

JUL 13 - Another day another story about season ticket sales for Newport Gwent Dragons. The marketing officer John Hall claims that the new sales pitch has worked that season ticket renewals have "flooded in" and that there are a "significant" number of new season ticket sales. Our attempts to discern the actual number of season ticket sales from RP Limited have met with no response. It is easier to claim that things are going well even if there is no evidence. And you can always rely on the Argus to print whatever publicity guff comes out of Rodney Parade Limited.

Newport RFC shareholders and supporters still await substantive information about the future of professional rugby in the City. Still no Chief Executive for Rodney Parade Limited, no news of the 'development' of Rodney Parade, no news of Steve Lewis's meeting with Martyn Hazell and no information on the status of the Welsh Rugby Union's interest in Newport Gwent Dragons. Only Davey in his current forlock tugging mode is given privileged access. The information is obviously far too important to be shared with the poor bloody infantrymen of the Hazell or Argus Terrace.

Despite all the hype and spin the truth will not go away. Drop all the silly taglines. Stop appealing to a redundant county with no interest in top class rugby, with small town teams unwilling or unable to put in any financial commitment. There is only one team that can carry the flag in so-called 'Gwent'. Professional rugby must be handed back to the people of our City now. Lord Islwyn    

 

THE THINGS THEY SAY

 

JUL 5 - Rumours abound that season ticket sales for Newport Gwent Dragons have made a poor start.  

"So we would urge them to come and support the Dragons for what will be a very exciting first season. Tickets only went on sale on Saturday so from that point of view we are very encouraged with how it has gone. The ticket hotline has been ringing non-stop and it's been a very positive response." David Jenkins, Chief Executive, before the collapse of the Gwent Dragons regional team - August 2003.

"Despite what some gloom and doom merchants are saying they're going very well. Supporters are getting behind the team and are looking forward to the new season. he Dragons are always being written off, but we've got continuity for the first time and our new signings should come good. Fans are also taking advantage of our offer which runs until July 9". Gethin Jenkins, Dragons Commercial Director, June 29. The discount offer for renewals and new purchases has now been extended to July 16. 

Bobby Windsor was a hero of the Welsh rugby team in the seventies but he has become a rent a quote as have so many of that era. His pronouncements on regional rugby are a little inconsistent and possibly designed to cater for his audience?

 

"You talk to all the valleys people and they won't support it," he said. "By calling it Newport Gwent Dragons, the door has been shut on the valleys. We haven't got true regional rugby in Gwent. You go down to Rodney Parade for Dragons games and the supporters are shouting 'New-port'. Because of all the old rivalries, that turns off people from other parts of the region." WESTERN MAIL - July 5th 2006

 

Newport has the best tradition of all the clubs. It's Cardiff Blues And Llanelli Scarlets so why shouldn't it be Newport Dragons? If anyone stands alone it should be Newport. I'd go and watch Newport Dragons but not Newport Gwent Dragons. Newport represent Gwent, they always have done. Every valley boy always wanted to play for Newport so i can't understand why they didn't stand alone." SOUTH WALES ARGUS November 2004

 

ROBIN LOVES STEVE, LOVES PAUL

 

JUL 2 - Robin Davey's weekly column this week was headed "Time to move on". Yes, it would do us all favour if he moved on. But sadly Davey has not considered this and was suggesting that it was now time to put the arguments about regional rugby behind us and to rally behind the cause of a Gwent team. This shows how out of touch he is. Having played an honourable role in the first year of the regional team he has aimed most of his recent criticism at Newport supporters characterising those in favour of a standalone as 'diehards' and 'dinosaurs'. He stands shoulder to shoulder with Paul Turner and Steve Lewis on every issue often acting as the means to get the message to the public. Davey is no longer an opinion former more a mouthpiece.

It is difficult to know who he loves more, Steve or Paul. I know these are enlightened times but this is ridiculous. Robin has spent most of this week making a very strong case for Steve. On Monday he proclaimed the regions are united "Let me make it quite clear, the WRU want four professional teams, and all the regions want four as well, everyone believes four is the right number," says Lewis. He goes on to say he will pass that message on to Newport Gwent Dragons. Apparently, he has been too busy to meet with them. Why hasn't he met with them already. What happened to the meeting to review the Parma debacle (Davey - June 9th)? There's no point in  asking Davey to comment. On Tuesday in his weekly column we were warned that if Lewis is no longer Chief Executive it will be disastrous for the Dragons (and probably for Robin too!) "If he goes that can only be bad for Gwent and the Dragons. He may upset some with a perceived aggressiveness and arrogance - qualities I believe are necessary anyway - but no-one should doubt his commitment to south-east Wales..If the WRU dispense with Lewis rugby in these parts could perish, and so could Rodney Parade." God help us, the fate of Rodney Parade is in Lewis's hands, he must stay as Chief Executive!

