Tuesday, 21 May 2013

All Wales Sport Awards

As another sensational rugby/football season draws to a close here at All Wales Sport, we’re going to take a look back at some of the moments and people that have made it our biggest and best season yet!

At national level, Wales has once again been punching above its weight. Although Rob Howley’s men suffered a disappointing whitewash in the autumn, it was worth enduring for possibly the best 80 minutes of Welsh rugby in a long time, as we derailed the England grand slam chariot...and didn’t we do it in style! Who would have thought after the first weekend of the Six Nations that the British and Irish Lions party would be so dominated by the Welsh dragons?
Leigh Halfpenny’s unadulterated and unequivocal commitment and passion to the cause has rightly seen him pick up a whole host of awards, including Six Nations Player of the Year and Welsh Rugby Writers' Player of the Year.
Wales’s football teams have also achieved a new level of unprecedented success. Swansea produced another excellent season in the top flight, winning an army of admirers everywhere they travelled, and Michael Laudrup’s charges created history in February when they claimed the League Cup.
It may have taken Cardiff a few more attempts than they would have liked, but they, too, will be joining Swansea at the pinnacle of the English game after a wonderful season in the Championship. Some of their fans may not be too happy with the direction the club has taken off the field but will no doubt still turn out in force to support their ‘Bluebirds’ next season.
Lower down, Newport and Wrexham battled it out at Wembley with County claiming their place in the football league system, while Wrexham had to console themselves with an FA Trophy victory. In the Blue Square North division, Colwyn Bay made Chelsea's managerial position seem stable, but eventually found the perfect fit in Frank Sinclair, and the ex-Chelsea man lead the Seagulls to what can only be described as a great escape.
Back to rugby and one of the sport's more sour notes this year where much was made about the bickering and in-fighting which is threatening to ruin regional rugby in Wales. The regions can’t compete in Europe with the level of funding they receive while the WRU can’t seem to handle the fact that they do not have control over a certain part of Welsh Rugby. The arguments are long and tedious and I’m not going to go into them here, but suffice it to say, both sides need to put their egos aside and work out what is best for Welsh rugby, and not what is best for certain individuals within the game.
In the Premiership, Pontypridd dominated proceedings once again, losing only one match as they went on to claim an historic League and Cup double in style.
Wales’ semi professional league was ring-fenced this year, with many teams using it as a season to rebuild and rejuvenate as a result. You only have to look at the table, however, to see that the Ospreys' feeder clubs won’t be particularly happy with their final league standings. Although the season was dominated by Ponty's incredible achievements, notable mentions must also go to both Llandovery and Bedwas, who surpassed even their own expectations this season.
All Wales Sport’s Premiership Team of the Year: Pontypridd (Runners-up Bedwas)
There was yet more change to the Swalec League system this year with the formation of the National Championship and, like the Premiership, there is one team that stood out head and shoulders above the rest: Ebbw Vale. The Steelmen lost just once on their way to claiming the inaugural Championship and also came within a whisker of dismissing eventual Cup winners, Ponty. They would undoubtedly be able to slot in at Premiership level if they continue their exceptional standard, but the question will be what criteria the WRU will set at the end of next season for entrance in to the top flight. Pontypool were ring-fenced from relegation even though this turned out to be an unneeded safety net in the end, while Whitland and Glamorgan Wanderers propped up the table.
AWS Championship Team of the Year: Ebbw Vale (Runners-up Cardiff Met)
Next season, Division One East winners RGC 1404 and Division One West winners Tondu will be heading into the Championship, after seeing off the challenges of Ystrad Rhondda and Cwmllynfell respectively.
Lower League Club of the Year-Wattstown
In the Swalec Leagues Divisions 2-7, there were some quite extraordinary performances with three teams going all season unbeaten in their respective divisions, namely Five West’s Gowerton, Five South Central’s Glyncoch and Six South Central’s Cambrian Welfare. In addition to this, Wattstown also had a fine season, bagging the Swalec Bowl and Four South East title. Four clubs broke through the magical 100 points barrier on the way to winning their respective divisions: Amman United, Penlan, Cwmgors and Blaenavon. All things considered, however, there can be only one winner... - Wattstown. Their League and Cup double is made all the more remarkable when one considers the ensuing fixture chaos they had to overcome this season, all of which makes them my choice as lower league club of the year.
Welsh Football League Team of the Year-Rhyl
 Once again it was TNS’s year in the Welsh Premier League, while there were fairytale endings for both Prestatyn who picked up the Welsh Cup for the first time and Bala who after an amazing 13 match winning streak secured European football. 

