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Team of the week: Haverfordwest County

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team of the weekFootball Club was formed on December 7, 1899 and changed the name early in its history to Haverfordwest Town.

Most of the team’s fixtures in those early days were friendly matches, but the club gained membership of the Pembrokeshire League before the First World War.

The senior team moved up to the Welsh Football League in 1936, and they became known as Haverfordwest Athletic.

Haverfordwest Athletic remained in the lower reaches until 1955/56 when they won the First Division title and gained promotion to the Premier Division. The following season, the team won the Welsh League title, with the legendary Stan Richards starring in the side.

It was at this point in their history that the present name of Haverfordwest County was adopted. County remained in the Premier Division, finishing as runners-up in 1969-70 and 1970-71, until a disastrous 1975/76 season saw them relegated.

The club just missed out on success for the following two seasons but, at the third attempt, comfortably won promotion to the top flight once more. A highly successful 1980/81 season enabled County to take the championship in their first year back, losing only five games.

In 1983, the League was restructured and the National Division’ created. In the nine years existence of the National Division, Haverfordwest County only once finished outside a top six position, but the championship eluded them.

County’s pedigree during the 1980s made them prime candidates for membership of the League of Wales in 1992/93. In that first season they finished comfortably in mid-table and consolidated their status the following season.

At this point in 1994, however, other influences came to bear. An offer to buy their Bridge Meadow ground had come from the Safeway Supermarket chain. This offer included the construction of a new ground and County decided this was the way to go.

County have an excellent new stadium, the New Bridge Meadow, and enjoyed three seasons back in the Welsh League in which they were twice runners-up and, in 1996/97, deserved champions.

Those three years brought seventy league victories and only 16 defeats in over a century of matches. Each season County notched more than a hundred league goals (335 in total!) and, by the time they rejoined the League of Wales in August 1997, the club was well set to continue where they had left off.

1997/98 was a difficult term for Haverfordwest County, and relegation was being accepted following a run of twelve games up to Easter in which they failed to register a victory. That all changed with a 2-1 home win against Connah’s Quay Nomads. The following season began brightly as, based on the goalscoring achievements of Paul Burrows and Richard Gay, Haverfordwest challenged the early-season league leaders. Successive victories by 7-2, 2-0 and 5-2, thanks to a couple of hat-tricks from Gay, put County in fourth place, though a slump was to follow.

Nevertheless, the team performed well enough to avoid being dragged into a relegation battle.Placed 15th in 1999/2000, County improved to finish 10th the following season.

The next campaign saw the former Norwich City and Wrexham defender Deryn Brace appointed player-manager and despite finishing the season next to bottom, County retained League of Wales membership.Season 2002/3 saw some improvement, but in 2003/4 the Bluebirds became the surprise package of the league, finishing in third place and qualifying for the UEFA Cup.

However, a cash crisis in 2005/6 saw the departure of several keys players. A new administration aimed at rescuing the Club from extinction began their task in January 2006 and the club stabilised its position to finish eighth in the league.

A poor start to the 2006/07 season saw manager Deryn Brace step down and he was replaced by former Manchester United and Cardiff City defender Derek Brazil who guided a young side to a mid-table position at the end of his first season in charge. In Brazil’s second season at the Bridge Meadow, Haverfordwest County improved to eighth in the league, and in the following season finished 7th on goal difference, whilst keeping 10 clean sheets during the campaign.

Over the past few years the directors of Haverfordwest County AFC Limited, a company that was formed in June 2006, have managed to engage new sponsors and much help from local businesses. The financial situation at the club is now healthy and the erection of a new stand was completed in time for the 2009-10 season.

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Wales v Scotland postponed

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WALES’ Six Nations match at home to Scotland on Saturday has been postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The two other Six Nation fixtures had already been postponed and no date has been confirmed to complete the 2020 Championship.

The Welsh Rugby Union had insisted earlier on Friday the game would “go ahead as planned”.

A WRU statement read: “The Welsh Rugby Union has maintained an open dialogue with, and continued to seek advice and direction from, the National Assembly for Wales and other stakeholders, including the Six Nations, on this fast-moving issue.

“Whilst medical advice remains consistent, we have decided that it is in the best interests of supporters, players and staff to fall in line with recent measures taken across the UK and global sports industries.

“The WRU would like to thank all parties for their counsel on the subject and will make further announcements with respect to rescheduling the fixture in the coming days.

“Every effort has been made to stage this game and we appreciate that individuals will have been inconvenienced. Given the fluid and unprecedented nature of this issue a postponement became the only viable option.”