On Wednesday Steve was in the news again. Robin Davey reports that Lewis was receptive at a meeting to retaining a 14 team Premiership. In the article the clubs representative at the meeting is quoted as saying "We met with Steve Lewis and his support is very much appreciated.It was very positive in the attitude towards the argument the clubs put forward, hopefully it will be the first of many." Yes, this man must remain Chief Executive whatever happens! Have you got the message?

By Friday the good news spin was complete. Davey was back again to report that following the "favourably received" presentation by the clubs Lewis and the WRU Board had supported the idea. Next to the article was a photograph of the enigmatic and saintly Lewis with the description "not set to depart anytime soon". Did anyone mention Mike Ruddock, no apparently not.

Paul Turner has received Davey's fulsome support too. Prior to the Parma humiliation we were advised Paul "continues to do everything within his powers to try to make the region a success". Pity that the region in question is Cornwall as someone has recently stated. Following the debacle Robin Davey chose not comment on Turner's ill judged post-match remarks "I always said we weren't good enough for the main European competition and I don't know why everyone is so afraid of the Challenge Cup...It is just a stage in our development, no-one is happy about it but we see it as an opportunity..I'm not embarrassed". No, the most controversial voice in Gwent sport seemed to miss that one. Instead via Martyn Hazell he continued the call for facilities, a stronger playing squad etc. Paul could not have put it better himself. But Davey misses the main issues - he does not comment on the lack of atmosphere at Rodney Parade, the inability to attract sponsorship, the failure of the brand or its inability to connect with the professional club's biggest market - the City of Newport. 

At least the playing squad has been strengthened by the introduction of a swathe of non-Welsh qualified players. This is hardly a tribute to the regional concept or the Premiership but again has passed barely without comment. Indeed the new intake were bizarrely dubbed 'the fab five' in Robin's promotional article on Thursday. But Turner is quoted as saying that "I was impressed with the lot of them it's early days yet but it's a good start to the summer." Yes, for you Paul while Robin is around it will always be a good start to the summer.

Lord Islwyn

 

DOES HAZELL PLAN TO SELL THE FAMILY SILVER?

 

JUN 23 - Rumours abound that 'the Board' plan to develop and modernise Rodney Parade. 'The Board' presumably being the Directors of Newport Rugby Football Club. Their aim it appears is to asset strip the clubhouse and adjoining land to it in order to realise the price of the land for residential development as part of the riverside regeneration. The pressure to develop the ground has been led by Robin Davey in his latest guise as mouthpiece for the Welsh Rugby Union, for Paul Turner and as an apologist for the shambles that is regional rugby.

Apparently, Davey says, Newport RFC and the City Council should invest heavily in stadia and facilities in order to ensure the unloved team, Newport Gwent Dragons continue to ply their trade in our city. Despite the 'regional' character of this team no mention is made of any contribution required from the clubs in the local area (Ebbw Vale, Pontypool etc.) or indeed the other local authorities supposedly part of 'Gwent'. As usual Newport should pay for everything but not be able to call the team its own.

The latest proposal appears to require disposal of most of the western section of the Rodney Parade area including the old clubhouse, running track and squash club. This is the area first used by the club following negotiations with Viscount Tredegar in 1877 (the freehold of the existing grounds was purchased by Newport Athletic Club in 1922).

The sale of this land will enable Newport RFC to build a new stand and clubhouse where the temporary Family Stand is now. In itself this is a desirable outcome but supporters should ask - what has Newport RFC to gain from this arrangement? To respond to Davey and co. by building new facilities without a primary motive would be gutless in the extreme. Surely, this is an opportunity for Martyn Hazell and company to reclaim the 50 per cent of the shares currently held by the WRU and to affirm the team as a 'standalone' entity. If this is the gameplan many currently disaffected supporters will be behind Hazell. But if this is not the motivation then why bother?   

At the Annual General Meeting of Newport RFC shareholders Tony Brown stated the sale of all or any part of Rodney Parade would be subject to one shareholder, one vote ballot. Despite the massive holdings of Brown and Hazell this was intended to ensure the decision was taken by those with Newport's interest at heart.

If the sale is purely to fund the aspirations of a team that is not a Newport team and that we are not allowed to chant 'Newport' at its games why should I as a shareholder to support it? Lord Islwyn

 

"I'm not so much enjoying seeing The Dragons struggle, more seeing the complete shambles that the WRU have caused. Many praised Moffett, that has been proven to be wrong. Many praised regions, we ain't got them and have never had them..Welsh rugby is a complete shambles" - Phil BB - Cardiff rugby supporter - Gwlad rugby forum 23/06

 

TRADITIONAL BATTLE?