On a more sour note, Llanelli AFC went into administration following on from Neath the previous year. In the Welsh League, there was the sad demise of Barry Town as owner Stuart Lovering pulled his side out of the league with only four days left of the season.  Former footballing powerhouse Bridgend Town will also cease to exist next year as the merger with Bryntirion presses ahead. In the Huws Gray Alliance, Champions Rhyl earned a spot back in the top flight with an incredible undefeated season.

The rise of North Wales clubs in the top echelons of the game in Wales will surely be a worry for the FAW, and clubs in South Wales will have to find new ways to survive and strive, as their fan bases face ferocious competition from two Premier League clubs and one football League club in Newport.
All Wales Sport Community Awards
 Here at All Wales Sport, we pride ourselves on giving grassroots sport the coverage it deserves and collecting and correlating the weekend rugby and football scores is a mammoth task.
Therefore, I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of the various club officials and volunteers that help make our lives a little easier, with a couple of individuals in particular given some notable recognition that they more than deserve:
Every Saturday, accurately tracking down scores, scorers and try counts can be a rather time consuming task as you could imagine, but there are countless clubs out there that e-mail, ring, text and tweet their results through making our job just that little bit smoother.
For the award of best club contact, we took into consideration the following criteria: most reliable (that includes sending in results even after a loss), knowledge of the game you have just seen (scorers, try count, any incidents), and last but by no means least, a bit of banter. We put our heads together in the office and came up with a short-list of candidates: Huw Smith (Llanharan RFC), Tracey Lintern (Penallta RFC), Richard Mainwaring (Pontrhydyfen), Dennis Thomas (Maesteg RFC), and Neil Francis (Glynneath RFC).
Best Club ContactHuw Smith (Llanharan); Runner up: Neil Francis (Glynneath).
We get sent quite a few match reports at AWS and while trying to verify try counts and scorers on a Monday morning, I do scour the internet and read quite a few rugby reports. In the Best Match Report category, I took into consideration reliability, the bias of the article and reader enjoyment. The list of candidates are: Martin Harvey (Llandrindod Wells RFC), John Humphreys (Rhiwbina RFC), and Gareth Trapnell (Old Tyleryan RFC).
Winner: Gareth Trapnell (Old Tyleryan)- a link to my particular favourite report: http://www.pitchero.com/clubs/oldtyleryanrfc/s/match-report-53546.html?official=0&fixture_id=1297237
 The next group that we would like to thank at All Wales Sport are the amateur and professional photographers who send us wonderful snaps that really do add so much to our blogs. I am far from qualified to tell you what constitutes a great picture, so I didn’t feel it would be fair to put them in any kind of order as a result, but here is a list of photographers that have helped us out this season: Garry Smith (AlfiePics), Tracey Lintern (Penallta RFC), Joseph Kiff (Pembssm.co.uk).
 This year, All Wales Sport reporters have travelled all over Wales covering the best grassroots sport has to offer. It is only fitting, therefore, that my next award observes the Best Welcome or Experience at a Ground, be it football or rugby. I am not sure whether it is mainly down to the fact that I am a female and we are generally outnumbered in the sports reporting world, but when showing up to places and having people who I have never met say “You must be Laura from All Wales Sport”, I am uncertain as to whether I should be delighted or concerned that I have developed such notoriety around the sports clubs of Wales...
But I digress. The grounds up for consideration are: Llanelli RFC (I would like to thank the gentleman that brought me a lovely cup of coffee on what was a freezing cold afternoon at their British and Irish Cup encounter with Moseley); Carmarthen Park (where everyone was extremely helpful, from the stewards to the media officer); and Sardis Road (my colleague Leigh Sanders loves going to Ponty and would like to give a special mention to Ioan Dyer for keeping the snacks and entertainment flowing, as well as stats guru Guto Davies, who is always a fountain of useful knowledge).
Winner: Carmarthen Quins RFC. Every time I have visited Carmarthen Park, the staff and people have always been brilliantly helpful and it just seems like an all-round lovely, friendly club.
 In Wales, we have a number of comedic geniuses in charge of rugby Twitter accounts. Unfortunately, there are also some people for whom 140 characters is, quite frankly, 140 too much! However, I am ever so slightly addicted to Twitter and it is a very good aid in keeping up to date with grassroots sport in Wales. I am not going to go down the root of heaping praise on the devout Welsh rugby deity of the Dai Lama (the mythical man has already had enough awards and attention!). However, there are a few rugby clubs out there which make me chuckle while also being extremely informative.
Best Club Twitter candidates: Llanelli RFC, Ystradgynlais RFC, Bridgend RFC, Penallta RFC, Beddau RFC
Winner: Ystradgynlais RFC. Although I may not hold the view that the ex-Scarlets player Owen Williams is the best thing since sliced bread, I did love their tweet about the Under 16s going on tour to help a lesser developed rugby nation: England.
Most Entertaining Premiership/Cup MatchThere were a few matches this season that were high octane roller coaster rides of emotion and skill, though others were, dare I say, not so much. Having asked a number of reporters, the two matches that came out on top were the Swalec Cup QF: Ebbw Vale 22–23 Pontypridd, and the final day of the season Premiership match: Bedwas 41–43 Llandovery.
Although I wasn’t fortunate enough to attend either match, our reporters at those games made compelling cases. Both games were full of drama and left supporters emotionally and physically drained. Ponty’s League and Cup double came within a whisker of being sidelined at Championship side Ebbw, while Chris Knight’s late try ensured it was the Drovers and not Bedwas that progressed to the semi-finals in the most heartbreaking fashion.
 Best Twitter CampaignOnly days after the end of the Six Nations, plans emerged that the organising body were to turn the Women’s Six Nations into a two tier tournament. Rightly, it sparked outrage amongst women's rugby supporters around the world and the #backthegirls hash-tag was to dominate my timeline for weeks after. Twitter is a wonderful creature and through tweets and retweets, politicians and high profile figures began to take notice. Eventually, the idea of a two tier Six Nations was scrapped and our very ‘own' Roger Lewis is now the head of the Women's Six Nations Rugby committee (now there’s a happy thought...). The dedication of @WRUWomenSupport was instrumental in garnering interest into the topic and raising awareness, while Alison Donnelly at Scrumqueens must also be commended for breaking the story.
The final award is the All Wales Sports Special Recognition Award, which goes to someone who has committed time and effort to helping their club, and showing real passion for grassroots rugby in Wales. This person is the webmaster of Penallta’s site, who also makes my life a whole lot easier by supplying scores, scorers and pictures of Penallta’s games. I would also like to say an additional thanks for the live tweeting from the important Penallta v Ytsrad Rhondda match a couple of weeks ago.
Winner: Tracey Lintern (Penallta RFC)

