Wales Rugby League staged a lavish cap presentation ceremony last Friday night at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff where official caps were awarded to most of last year’s junior and community sides.
In the first event of its kind that the WRL have organised, teams representing Wales under 16, 18, 19, Dragonhearts and the Commonwealth Championships side were all present and had their caps presented to them by both their respective coaches and the Wales senior side coach John Kear.
A number of these players are already on professional or academy contracts. Two are with St Helens under 19s, two with Widnes Vikings under 16s while some have signed up to the South Wales Scorpions first team for 2015.
Kear, who made the trip from Yorkshire for the day for the this occasion, was delighted with what he saw.
“These players are the future of Rugby League in Wales,” he said. “There were over 50 Welsh born players in this room this evening and it was a pleasure to present their caps to them. Everyone in this room, players, coaches, volunteers and parents, dedicate a lot of their time to Wales Rugby League so I had no hesitation in travelling down to Cardiff to meet them all personally.
“I’ve already selected two Wales Student internationals, Morgan Evans and Tom Hughes, for the full Wales squad. I’m sure that many more of these players will win full Welsh caps in the not so distant future.”
Wales Rugby League’s chairman, Brian Juliff, the former Wigan, Wakefield and Wales international, made the opening speech and he too was pleased with the successful evening.
“To see such a large turnout in support of our emerging young players and senior community players was both encouraging and inspiring,” he said. “This event will now be set as a firm annual date in the WRL calendar as we celebrate success and continue to increase awareness of Rugby League in Wales through our youth and schools programmes .
WRL’s chief operating officer, Chris Thair added: “The room was bursting with pride and with over 250 guests from grandparents to sponsors, it made for a wonderful event.
“The smiles on the player’s faces as they were presented with their caps by John Kear were a delight. It was particularly pleasing to see the ripple effect that each player has on the sport in Wales. Just as on game day, every player tonight was accompanied by an entourage of beaming friends and family each sharing in the joy of the occasion and in the opportunity that the sport of Rugby League has provided them.
“If we continue to provide positive experiences for people who touch the sport then rugby league will continue to grow in Wales, and at the heart of that is the player and the volunteer.
“Wales Rugby League directly ran seven international teams in 2014 and another six representative teams beneath national level which includes the semi-professional outfit South Wales Scorpions. This is on top of servicing and running domestic school and club competitions, plus all the other requirements of a National Governing Body.
“To do so on one fulltime plus a couple of part time members of staff shows just how much sacrifice people make and the reliance we have on volunteers. Congratulations to all concerned and thank you once again to everyone who helps to put a smile on a players face and to the players themselves.”
The cap presentation for Wales’ Wheelchair side was held in Wrexham late last year but they were recognised on a video shown at the Cardiff event.
An post presentation party was held at the official Wales Rugby League pub, The Brewhouse, following the ceremonies.
Sides run by WRL in 2014
1. Wales Men
2. Wales Commonwealth Nines
3. Wales 18s
4. Wales 16S
5. Wales Wheelchair
6. Wales Dragonhearts
7. Wales Students
8. South Wales Scorpions
9. Under 16s Academy
10. Under 19s Academy
11. Under 18s ASSE Academy
12. Under 14s East Region
13. Under 14s West Region