 

JUN 23 - The Challenge Cup Draw has provided Newport Gwent Dragons with a group including Bristol, Bayonne and Bucharest. This is seen as favourable even if Bristol might also regard it in the same way. Interestingly, the prospect of playing Bristol has brought out those convenient but lying phrases "There's a lot of history between Bristol and the Gwent clubs and we're really looking forward to it." Who else but Paul Turner. "The Dragons and Bristol are close together and there's a long tradition of fixtures" Richard Hill (did he say Dragons or Newport?) "We'll be renewing Anglo-Welsh fixtures with Bristol" Jim McCreedy. The Dragons were founded in 2003. 

 

NB According to the Bristol website Hill actually said "Newport will be massive games played in front of big crowds. I know Leigh Jones and Paul Turner the coaches very well and a number of the players as well."

 

NEWPORT GWENT DRAGONS - DEFINED

 

JUN 18 - WIKIPEDIA the free internet encyclopaedia now widely used and thoroughly respected has a startling summary of the evolution of regional rugby in Newport and Gwent. It runs as follows "The naming of the region has caused considerable turbulence because, unlike the stand-alone regions of the Cardiff Blues and Llanelli Scarlets, the Newport Gwent Dragons were a new regional creation who are meant to represent a "Gwent region". Some in the Welsh rugby world believed that including the name Newport would alienate some fans in the surrounding valleys including fans of the historic Ebbw Vale RFC. Several names were suggested but all were rejected. In the end, the WRU decided the region's name for them, the "Gwent Dragons". This name didn't even last until the beginning of the season, because Ebbw Vale RFC went close to bankruptcy and were forced to sell their stake to Newport RFC. After this, the name Newport was added to the front of the title. In reality, the side has lost more supporters by including the name "Gwent" in its title. The crowds supporting the Newport Gwent Dragons average about 4,000 - less than half the number that supported the Newport team that it succeeded. At the time Newport was Wales' best supported club and British rugby's fourth best - after Zurich Premiership outfits, Leicester, Gloucester and Northampton. [1]. Although controversy surrounding the naming of the region might be petty, rugby in South Wales is deeply divided amongst hundreds of historic rugby clubs with bitter rivalries." I could not have put it better myself. Lord Islwyn

 

HEY BUDDY! WANNA BUY A SEASON TICKET?

 

JUN 13 - The shame-faced desperation of Rodney Parade Limited is evident in their publicity for the coming season. "Wanted - your support" implores their Newport Gwent Dragons season ticket flyer. No, sorry you have to earn it. Nothing you have said or done on or off the field in recent months merits the support of the City of Newport. 

Following the humiliation against Parma no European Cup rugby is on offer to Newport Gwent Dragons "fans". Ten Celtic League matches , an Anglo-Welsh match and the three Challenge Cup fixtures will set you back £230 in the Hazell Stand (£200 if you purchase before 7th July). Combined with Newport RFC it will set you back a further £100.

The recent remarks by Martyn Hazell, Paul Turner and company provide Newportonians with no incentive to get behind either team. The Dragons will also seek to cheat us by playing in a washed out black and amber jersey. So what! And Newport will be a pale shadow of the pale shadow they already are as the Dragons take all their better players when required.

For less than the cost of the combined season ticket you can sit in the Buildbase stand at Gloucester and watch their Premiership and European Cup campaign as well as the Premiership 'A' Division, infinitely superior to our Welsh Premiership. You will also be able to enjoy the atmosphere of a City thoroughly behind its team and proud of everything it stands for.

It is tempting. Has the time come to turn our backs on Rodney Parade, Hazell, Turner etc? If they are not prepared to review the present situation and cannot see the need for change then sadly it seems clear they do not deserve our hard earned cash or our support.   Lord Islwyn

 

 

THE ATTACK ON NEWPORT SUPPORTERS FROM WITHIN

 

JUN 9 - The vain hope that some of us may have had that sanity would return to rugby in Newport has been dashed. Martyn Hazell has blindly followed the lead of Steve Lewis and shattered any prospect of the Dragons becoming a Newport standalone (see below). Now on the Newport Gwent Dragons website we have Gethin Jenkins, their Marketing Director defending the stability of the region despite dwindling crowds, the loss of 17 players and the team's humiliating defeat to Parma. Jenkins makes the following assertion “Finally, The Dragons will do what they do best and that is fight back against the criticism being levelled at them and rise above the critics who are intent on knocking as they have done since day one. The Dragons have been written off before, labelled a ‘bunch of rejects’ and criticised by people who haven’t even had the courtesy to come and talk with those at Rodney Parade on their thoughts and offer alternative ideas. We have robust practices and strong financial budgets in place. We have worked hard all season in the community offering ticketing initiatives while the squad have held school sessions and question and answer evenings with the community department at the WRU praising our efforts. One thing is for sure everyone at the Region is committed to getting the Dragons roaring once again, write us off at your peril.” 

