Expansionist Blog: Rugby League is growing more than what people think in Wales

Drew Darbyshire

There is a huge pool of undiscovered talent in West Wales which is exciting for the future of Rugby League.

The newly-formed West Wales Raiders will compete in the Betfred League 1 this year and the majority of their squad is local talent.

And the talent in Wales is real, with five junior players in West Wales having been signed up to scholarships systems of Super League clubs.

According to Raiders head coach Jon Ellis, the future is looking good for the sport in Wales.

He told loverugbyleague.com: “It is growing more than what people are taking note of and a lot of it is because West Wales and Wales in general isn’t renowned for Rugby League because it’s saturated with Rugby Union but the Raiders are a really proactive club and they always have been when in the conference.

“We’ve always been pushing Rugby League and it’s obviously come intro fruition because we have had two of our Under-14s lads being signed for Hull FC as well as another two juniors for Hull FC and one for Hull KR.

“The likes of Hull are investing in these lads because they know that they’re good so it speaks volumes for what we have got and it is just about getting the lads involved and people backing us.”

A club with a promising future, the Raiders have been doing a lot of community work in recent years and delivery Rugby League programmes in local schools.

And Ellis revealed that the sport is starting to grow on the local people of Llanelli.

He said: “We have been going into the schools for the last four years when we were a conference team.

“We have always had aspirations to be professional and we have now got around 13 schools within Llanelli itself. We have a primary school competition, a junior school competition and a sixth form competition.

“We’ll be owning our own stadium soon so it’s another massive plus for us as a club and us going forward.”

Ellis revealed to Love Rugby League that the Raiders have a three-year plan in place for Rugby League to be stable within West Wales.

He said: “It’s a new club with lots of new players coming in and we have got a three-year plan for Rugby League to be sustainable here.

“There is money being pumped in by individuals in the background and the coaching staff have got together and realised what we have got to do as coaches to develop players who have not played Rugby League in conjunction with lads who have played a lot of Rugby League.

“We know there are going to be difficulties. It is an initial three-year plan – we’re not saying we are going to be in Super League in the next five years – we are realists and we understand where we have got to be and what we have got to do with that.”

Before speaking to Ellis today, I’m not going to lie, I thought Rugby League was at a loose end in Wales, but now I feel pretty good about the future of the sport in Wales.

The talent is there – a perfect example would be St Helens ace Regan Grace – we just need to find it, and bring it to League.