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Domestic football at all levels in Wales suspended

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THE FOOTBALL Association of Wales has today (13 March) taken the decision to suspend domestic football at all levels in Wales with immediate effect until April 4 due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The intention at this time will be to resume the football schedule depending on the medical advice and conditions from the relevant authorities at that time.

The FAW is fully aware of the impact this will have on the domestic game but the health and safety of all fans, players, volunteers and stakeholders are of paramount importance.

The FAW will continue to monitor this situation on a day-by-day basis and will continue to provide updates when appropriate.

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Sport

Walking rugby is a game for all ages and abilities

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WALKING RUGBY has taken off throughout Wales in the last 12 months and is benefitting participants in more ways than one.

The participants – male and female of all ages and abilities including one man who lost his sight 13 years ago – talk of clear benefits to their physical health and crucially, their mental health through being involved in the groups.

The number of Walking Rugby groups in Wales grew organically from two in December 2018 to 16 just twelve months later and new groups are starting up all the time.

A range of organisations from rugby clubs to charities, Health Boards and third sector bodies are seeing the benefit of the inclusive rugby format and engaging more than 300 participants on a weekly basis.
The Aneurin Bevan Mental Health unit has worked with the Dragons Community team to set up a team of their own, training weekly at Rodney Parade.

Kevin Hale, Community Support Worker for the Aneurin Bevan Health Board Forensic Psychiatry Service, who set up the Dragons NHS Walking Rugby team said, “From a mental health point of view it’s been priceless, the social benefits, in particular, are tremendous. Many of the players were very shy at the start and quite withdrawn but confidence levels and communication skills have grown massively and they have told us Walking Rugby has helped them in other areas of their lives.

“It started off as a means to get some of our service users active and also to have some social time afterwards to discuss any issues they’re having. It’s gone from strength to strength and we’ve opened up the opportunity so that anyone can join us at Rodney Parade on a Tuesday afternoon.

Christian Hyde now plays for the Dragons NHS team despite having lost his sight through diabetes.
“I played rugby from the age of 8 to 26. After losing my sight, I had to stop playing – and refereeing. You really miss being part of a rugby environment so being back involved in the game is huge for me and something I never thought I’d do.

“I’m already involved with the visually impaired rugby at Cardiff Blues but being a Dragons supporter, I’m thrilled to be able to train at Rodney Parade and to be involved in matches again like the recent festival. To have ten teams turn up shows the enjoyment we’re all having.”

Anne Jackson plays for Pontyclun Walking Rugby. She said “I’m the only woman at the club at the moment and we could do with more. It really is for everyone. It’s wonderful. It keeps you active – I’ve got fitter since playing Walking Rugby. We train twice a week on a Monday evening and Wednesday morning. We laugh most of the time, we all get on very well.”

Former Wales full-back and Cross Keys coach Morgan Stoddart coaches the Cambrian Walking Rugby group in the Rhondda. He said, “We regularly get 15 or 16 players at our twice-weekly training sessions, we had 12 teams at recent Walking Rugby festivals in Treorchy and Cambrian so it’s gaining popularity all the time.

“Quite a few of the players played rugby in their youth and others haven’t played much sport at all throughout their lives. One lady, Frances Jones, is a regular player and still going strong at 84!

“They enjoy the exercise and also the friendship and camaraderie they gain from it. I enjoy it too, it’s a real change from competitive league rugby as it’s so open to male and female players of all ages and abilities.”
While the format is fully inclusive to all ages, genders and abilities, its main appeal is to Wales’ older and socially isolated population. With more than 877 000 people over 60 in Wales (just under 30% of the population), and that figure set to rise to over one million by 2030*, social isolation and mental health issues are a real issue.

The Welsh Government Strategy for Older People in Wales (2013-2023): Living Longer, Ageing Well, states that loneliness is a real health risk – ‘the same as smoking and twice that of obesity.. that staying physically active protects mental and physical health and that older people say that if they are able to participate in social and leisure activities, they are more likely to say they feel well.’

Based on this evidence, it is no surprise that some GPs are now referring patients to Walking Rugby for the physical and social benefits it brings.

Greg Woods, WRU Enterprise Manager said: “Anyone can play Walking Rugby, whether you’re a lapsed rugby player or new to the game. It’s a social, enjoyable activity with obvious physical and mental health benefits. There is clearly a growing demand for more Walking Rugby opportunities around Wales and we are working with the current groups and a wide range of other partners to not only cater for that demand but provide support to the volunteers running the clubs and work with others to set up new outlets.”

WRU Community Director Geraint John added: “It’s exciting to see the growth of Walking Rugby and to think of its future benefits to the health and well-being of the people of Wales – both the current or recent rugby-playing population and those who could join the rugby family through the Walking Rugby format”.

If you want to start a walking rugby club, get in touch for advice and support participation@wru.wales

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