Frankly Mr Jenkins your statement belies the truth. Martyn Hazell has indicated that he has invested over £400k of his own money in your unloved team just to keep it afloat. Your marketing and ticketing policies are nothing new, in fact Newport Rugby initiated most of the schemes some years ago with far greater success. Your organisation very rarely answers letters or deals in a two way dialogue concerning the aspirations of supporters. You are too busy playing lap dog to the Welsh Rugby Union to realise that there is an alternative strategy - a team called Newport playing in Black and Amber. Then you might have something to market! Lord Islwyn

 

HAZELL SPEAKS! BUT DOES NOT UNDERSTAND

 

Martn Hazell, the sole active Director of Newport Gwent Dragons has spoken. It is a rare moment - so let's savour it and then assess exactly what he has to say by way of response to the disaster that has befallen rugby in Newport in recent months. 

 

In the South Wales Argus yesterday he said there will be more 'new signings' and 'major announcements (in the summer concerning the ground). In the Western Mail today he stated there was no possibility of a return to a Newport Black and Ambers professional team or standalone status. He said this would fly in the face of the so-called Participation Agreement signed with the Welsh Rugby Union. He admitted 'only Newport people really support the Dragons'. But

"If we were to become a super club now, the WRU wouldn't pay us - they have told us that. If I went to Steve Lewis (WRU chief executive) and said we are going to call it Newport Black and Ambers he would say, 'Fine, call it what you like, but you won't get any more money off us.And they would be able to do that because of the participation agreement we have signed with them. Under that agreement, we aren't allowed to alter the name without permission - and the union won't allow us to change it. We are too far down the line for that. So it will stay as the Dragons."

As for the protest letter from the fans, he commented, "I understand the frustration out there. But these people aren't representative of the general consensus of opinion among the supporters. It's a separate breakaway faction."

He has effectively promised no change to the disastrous situation that has unfolded before our eyes. The name is a key part of the problem it is a dreadful, tragi-comic abomination that has been inflicted on the people of Newport. Martyn Hazell is either not bright enough to realise this or not courageous enough to confront the issue. If this is the sum of his reaction to the latest disaster he has failed to understand the strength of feeling among our supporters. Many fans will now walk away from Rodney Parade for good. Lord Islwyn  

 

DROP THE DEAD DONKEY!

 

Overmarch Parma did what the All Blacks couldn’t do in 1963 last Friday night. They won at the world famous Rodney Parade, albeit against a team that has no affinity with the mighty Black and Ambers of days gone by.

 

Hopefully the 2nd of June,2006 will be a day which is looked back on with fondness by supporters of Newport RFC. It could be the day when reality bites for all at boardroom level and the WRU. The ill-fated regional side can only go two ways now, Black and Amber or bust. The club based days for which a lot of us still crave appear to be gone for good now and the best Newportonians can ask for is a stand-alone team playing in a league with rugby-mad countries such as Ireland and Scotland. However if the ‘regional’ team was re-named back to Newport at least we would be at the top of the bargaining table with regards to any future Anglo-Welsh or European league competition.

 

Newport were invincible in the 1880’s and not able to win in the 1980’s!! But at least we cared. O.Dyke

DRAGONS R.I.P

         In Not Very Affectionate Remembrance of
"GWENT DRAGONS" REGIONAL RUGBY TEAM,
          which died at the Rodney Parade on
                   2nd JUNE 2006,
Only lamented by a tiny circle of sorrowing friends, theatre-goers and acquaintances
                         R.I.P.
N.B. - The body will be cremated and the ashes taken to Australia (and hand-delivered to David Moffett)
.

(with due deference to the original 'Times' advertisement of 1882)
 

HAZELL - THE DEAFENING SILENCE

The shameful defeat to Parma on Friday was bad enough. But the disastrous public relations since the final whistle was blown has only served to underline the complete incompetence of Rodney Parade Limited and their disregard for anyone stupid enough to invest their well earned cash in the unloved team, Newport Gwent Dragons. Paul Turner's comments after the game were insensitive and insulting " This ain't a problem for me. Nobody has died - we have to move on.I know there will be people who beg to differ but we just have to get on with it now" (Western Mail - June 3) "The supporters are disappointed but it's no big deal to me. We're in the European Challenge Cup and I've never been scared of that; I've been in it and won it with Quins." (BBC - June 2). He forgot to mention that he also relegated Quins, but that's another story. The remarks make you wonder why they (the fans) bothered turning up at all. If the coach thinks second best is ok then what sort of impression will that pass on to the players. As for the players they seem to have fallen apart under Turner's leadership. Witness Michael Owen. 

