Firstly, a Happy New Year to all Neath supporters from the Team Management and Squad.
Saturday’s win over Swansea was below par but “Phase One” of the Premiership is now complete and we will now seek to make our mark in the lower half. We have made huge strides this season and, when I compare where we were going into 2016 with where we are going into 2017, we have clearly improved but must continue to do so.
Of course, the results are nowhere near where we want to be. But this season so far we have won 4 League games, last year at this stage we had won none; and we have won 2 out of 4 Foster’s Cup games, last year we won 1 out of 6.
Not the immediate huge improvement everybody would have wished for I know but it is progress of sorts and, if we didn’t believe we are heading in the right direction with better to come, we wouldn’t be doing the task and there have been significant advances and I feel we are not far away.
Looking at specifics, our scrum is vastly improved so too our line-out and now the set-piece is an attacking base off which we can work. We have improved the quality of the squad both in terms of ability and attitude – and are continually looking to do so.
Within the team context, a lot of players have advanced their game personally and, while I don’t like picking out individuals, it is good to see that we have the Division’s joint top try-scorer in Aaron Grabham while Ed Howley is fast becoming our most prolific and prodigious goal-kickers for years. We are playing a pleasing brand of rugby and I feel we really should have a couple more wins and should have picked up more winning/losing bonus points.
Above all, we have a keen, youngish squad who are working hard to progress their and the team’s performance. The injury situation is not quite as bad as last year when we had more in the treatment room than on the training field, though it is fair to say injuries have hit us leading to hooker Aled Morris being pressed into emergency back-row action.
In other areas, despite the disparaging comments made by our ex-outside-half on TV on New Year’s Day, recent visitors agree that The Gnoll is the best all-grass surface in the Division and we will develop our game accordingly.
We still have three targets for 2016/17 :-
• to finish as high in “Phase 2” as we can
• the Foster’s Cup (don’t forget – Aberavon on Wednesday)
• and the Welsh Cup.
We all have a lot to look forward to. Supporters can do their bit by sticking behind the boys and by encouraging lapsed supporters to come back to our games. We will do it – and we will do it the Neath way.
Gareth Llewellyn – Head Coach