We caught up with the raiders Chairman for a chat
Merry Christmas and what will hopefully be a happy new year.
Merry Christmas to you, hope all went well with you and the family.
I see the lads have had some time off?
Yeah, the lads have had about 12 days off over Christmas, Kim and his team have had them in training for the last 8/9 weeks so they deserve some time off, hopefully them don’t eat and drink to much as I’m sure the remainder of pre-season is going to get a lot harder for them when they are back.
Have you been involved in Preseason at all this year?
Thankfully no, this season apart from being a taxi driver now and again I have been staying away from camp, Kim and the team have everything in hand and I would be in the way. I’m looking forward to going to the games this season as a supporter and hopefully I can enjoy the games. I have been able to concentrate on other things this season.
How has Kim and the rest of the players and staff settled into the club?
The club is in a great place at the moment, Kim and his team has brought a very different approach to the club, we have a culture where players are working to better each other rather than argue and have a go at other players, supporters are more involved in what is going on and regularly send messages with ideas and support for the squad. The new signings from outside the UK are all living around the ground, so the local people get to chat to them. All in all there is a buzz around the club that I hope will kick start more interest in the sport in the region and hopefully Wales
You have made some significant signings this season, what do you think your chances are?
After last season we knew we had to do more on the pitch to make ourselves competitive, we had a terrible season last year probably the worse you can get on the pitch, this is down to a number of reason which have been well documented. When Kim Joined us, he knew the task ahead and sent the feelers out to the rugby league network and as a result we have been able to sign a number of players. Regarding how we will do, league 1 is a tough league, we have to be really competitive with probably a third of the budget that championship clubs get, in addition to this you face duel registration players week in week out so its very hard to predict how we will do. All I do know is it wont be as bad as last season and i'm hoping we could surprise a few clubs this season.
Last season you prided yourself on playing predominately Welsh players, how do you think the public will react to your current squad?
Last season we wanted to make sure we gave welsh players the opportunity to play, unfortunately that back fired, our numbers in training were low, we struggled to fill a team most weeks due to commitment from players and we had record scores week in week out, if i'm honest I don’t there are enough players in Wales ready to compete at this level, I believe players have the skill set so to speak but I don’t think they know the game well enough. I know a lot of people will make negative comments towards the club about our recruitment, however if we had another season like last year we wold be in trouble as a club and sport in Wales.
We don't have a closed door policy and any welsh player who wants to train and have a go is more than welcome, however many have chosen not to take the step up and remain with either their community club or have continued to play rugby union.
Playing at this level takes a lot of commitment, we are part time and the sport requires long hours, people have families and jobs and cant give the commitment needed to be competitive.. The squad we have recruited are here to help develop the future players in Wales and hopefully give them a team they can compete with.
We saw that you had points deducted form last season, how has this effected the club?
Luckily the points were taken of the 2018 season and that was not the fault of the Staff or players we have this season, so Kim and the squad can start fresh this season with a fighting chance. The club made a few bad choices last season and we were punished for them. We are working hard to make sure we don’t make the same mistakes again. We are in a much better place this season and are way ahead of where we have been in the past.
Over the last season you have gained quite a bit of respect and following, how do you think the crowds will react to you this year?
Last season we gained a number of fans, weather it was because of the players that turned up week in week out with grit and determination to keep playing, or weather it was out of pity for what was happening on the pitch it was good to see that we were getting messages regularly and they were messages of support. Yes there are a few on social media who live in bubbles and don’t really look at the bigger picture and love to comment but they are few and far between and people usually ignore them. This season we are hoping to give our followers more to chat about but in a good way. Who knows we may turn some of the negative comments into positive ones but I won’t hold my breath with them.
We have to bring up some of the negatives from last season, what do you think caused the club to be in the position it was last year?
I don’t really want to look backwards but I will highlight where I think we went wrong. The main reason was simple, we weren't prepared or good enough for league 1. We made silly mistakes on and off the pitch that lead to other issues, some of these were things like losing our head coach at the start of the season then the assistant coach halfway through the season, we recruited poorly and didn’t build the bridges with the community clubs this ended up in players not wanting to be involved with the club because of score lines and other issues. These were just some of the issues the club faced last year.
As I have said above, we have learned from the past, we have a brand-new coaching team who are engaging with most of the community clubs and seem to have a good relationship with them, we have a stronger player pool which hopefully will give us better strength in depth and Kim and his team are keen to get into the clubs and schools linked to us and help wherever possible.
So, what does the future hold for the club?
Well we obviously need to make our first team a strong competitive one, a place where players want to be, but that will be pointless unless we carry on the work on the foundations that we started last year. We have developed out under 16 squad that compete against some tough opponents around the UK, we have worked closely with Coleg y Cymoedd to develop the Cat 3 Rugby League academy there and recruitment is on the rise, we have actively coached the rugby league programs in Swansea University and the University of South Wales. There is still a bit of work to be done around these areas but hopefully this will be a good pathway for the youngsters coming through. I know Kim is regularly in talks with staff from Wales Rugby League to make sure the club are working with and not against the governing body to help grow the sport through the community and schools. Obviously, we still have a long way to go but I think we are on the right track and hopefully the game will grow. With the three community clubs taking the step up to compete in the new southern format we hope we can help with that as well.
I would like to wish all our Supporters, Sponsors, Players, Family & Friends a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.