The bigger story is not the failure of Turner but the lack of direction being given by the sole remaining director of the regional rugby team. Despite the clamour for change Martyn Hazell has remained silent. You could not stop him speaking last year when he confirmed that the regional rugby team was not a "Newport" team and that supporters should not chant "Newport" in support of the side. These statements alienated hundreds (perhaps more) Newport fans and led to active opposition to the regional concept in the City. He made a thoughtless and damaging contribution to the debate merely designed to appease the Welsh Rugby Union.

His only recent statement of note was during the difficulty faced by Steve Lewis when he slammed the regional rugby concept. On February 19 2006 he launched a 'stunning tirade' against regional rugby. This comment came out of the blue and appeared purely opportunistic.

Since then he has not made a public utterance worthy of comment. Perhaps that has spared us another incomprehensible John Prescott style outburst or perhaps it is because he does not know what to say or what to do. However, if he requires guidance he would be well advised to read and respond to his post bag and scan the comments being made with great force by Newportonians on websites and in letters to newspapers.The momentum for a return to a professional team called Newport playing in Black and Amber gathers by the day and it will not go away! Lord Islwyn

CLUB WINS HEINEKEN CUP

It was nothing to do with the Celtic League or regional rugby. It has been coming for several seasons. The passion and pride of Munster on and off the field was something to behold on Saturday as they staggered to victory over brave Biarritz. Over 40,000 supporters buoyed Munster as they struggled to contain the French team in the last quarter of the game. It was a telling spectacle and underlined the importance of playing for the shirt and for your team. Munster has created a phenomenal following - it can be called a province and a club in the same breath. In the same way that Newport was once regarded. Lord Islwyn

VOICE OF HOPE OR VOICE OF DESOLATION?YOUR CHOICE.

Desolation "Until the board acts, until major sponsors get on board, until the Council get their fingers out to try and help, nothing is going to improve...And there is absolutely no chance of the Dragons reverting to Newport. It would not make any difference even so because the same people would be in charge, there would be the same lack of drive and ambition and the same shortage of facilities."

Hope " It was blindingly obvious years ago that the Dragons would have the devil’s own job winning over an unwilling county to support them but they have positioned themselves badly in their market. The regime of Tony Brown, in days when Newport were Newport, had its critics but compared with the present operation, they were light years ahead....One of the other key elements, as I have said many times, is for the club to be returned to its city, for all silly county tags to be removed and for Newport to become Newport again. It is the only way to maximise crowds and income."

Voice of desolation played Robin Davey, Chief Sports Writer of South Wales Argus since year dot, going nowhere, previously foe of WRU now apparent friend. Voice of hope played by Stephen Jones,  Sunday Times Rugby Union correspondent since 1985, Sports Journalist of the Year 2004, author of the award winning "Endless Winter". Davey quoted in South Wales Argus today and Stephen Jones in Sunday Times yesterday. Lord Islwyn

KEEP FOZZIE, SACK TURNIP?

"It's very disappointing - I've said we're a Jekyll and Hyde side but that sort of performance isn't acceptable. We have to take a long, hard look at ourselves, the fans deserve better than that. It's been a very disappointing end to the season and there are some trying times ahead." Who said this? Paul Turner, even Robin Davey, no they would not have said anything so bold or realistic. They are the words of Jason Forster, Newport Gwent Dragons' captain after a 37-11 capitulation to Edinburgh this evening in the Celtic League.It was a desperate performance - the worst losing margin at home by the Dragons since their inception. But it is not Jason Forster who should be offering introspection and a warning about the future - it is his coach who should be learning the lessons of the appalling on-field display this evening. This unloved team made Edinburgh look like world beaters, they plainly are not but they have runners who will exploit defensive frailties and open spaces. Talking of open spaces there were huge areas of the ground unoccupied and the atmosphere was "oh, so quiet" Bjork could have written a song about it. Even the television commentators mentioned it. Can anyone imagine a standalone Newport team playing in such circumstances - but we are repeating ourselves I am afraid. And it appears no one at Rodney Parade is listening! Cosmetic changes to the playing strip will not be enough. This rugby team needs to recapture the hearts of the City. And fast. Drop the insulting Dragons nonsense, stop alienating the fans who could sustain you and provide the sort of support you are lacking. Stop your coach spouting rubbish and do all you can to retain the services of a man of Newport who has inspired the team around him through all the difficulties of recent years. Lord Islwyn    

SUPPORTERS TRUSTS

Three or four years ago Newport County fans would have looked upon the City's rugby team in awe. Crowds averaging 8000, a team smattered with world class players, community programmes, the family village, considerable marketing and merchandising power. Newport Rugby was dominant in the City and Tony Brown's presence made it seem like a permanent situation. The Black and Amber jersey was worn with pride by a wide cross section of the community not only in Newport but throughout the area. But the advent of regional rugby has destroyed all of that. Newport Rugby is a bit part player in a concept without identity or community. Tony Brown has sensibly walked away from the commercial disaster that is Welsh professional rugby. Newport Rugby has no future it seems and can only yearn for the professional status enjoyed previously and denied it by the Welsh Rugby Union. 

