Nostalgia may well be “the vice of the aged” but Neath RFC’s Annual Presentation Evening run in conjunction as usual with the Neath Rugby Supporters’ Club Hall of Fame as usual proved a resounding success.
Neath Rugby Supporters’ Club has made a tremendous contribution to the parent club over very many seasons with players and all supporters benefiting from their regular donations of playing kit, medical equipment and ground and pitch improvements.
Another three-figure attendance enjoyed a relaxing evening which embraces the present generation as well as the past Welsh All Blacks.
Supporters’ Club chairman Len Kowalski got the evening off to a flying start with presentations to the back-room staff behind Neath RFC’s return to the Premiership.
Neath RFC rugby secretary Mike Price then took over proceedings for his observations on the season and the odd comic aside. His theme was where the Club is going is what matters and he congratulated Ryan Evans and his team on a unique achievement – promotion !
It was “unique” in that promotion had never before been necessary in Neath’s long and proud history but the Blacks regained their place in the WRU Premiership at what was the first available attempt after the Coronavirus pandemic prompted “no promotion” in the years since the Club was relegated.
All told, Neath played 33 games – once again probably more than any other club in Wales other than student teams – which underlines the club’s commitment to playing the Game.
Neath won 22 of their WRU Championship games and lost just three – to invincible Pontypool twice (30-34 and 18-23) and at Bargoed (18-21).
Bonus points were obtained in every game which was about the only feat which Pontypool did not accomplish as the Welsh All Blacks denied them a bonus at The Gnoll.
The evening then moved on to the main awards and, as is usual on this ever-popular annual occasion, the Past honoured the Present and the Present honoured the Past.
RYAN EVANS ATTAINS 100 GAMES FOR NEATH RFC
The smoothly-run ceremony started with Neath, Wales and double British Lion legend Elgan Rees awarding a club cap to Neath captain Ryan Evans on attaining 100 games for the Club:
SION CROCKER DOMINATES AWARDS
The Neath Rugby Supporters’ Club Player of the Year was jointly awarded to Ryan Evans and hooker Sion Crocker by stalwart supporters Vince Prout and John Thomas:
Josh Clark receiving the award on behalf of Sion Crocker:
CLUB PLAYER OF THE YEAR / PLAYERS’ PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Coach Patrick Horgan presented the Club Player of the Year award and Players’ Player of the Year award.
Both were won by Sion Crocker whose wonderful season saw him score 23 tries – just two short of Mark Jones’ forward record.
Jack Powell is pictured with Coach Patrick Horgan, receiving the award on behalf of Sion Crocker:
CLUBMAN OF THE YEAR
Clubman of the Year was Jacob Blackmore who turned out anywhere in the back five of a pack which
inevitably gave Neath the edge and he received his award from the coach.
Former Gnoll favourite Steve Powell then presented merit awards to three key members of Neath’s
“back room” team Lee Llewellyn, Paul Thomas and Gerald Morris:
Scrum-half Nicky Griffiths was presented with a framed photograph to mark his retirement by the Supporters’
Club who also made awards to Rod Lloyd and Mike Harrison before the evening reached “half time”.
PAST HEROES HONOURED
An excellent buffet was served ahead of the “Hall of Fame” inductions and, kicking off the “second half”, Mike Price paid tribute to the work of Neath Rugby Supporters’ Club in initiating this ceremony 10 years ago since when many famous players had been justly honoured. Previous inductees are :-
T.P. Whittington, S.S. Clark, Dr. E.V. Pegge, Will Jones, Howel Jones, A.E. Freethy, Frank Rees, Glyn Stephens, Tom Evans, Tom Arthur, Dan Jones, Rees Stephens, Roy John, Courtenay Meredith, Ron Waldron, Grahame Hodgson, Brian Thomas, Glen Ball, Martyn Davies, Dave Morris, Randall Davies, David Parker, Norman Rees, Wilson Lauder, Glyn Shaw, Mike Richards, Elgan Rees, Carl Gnojek, Phil Pugh, Steve Powell, Jonathan Davies, Martyn Morris, David Morgan, Huw Richards, Lyn Jones, Brian Williams, Paul Thorburn, Rowland Phillips, Jeremy Pugh, Kevin Phillips, Gareth Llewellyn, Allan Bateman, Patrick Horgan, Shane Williams, Adam Jones and Duncan Jones.
The 2022/23 inductees were then introduced in turn as Steve Dando, Mark Jones, Chris Bridges, Barry Williams and Euros Evans were elevated to join the elite band of Neath RFC legends.
Martyn Morris and Kevin Phillips joined in providing reminiscences of playing alongside the recipients and they kept the audience splendidly entertained.
The Hall of Fame gold caps were presented by present players new father Sam Langford (to Steve Dando), Elis Horgan (to Chris Bridges), Jacob Blackmore (to Kevin Phillips on behalf of Euros Evans), Josh Clark (to Barry Williams) and Owain Morgan (to Martyn Morris on behalf of Mark Jones).
A most convivial evening ended with a successful auction and raffle and the small NRSC committee of chairman Len Kowalski, vice chairman Dawn Williams, Wayne Hopkins and Paula Thomas are to be congratulated on co-ordinating another wonderful event which fully carried on the best traditions of this season-ending function.
The speeches, anecdotes and general good fun characterised a classic evening which suitably celebrated the fact that Neath RFC is back at the top – and this well-established annual event makes it a “vice for all ages” !
Images courtesy of Len Kowalski www.lensworkphotography.co.uk
More images of the evening can be viewed here: