Scorpions to host South Wales reunion

The 1996 side which launched summer-era rugby league in South Wales is set for a reunion this month, thanks to the South Wales Scorpions.

The event will take place at Mountain Ash RFC, when the Scorpions host London Skolars for their first home League One game of the season.

The South Wales side from 1996 competed at a similar level in the pyramid to the current Scorpions side, and finished sixth in a 12-team competition that year.

Despite that relative success, they were wound up after one season, with a number of issues, including a lack of cash, affecting them.

They were also provisionally promised a place in the 1997 Super League, as a fast-tracked franchise team. The Super League clubs at the time refused to vote them in.

That team played half of their home games in Aberavon and half of them in Cardiff. Out of the ashes of the team, the Cardiff Demons were founded.

The Demons also attempted to reach Super League, unsuccessfully applying for a franchise in 1999, when the competition expanded.

The club persisted, however, helping to found the Welsh Conference, which in turn spawned Celtic Crusaders, and eventually the two-club professional set-up we now have in Wales.

 The 1996 South Wales club was run by Mike Nicholas, former Warrington forward, who is now president of the Wales Rugby League.

The coach was Clive Griffiths, the Wales coach at the time, who went on to be North Wales Crusaders’ first head coach.

“I won’t be able to make it on this occasion, but I look forward to next year’s reunion when we’ll celebrate 20 years,” said Nicholas.

“I think that we did very well that season considering we built the side with only a few weeks’ notice.

“It would have been fantastic to have carried on but a lot of things went against us. However it’s all taken off since then so I think we did sow the seeds for modern day rugby league in Wales.”

The club fielded 42 players in that 1996 season, with many big names from both codes of rugby featuring.

Paul Moriarty, Gerald Cordle, Andy Currier, John Fieldhouse, Paul John, Hugh Waddell and David Williams alll played that year.

The top points scorer was former Wales Student international Ioan Bebb, who now coaches the Ysgol Gyfun Ystalyfera Rugby League sides.

Bebb scored seven tries and kicked 45 goals that year, and he is looking forward to catching up with old friends on Sunday April 12.

“I recently enjoyed a wonderful reunion with my old Welsh Students buddies so the chance to see the guys from 1996 is too good to miss,” he said.

“The squad was very close, enjoyed the glory and the hardships together and played some good rugby at times so there are plenty of memories to recap.

“The best memories for me are the Sunday nights in Cardiff after matches, especially with the mad Aussie boys! Being introduced to the late-night drinking dens of Bute Town by Gerald Cordle was interesting too.

“We had some memorable matches too – notably the Carlisle victory in from of the Sky cameras – it all still seems like yesterday.

“I’m genuinely optimistic about the future of the game in Wales and seeing players from my school graduating to the senior pro game is a huge thrill.

“We will continue to offer our boys the opportunity to enjoy both codes and provide every encouragement to those who see league as a viable career path.”

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