Now envious glances are cast in the opposite direction. Despite all the pitfalls placed before it on and off the field Newport County has risen from the dead sustained by hard working directors and loyal supporters. It is still stuck in the lower reaches of the Nationwide Conference but it has the potential to move through the English League pyramid and restore its place in the Football League. These are opportunities now denied Newport Rugby and provide the County with an opportunity to seize the mantle of the City's leading sport team. It has held it before briefly but it would seem Newport Rugby is in potentially terminal decline. Stuck in a League with nowhere to go and denied the opportunity of professional status it has only one way to go - down.

Interestingly Newport Rugby in its innovative way was the second rugby club to have a supporters trust organisation, the Friends of Newport Rugby. This has been a highly responsible and supportive organisation. It has spent a large amount of its time on projects to preserve the extraordinary heritage of Newport RFC. This is money well spent. Newport County on the other hand has had a supporters trust for slightly longer but has focussed on the running and administration of the club. It has become the largest single shareholder in the club with nearly £50,000 worth of shares (18% of all shares issued). It also has the voice of the supporter heard at Board meetings through supporter-elected Directors. In short the Newport County Supporters Trust have a huge influence on the running of their club. By contrast the running and administration of Rodney Parade Limited (and Newport Rugby) is still solely the preserve of a small group of businessman who have made a contribution to its finances and stability but are also responsible for its current plight and who are content that Newport Rugby has semi-professional status. They need to be shaken out of their cosy contentment. Shouldn't the Friends of Newport Rugby be about this aswell and be seeking to have a significant say in how the club is run and ultimately exercise influence over the regional/professional team? Or are they just interested in museum pieces? Their role should not just be about preserving the past but also securing the future. Lord Islwyn

THAT RELEGATION CRITERIA IN FULL

1. To play in the Premiership you must have minimum standards for playing surface, changing rooms, floodlighting, seating, stands, programmes, refreshments.

2. If you finish in the bottom two you will be relegated. If you finish third from bottom you will play off against the Division 1 champions.

3. The minimum standards listed in 1 and conditions in 2 will be ignored if you have it written on the back of a fag packet that you will never be relegated.

4. Some teams will never be relegated whatever their position in the League.

5. There is no point in winning Division 1 (and by the way Premiership is crap so why would you want to be promoted).

6. Irrespective of the above Steve 'Ebbw' Lewis will make the final decision.

MORE SYCOPHANTIC JOURNALISM

"If the Dragons do achieve third place among the Welsh teams they will achieve automatic qualification for next season's Heineken Cup against all the odds considering the disparity in funding and facilities. Even if they just miss out and end up as the lowest placed Welsh team they ought to make Europe's premier competition next season by virtue of a play-off against the third placed Italian team - probably Viadana - in a match which would be played at Rodney Parade on June 2. "We could be level with the Ospreys so it's not all gloom and doom," said Dragons coach Paul Turner, who continues to do everything within his powers to try to make the region a success." Robin Davey, South Wales Argus, May 5th

More brown-nosing from the doyen of rugby journalists. The implication being that the region is not a success  and that Paul Turner is battling bravely against the odds. This is a dropped in to a news-piece as if it was fact not in one of his inane columns!   

3850 reasons to rebrand this team

The shocking attendance at Rodney Parade on Friday for the Celtic League match between Newport Gwent Dragons and Glasgow was further evidence if any were needed of the requirement to rebrand this team now. The match was effectively a decider for next year's Heneken Cup, the winner to play an Italian team and therefore having every chance of making the tournament proper Cardiff qualified in a similar fashion last year. Can anyone imagine in similar circumstances such a small crowd for a standalone Newport team?  Lord Islwyn

 

IDIOT?

turnip

Paul Turner's attempts to undo any Newport association with the regional rugby team continue. Latterly he has been slating the legacy of the only credible figure to run Newport Rugby Football Club in the last twenty years. His constant moaning about training facilities and his urging of the mythical Gwent hordes smack more of his own inabilities as a coach.

 

Turner (pictured left) states in a quotation to the South Wales Argus "For all the good that was done during the Tony Brown era my only wish is that he could have done what they have done at Worcester and developed the training facilities, because there has been no lasting legacy left and there is not a lot of evidence that much has changed since 1992 when I was last here." Not only is this rubbish but it shows a painful failure to understand what was achieved by Tony Brown and Keith Grainger between 1999 and 2003. Most of the education and skills based initiatives were initiated during this time beyond the boundaries of the City of Newport. The family village brought a whole new audience in to watch professional rugby. Marketing and merchandising were effective. The ground was redeveloped to include new changing rooms and hospitality facilities. World class players were brought in to play alongside homegrown talent. Crucially, there was no support for any of this from the Welsh Rugby Union. Turner's remarks have once again shown him not to be the brightest of the bunch of Welsh professional coaches, he has certainly got plenty of competition (Dai Young, Lyn Jones).     

