12 MONTHS AT THE RAIDERS WITH KIM WILLIAMS
With the 2019 season now behind us it was a good time to catch up with West Wales Raiders head coach Kim Williams and ask him how he thought his first 12 months went at the club.
Head Coach Kim Williams talks us through his full review of his first year below.
Although it was another tough season in just our second year of semi-pro football, our club has shown significant signs of improvement both on and off the field. We have had a particular focus on our junior pathways with a heavy involvement at Coleg Y Cymoedd, Swansea University and University of South Wales as well as running an Under 16s Academy programme.
In 2019 Matthew Morgan and Matthew Jones both debuted for the Raiders whilst still part of the Coleg Y Cymoedd rugby league programme. Paddy Jennings and Alex King were recruits from Swansea University who both debuted for the Raiders as well during the season. The Raiders will also commence the ‘Star Academy’ programme in 2020 that will target the 17-21 year age group and complete our pathways structure. The benefits of these programs will be seen more and more in years to come as these young players develop into our future 1st-Grade stars.
The highlight of the year was no doubt the 44-16 victory over Coventry. Registering the first win for the club as a semi-pro side was a big moment in our history at the Raiders and it needs to be a springboard for continued improvement in the future. The performance on the day was by far our best of the year but unfortunately it also highlighted the need for consistency within our team.
The difference between our best performance and our worst performance both as a team and as individuals is far too big. When we close this gap we will be competitive every week in this competition.
The other stand-out performance was early on against Whitehaven when we went down 30-16. We showed some fight in that match by coming back at them in the 2ndhalf. We also scored some great tries that day and competed very well with the eventual Champions of the league.
Other highlights were some of the fantastic tries we scored throughout the season. At times we showed that we can play some great attacking footy with the likes of Tyler Hunt, Phil Cowburn and Steve Parry leading the way. A few of our tries I believe were as good as any scored in the competition throughout the year.
There were also some outstanding individual performances during the season with the following players recognised on our Awards Night held in September:
Phil Cowburn capped a great year by being named Players’ Player and also being the joint-winner of the Player of the Year award with Morgan Evans. Morgan joined the squad in Round 8 and strung together a series of Man of the Match performances with his powerful running and aggressive defence. Tyler Hunt received the Rookie of the Year award for his excellent season at halfback, and Dalton Desmond-Walker picked up the Supporters Award and the Spirit of the Raiders award for his whole-hearted performances throughout the year and his community work off the field. Gareth Laugharne was a very deserved winner of the Club Person of the Year award for his incredible efforts around the club.
It is also very pleasing to note the amount of International representation that the Raiders have had during 2019. It is fantastic to see our players earning caps for their respective countries with some of these payers in-line to play in the 2021 World Cup. Below is a list of all of our rep players:
Rowland Kaye: Wales Students. UK Buccaneers.
Steve Parry: Wales Preliminary Squad World 9’s. Wales Train-on squad 2019-20.
Morgan Evans: Wales Train-on squad 2019-20.
Sam Baker: Wales Students
Nye Walker: Wales 19’s
Matt Jones: Wales Students. Wales 19’s
Matt Morgan: Wales Students. Wales 19’s. Wales Train-on squad 2019-20.
James Smith: Wales 19’s
Macauley Harris: Wales Students
Ryan Shallish: Wales Deaf team.
Sam Herron: Scotland train-on squad. World Cup Qualifiers
Joe McClean: Scotland train-on squad. World Cup Qualifiers
Gioele Celerino: Italian train-on squad. World Cup Qualifiers
Liam Rice-Wilson: Wales Train-on squad 2019-20.
Congratulations to all of those players and we wish you the best of luck in your representative endeavours in the future!
Other positives to come out of the year include the improvement in our young core of players who are beginning to establish themselves within our top 17. Archie Snook, Dan Maiden, Rowland Kaye and Nye Walker are 4 players who impressed me this year with their efforts, and these are the players who need to continue to improve for the club to become more competitive. All 4 are aged 19-21 and will reach or approach 50 games in League 1 during 2020. Along with the rest of our young playing group they are learning about the importance of doing the little things right and being consistent in your performances from week to week. There are also some excellent young juniors within our pathways system that will develop into 1st-Graders within the next few years so the future is starting to look better for the club.
It has also been very rewarding this year for the Raiders to form partnerships within our local community as well as the wider rugby league community throughout the world. During 2019 the Raiders joined forces with charity group Llamau who support homeless women and youth within our community. This ongoing partnership will continue to raise funds for Llamau while raising the profile of both organisations within the community.
The Raiders also formed partnerships with the Saluzzo Roosters Rugby League club in Italy and the Sandnes Raiders Rugby League club in Norway. As Head Coach I was lucky enough to travel to both clubs to run some coaching clinics for the players, coaches and their local juniors. It is very encouraging to see our game expanding into new years and both of these clubs face similar challenges to us here in Wales. There will be future benefits for all parties as we continue to share knowledge and grow our network.
Last but certainly not least – I would like to personally thank our band of loyal supporters who follow us around the UK and make themselves seen and heard at every game. You are the heart and soul of our club and I sincerely hope that we can bring you some more rewards in 2020 and beyond!