Being elected Chairman was indeed an honour, but, I soon realised that if the great traditions of Cardiff Rugby Football Club were to be rejuvenated, an enormous amount of work was necessary. There was no doubt in my mind, after taking the chair at the first meeting of the new committee last July, that there was not going to be a relaxing summer period before the season actually started. The priority was to be the careful consideration of the structure and organisation to put our own in-house activities and ideas in order, hopefully for the ultimate benefit of the players.
Firstly, two new senior coaches were appointed, Gwilyn Treharne, as number one and Brian Lease; with Bob Newman and Peter Manning as assistants and Gwyn Griffiths in support. Bob Norster had already been nominated and accepted for his second term of office as skipper. So, the off-the-field team looked the part, I must admit.
Secondly, the selection policy was reorganised. Instead of the traditional captain, two coaches and three committee men; the captain, a coach and a selector were designated to select each side.
Continuing to get our house in order, there were· two more contentious issues for immediate attention.
A decision was needed regarding the Whitbread Merit Table organisation. It was time to ‘come off the fence’ and firmly state our views on league rugby in Wales. Following critical discussion/liaison with players and members of the club we were able to make positive statements on both counts. Howard Norris and I attended the first Whitbread Merit Table meeting of the new year and requested that Cardiff be accepted, as full members, along with the other top 17 Welsh clubs. We were accepted with enthusiasm and were warmly welcomed into the group. However, at the same meeting, I clearly stated the views of the committee, as representatives of the membership of Cardiff RFC, that we supported the principle of a league competition in Wales, although not necessarily in the form advocated by the Welsh Rugby Union.
Our next priority- How should Cardiff best embrace and nurture local talent – an aspect somewhat sadly neglected in the past? Certainly, we have been guilty of resting on our laurels when the team was going well in the late seventies and early eighties. So much so, that many talented youngsters, schoolboys and youth players, left. The First XV has to consist of regulars, obviously; but, the Second XV was not used for its proper function, i.e. the development of young aspiring talent for First XV ‘blooding’. Too many players, some past their best, others never of First Team calibre were enjoying the kudos of playing for Cardiff, at the expense of youngsters and the future. To prevent this situation arising again we are cementing relations with Cardiff Schools. The talent is most definitely there, as was seen in the admirable performances by Matthew Lloyd at senior level, and is in good hands. It is our responsibility to unite the schools’ organisation with Cardiff R.F.C.
This initiative was launched in the Cardiff Schools Rugby Union Annual Presentation for the 1987-88 season, held on Wednesday 13th July at the Cardiff Athletic Club. After a super evening of speeches and presentations, where pride in performance was evident l pledged our club’s support to the Cardiff Schools Rugby Union. I stressed that the Cardiff Club was now well aware of its duties in supporting and aiding the development of our own young schoolboys. I reminded the youngsters that they were the Cardiff R.F.C. of the future; and, if they were to be tempted, niggled or nudged to play for anyone, it should be their own home town club, Cardiff Committeemen, Terry Charles, Bob Newman Brian Mark and John Davies are working, in conjunction with David Williams Chairman of the Under-15 and Jack Lewis, Chairman of the Under-19 age group, to forge successful links. In fact, the coming season 1989-90 sees Cardiff R.F.C. sponsor the Cardiff Schools Under-16 side for 8/10 games -a superb coalition!
The restructuring, reorganisation and planning referred to in my opening remarks were well under way, and, as the season approached, so too, were the usual rumours regarding players moving from one club to another.
Early season additions to our playing strength included ex-Cardiff Youth and Cardiff and District Representative players, David Young and Mark Ring, Roger Bidgood and Ritchie Collins. So the scene was set. We had cleared the decks internally the players looked healthy and raring to go, Bob Norster was again at the helm, and I was happy and optimistic – but, the rest is history and unfortunately disappointing.