 

We will try and collect some of his innermost thoughts  

 

Question - Who inspires you in the world of rugby?  (raise your game - the BBC website) Paul Turner's response "I'm a big fan of the Australian Rugby League. They tend to inspire me as they've got good players, good skills, things that we learnt growing up in the Gwent streets, sidestepping, beating players, all that type of thing." Ah, those Gwent streets!

As Paul Turner, the Dragons coach, said: "Munster enjoy fantastic support from Cork to Limerick. That's a big area and Gwent is a big area, too. We need to rebuild and take the game to the whole of Gwent."  Population of Munster - 1.2 million, population of Gwent - nil (former counties of Gwent - 370k)

"It was disappointing we didn't win in Cork. We could be playing the European champions tonight which is a clarion call to get the Gwent people here."

 

"Craig is a good player, I'm sure he should have played for Wales before now. If he can manage a game properly he'll have everything, he's got running ability, he can pass and kick with ease". Craig Warlow?

 

Capital battles

 

The announcement some time ago that Newport was to host the Ryder Cup in 2010 was greeted with great joy in the then town. However following recent events surrounding the alleged ‘address’ of the Celtic Manor, there is some concern that Cardiff is trying to win the event for itself.  It is also not clear whether the Celtic Manor is innocent in this whole charade. Many Americans, to my assumption would think of Newport, Rhode Island before Newport, South Wales. Maybe this is a major factor, the international sporting reputation of Cardiff. However I would doubt if over 50% of Americans have heard of Cardiff either, we (Wales) are a mere state/province of England to them!

Newport must stand up for itself in this fight with big brother. We sometimes have an inferior attitude towards our neighbours 12 miles down the M4, however this must be an event for Newport. This could really put us on the map and enable us to compete with places like Cardiff and at least become Wales’ 2nd sporting city. Sport (not inc. Pro Rugby and Football)in Newport is really going places and the International Sports Village is a fantastic facility.

What would really rile me would be to see Tiger Woods’ say on the last day :-  “Cardiff has hosted a fantastic event”

Let’s show the yanks what Newport is made of.        "O.Dyke"

 

Smell something? The familiar aroma of brown nosing journalists

 

Pity the poor Welsh rugby supporter. With less than four weeks to go before an extraordinary general meeting instigated by the WRU the public are being subjected to a unending propaganda campaign on behalf of Chairman David Pickering, Chief Executive Steve Lewis and Stadium Manager Paul Sargeant. Every attempt has been made to extol the virtues of these men in the last two weeks ahead of the EGM. The Western Mail of April 17 stated that the original deal by Glanmor Griffiths to bring the FA Cup / League Cup and playoffs to the Millennium Stadium showed 'no ideas of values and financial returns' and that the stadium was 'completely undersold'. It alleges that the original deal gave the WRU 15% of the gate receipts but Sargeant (and David Moffett) renegotiated and have reduced the overall level of debt from £60m to £40m with the new deal. Robin Davey in his weekly column in the South Wales Argus slams the critics of Lewis and Pickering "No apologies for revisiting the subject, but why on earth are a number of clubs (we'll find out exactly how many at the EGM on May 14) trying to get rid of the Welsh Rugby Union board and its two main officials when the Union are going to turn in a profit of £7.5m?" Simon Roberts in Wales on Sunday has heralded Pickering's reign. He quotes directly from the great man "Three years ago things were looking bleak.We have reduced our borrowing by £32m and any company which has done that in three years, just imagine what their shareholders would be saying."  

Let's just pause a moment to reflect - Wales had a poor season in the Six Nations having had a phenomenally successful year in 2005. The autumn series against the southern hemisphere teams brought in considerable revenue and we had three home matches in the Six Nations. Six sell out matches and therefore good for revenue - hence the healthy profit. The Six Nations was marked by a complete debacle off the field resulting in the loss of our outstanding coach and the ridiculous spectacle of our captain hyperventilating on Scrum V before being carried off to hospital muttering obscenities. Both Pickering and Lewis demonstrated a complete lack of leadership during this period. Our national team and our rugby administration was rightly the subject of ridicule throughout the world. Their other trumpeted achievements are smokescreens too. Some evidence suggests the debt reduction is not as stated but all WRU propaganda it seems is accepted without question. Their restructuring of our professional rugby has been nothing short of disastrous. We still have no 'A' team and many of our most promising players are still heading to England to ply their trade. None of our journalists or television reporters have adequately challenged the WRU over their abject failure of administration in recent years. A small group of clubs that raise a voice of dissent for whatever reason are vilified as if we live in a Communist state. The journalists concerned have become so complacent that they cannot see beyond their own self interest to the wider interests of our game and our country. It is a disgrace 'Lord Islwyn'  

