Friday, 14 June 2013

Warriors reach double century landmark at end of successful season

The Llanelli Warriors complete their season proper with their 200th fixture today, Friday 14th June, as they play New Dock Stars RFC for the Dai Spriggs Cup in a fixture rearranged from Boxing Day. The game closes the Warriors' season and will be followed by their presentation evening.

The 200th fixture will be marked by the unveiling of a new kit arranged by the WRU, produced by Under Armour and sponsored by Dyfed Steel.
The landmark game also gives the Warriors a chance to assess the state of the club and how far they have come. The team played just two matches in their inaugural season, but the match Friday will be their 13th this term with two matches to come on tour, while they have also hosted a successful 7s and touch tournament. The Warriors' established fixture list also includes regular clashes with local clubs, as well as the Bumbles from Yorkshire and Gwlad in Cardiff.
The club has secured several pieces of silverware this term: The Dai Spriggs Shield (Swansea Gladiators), the Anniversary Cup (Cefneithin), the Origin Cup (Burry Port), the Charity Cup (Gwlad Rugby), and the H Bomb Cup (Bumble Bee Barbarians), as well as triumphing in the touch section of their own tournament.  
Captain Eric Horridge said of the presentation evening, “There will be no shortage of candidates for the various awards and I’m sure it’ll be a tight decision in every category. All we know for definite is that Simon Jenkins has retained the top try scorer’s title.”
Four of the matches helped raise money for charities and they were even able to raise two full sides for an exhibition match.
Back in 1995, the only other integrated team was the Swansea Gladiators, but the Warriors have supported the Bumbles in establishing themselves and are currently lending support to The Clan in Scotland, who the Warriors will meet in their 1st game at the end of the month in Kilmarnock. 
Player/Coach Gwilym Lewis shared some recollections of his time with the team, “Undoubtedly, the highlight was the 2005 tour to New Zealand following the Lions, perhaps the most ambitious sporting project undertaken involving learning difficulties. We managed 3 games unbeaten, we met the All Blacks and we were also featured on television out there.”
The club has always strived to raise its profile and that of the concept of integrated rugby. This has, over the years, seen them featured in Rugby World as well as Radio Wales and S4C. Their website was at one point the most popular Welsh club on the Pitchero network and they also have a notable presence on various social media outlets.
 “On the one hand we want to be just a normal rugby club, but on the other we feel a duty to publicise the concept of integrated rugby. Most sporting opportunities for people with learning difficulties are segregated – special Olympics and football competitions - where the emphasis is on it being a special competition for disabled participants. 
The Warriors team is mixed and they play the majority of their fixtures against non-disabled club teams. This means our players can earn real respect by taking on and sometimes beating ‘normal’ players,” added Lewis.
Whilst there is a core of long term players, the only original still playing is second row John Horwood. Team games are often said to be difficult for people with autism, but John has thrived with the Warriors and has even served a term as Captain. 
Despite being in his 50s, Horwood is still going strong and looking forward to another season at the grindstone.
Skipper Horridge commented: “John’s a great example to all the players, he never had an opportunity to play rugby before the Warriors but now he’s got 17 years of experience, and we still rely on his line-out work – he’s a vital part of the team. He has only missed 17 matches in all that time so he really is Mr. Reliable.”
Horridge is also pleased that the 200th fixture will be played at New Dock Stars, who have given the Warriors a base since Stradey Park closed.
“We are very grateful for their support, it’s thanks to clubs like New Dock and also Burry Port and Cefneithin that we have been able to grow and develop.  We are also indebted to various local companies who have sponsored us like Specsavers, Domino’s Pizza, Tinopolis and most recently, Dyfed Steel.”
The club has become an established part of the local rugby scene, almost taken for granted locally but continue to develop and grow.  Their trip to Scotland is hopefully the next step in taking the concept further with interest in the Warriors model of integration gaining interest in Ireland, Italy, France, Belgium and Spain. Friday night, though, will be about celebrating 200 matches and another successful season.
Playing record 2012-2013: Played 13, Won 9, Drawn 2, Lost 2.
Playing record overall: Played 199, Won 131, Drawn 14, Lost 54.
Over 400 players have represented the club.
The club played just 3 matches in their 1st two seasons but this season will play 16 games (including tour matches).
Scott Quinnell, Rupert Moon, Ian Boobyer, David Hodges and Nigel Owens have all refereed matches
The club has helped raise £1000s for charity, mainly Help For Heroes for which they hold a match annually. 


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