The season consisted a Schweppes Cup run to the Semi-Final where we were beaten by Neath. Excellent wins were registered against Bridgend on Christmas Eve; the Barbarians on Easter Saturday and a superb performance against Neath at the Arms Park on 15th April. But, these wins were small news for our expectations of the squad. We were persistently guilty of lack-lustre performances especially from players who should be first team material. Players seemed to follow the game around rather than take part. This is the only way I can describe their actions. Whatever happened to the pride of playing for Cardiff, and the Blue and Black spirit? It was very much conspicuous by its absence. The second half of the season showed some improvement, but generally we failed to impress against modest opposition and we were more heavily beaten by the best. The results are there for all to see.
I have mentioned the exceptions to the general team performances and I feel the same must be done for individual players. Both first team wings, the popular Gerald Cordle and Steve Ford, winner of the Golden Oldies Most Promising Player of the Year, played with distinction throughout, scoring 64 tries between them. Mike Rayer deserves credit for his consistently high standard of play-caps will come I am sure. Mark Edwards, our No.8, is surely the most improved player of the year; and, Ian Greenslade was an admirable stand-in for the ‘master’ playing with his usual drive and determination. As the season progressed we gained David Evans and Andrew Booth at half back and Andrew Williams, from Oxford University, at loose head prop; youngsters who will definitely make a difference to the Cardiff First XV in the future. It was great to see Anthony Donovan and Denver Thompson, on permit from Llanharan, playing against Llanelli in the final match of the season. They did very well, playing with pride and much enthusiasm which augurs well for the future.
Referring to earlier comments made regarding young players, schools and colleges I must mention the fixture between South Glamorgan Institute and a virtually Under-23 Cardiff XV on Easter Monday. What a superb game of rugby from the talented and ‘up-and-coming’ Cardiff players – one of the few afternoons of satisfaction for me. Of this outstanding XV, Andy Moore, Richard Shepheard and Ceri Thomas, who deserve a mention, have already played for the Senior XV.
To conclude on the playing side. All I want to see is this sort of performance every Saturday-where players want to play for Cardiff and look as if they are making every effort to do well for their club.
During the season lots of things were happening off the field. The Lottery was doing well, with almost up to 1800 members by Christmas time. Many thanks for all the effort put into it by one and all, i.e. players, committeemen, Ken Jones and Kath, Ken Jarrett and Lorna and Brian Bennett. The Executive Boxes Project was ticking away too, and this great venture will be completed by the opening of the 1989-90 season.
I must give a special vote of thanks to the indefatigable Albert Francis, for if it were not for him I am sure both these projects would not be with us today. Thank you Albert, the Groundsman, for being such a fantastic promotions man!
Our congratulations to Bob Norster and David Young on their selection for the British Lions team to tour Australia this summer; and to David Evans on gaining International honours against France and England.
My personal thanks go to all those committeemen who supported me throughout the season, especially my vice-chairman, Howard Norris, who did a thoroughly competent job, being particularly supportive at Whitbread Merit Table Meetings! Thanks also to Peter Nyhan for those superb programme notes throughout the season. The contents were second to none. To Brian Mark, a special word of thanks for surmounting the thorny problems of a fixture secretary. Thank you to Alf Heffell and the office staff, the Supporters Club, the Club Doctors, Physics and Masseurs, Ted and Nancy in the shop, and anyone whom I should have mentioned but have forgotten!
My final words must be for Alan Phillips, the man who is second only to the great Bleddyn Williams in the number of tries scored, in total, for Cardiff; and, who has played more games than anyone else in the history of the club, 469! I doubt if either of these records will ever be beaten. Alan will be missed not only for his consistently high standard of play but for his powers of organisation and direction off the field. He was respected on all counts and will be sorely missed as a player.
I am proud to say that I introduced Alan to Cardiff Rugby Club in my year of Captaincy in 1974 and he succeeded me on my retirement in 1975.
FACT- I scored 17 glorious tries in my 13 years with Cardiff. Alan scored 17 tries in his first season with the club!!
I hope that this original ‘Cambridge Blue and Black’ will remain with us for many years to come in one capacity or another.
It only remains to be said that I hope the reorganisation undertaken this year, and the lessons learnt from our many mistakes will bear fruition next season particularly on 17th October.