Finally, All Wales Sport would also like to thank the following football league secretaries for all their hard work and dedication over the past season. Their help and support has once again ensured that AWS had another record breaking year!

Geraint Davies (Ceredigion)
Colin Jenkins (Carmarthenshire)
Glyn Jones (Gwent)
Alan Jones (Merthyr)
Paul Worts (Mid Wales)
Bob Smith (Neath)
Brian Hawkins (Pembrokeshire)
Geoff Cadwallader (Swansea)
Des Edwards ('live updates' from all the Cup Finals Swansea)


  1. You forgot to mention the best live match coverage...Ioan "The Eggman" Dyer's Live Blog coverage via 'The Egg Shaped Ball'. The only live text coverage of all the action at Pontypridd home and away games. Not just the score and scorers, but all the action....tackler, ball carrier, etc.

  2. Richard Galliers28 May 2013 at 10:19

    Bedlinog RFC need a special mention for their League and Cup double. They go up to Division 1 east next season after comfortably winning their division 2 east, then beating next seasons Championship new boys - Tondu - in the Silver Ball final at The Brewery Field, Bridgend! Quite an achievement!! Nelson also managed a bonus point win on the last day of fixtures to join local rivals Bedlinog and Merthyr - who achieved a bonus point win on their last game of the season, to avoid relegation - in Division 1 East. Some cracking local derbies next season around the Merthyr Valley. If these 3 can stay up next year and Dowlais win promotion again - they will have gone from 3rd division to 1st in successive seasons - giving us simple valley folk some mouthwatering local derbies for the 2014-15 season. And with Treharris and Ynysowen on the ascendency, perhaps it won't be too long before we see 6 local teams up at the top having derbies regularly! Now there's something to look forward to! Finally, on the younger side of things - well done to Merthyr Youth for their League and Cup double - lifting the Heart of Wales Cup for the 4th year running and also winning their Blues Division A League. Local rugby - propping up the big boys!

  3. Were these awards made for last season (2011/12)?
    If so, I ust have missed any mention of Glyncoch's unique season when they won every League and Cup game, beating New Tredegar in the Bowl Final at the Stadium. If awards were made, I apologise for having missed them!

  4. Nice to see you give a mention to the hard working football league secretaries and the help and support given to you by them.
    It is regrettable that you have neglected to mention the West Wales Football Association, and its excellent, hard-working and supportive Secretary, Gareth Williams.