 

 

Ice cream wars at Rodney Parade this Wednesday

 

         versus

NEWPORT GWENT DRAGONS                 CARDIFF BLUES

 

In a desperate attempt to give some meaning to Wednesday's clash at Rodney Parade the marketing men have turned to ice cream. Two ice cream vans each representing the teams involved will battle out in an attempt to recreate the Italian Ice Creams Wars (last seen on the British mainland in Glasgow in 1984 - see Google). A number of challenges including biggest super scoop and most insipid tune will be played out before the terraces enjoy bumper to bumper combat in a contest for the best ice cream van representing a regional rugby team. As you can see the two vans are very similar in style obviously both in need of a makeover and a re-brand.  WRU officials hope to reach out to a new group of fans who eat ice cream but do not watch rugby or who are from Italian backgrounds but have still not bought into the regional rugby concept. An interactive commentary will be provided in Italian. The marketing of this fixture thankfully no longer relies upon the traditional battle between the two cities. This would confuse the hordes of Gwent valleys and mid Glamorgan rugby fans who are the new force behind our rugby. The Newport - Cardiff  rivalry is definitely a hang up from the past and is not to be encouraged. 'Lord Islwyn' 

 

Regionalism – The destruction of our communities

 

Three long years have passed since the mighty clubs of South Wales were all but destroyed by a short termist antipodean. Like so many Southern Hemisphere coaches and players that came before him, David Moffet failed to understand the tribal and parochial nature of our national game. Every passing year new children and young adults are being introduced to the game with no knowledge of what preceded the new faceless entities.

 

thumb194Nowhere else in the world is there such density of rugby teams than in South Wales. From Newport in the East to Llanelli in the West. In between these two traditional giants there are many great and historic clubs which line the M4 corridor. We were so lucky that every away game was within travelling distance.  With the advent of regionalism these clubs were stripped of their ambition,identity and to some extent their history. Even Llanelli and Cardiff who achieved ‘stand-alone’ status do not retain the same aura of old.  Some Newport fans will argue that Newport have been ‘lucky’, they have a regional team playing out of Rodney Parade with Newport in the title.  As a Newport fan myself I can say I do not subscribe to this notion of ‘luckiness’.

 

Tony Brown proposed the Gang of SixMy argument is not for a Newport stand alone. I believe in a club based structure and the ‘gang of six/eight’ philosophy which was touted in the early part of this century. Promotion and relegation of some kind is an essential part of this structure. I will never be told that clubs such as Treorchy,Caerphilly and Dunvant should not be allowed to match the ambitions of Newport,Cardiff and Llanelli. History is important but so is merit. The Celtic League is a commercial disaster and no-one can convince me that Leinster and Munster take this league seriously however high up the table they are.

 

England and especially France are the models we should emulate but not exclusively. We in Wales always tend to look for leadership from others on matters such as this but we have to be strong and base our own model on what our people will recognise. 'O. Dyke' 

DAVEY IS A DISGRACE part 97

MAR 25 - Yet another weekly column yet another exercise in pointless journalism. Robin Davey the Chief Sports Writer of the South Wales Argus has treated us to another appalling waste of column inches. At the end of a disastrous period in which Welsh rugby has been held up to ridicule and the Six Nations has disappointed as the shop window of European rugby what does Davey turn his attention to? Yes, he has little or nothing to say about these events. His interest lies in another call for the redevelopment or sale of Rodney Parade. This is on the basis that the venerable ground is getting old and because the surrounding area is being given a long overdue dose of regeneration by the City Council and Newport Unlimited. Davey has demanded that the City Council assist Newport to carry out his wishes on the basis that other regional teams have either got new premises or will have them shortly.

It is several months since Rodney Parade Limited representatives told us that the regional team is not a Newport team and additionally we should not shout "Newport" at its matches, despite it being part of the name. Why should the City Council support an organisation that has promoted this message? Or if it does wish to assist it so should all the other "Gwent" local authorities - Torfaen, Blaenau Gwent, Monmouthshire etc. Why should the burden fall on Newport taxpayers? Unlike other cash strapped sporting organisations in the City Newport Gwent Dragons receives £2 million per season to sustain its team and facilities.

The real point is that regional rugby is not working. It has been a rugby and a commercial disaster. Club rugby is dying. Davey cannot and will not say it but it is staring him in the face. If only we could say in the words of Alan Sugar "You're lightweight you're fired!"