Wales kick-start conference campaign

Wales Rugby League launched their 2010 Co-operative Welsh Conference League season at the National Assembly for Wales in Cardiff Bay on Thursday.

The competition, which kicks off on Saturday 22nd May, will see a two tiered structure for the very first time with the 13 teams separated into a Premier League and a Championship.
The Premier League will consist of six clubs playing each other both home and away, with the clubs finishing in the top four competing in a play-off series culminating in a Grand Final on Saturday 21st August. The champions will then go on to represent Wales in the National RLC Premier semi-finals.
The Championship will consist of seven clubs playing 10 rounds with the clubs finishing in the top four competing in a play-off series, culminating in a Grand Final on Saturday 7th August. The champions will then go onto represent Wales in the National RLC Regional quarter finals.
The decision to run a two-tier league means that the Premier League will be far more competitive with any of the six teams capable of taking the title. The Championship will run with a merit league system which will award teams bonus points for travelling, completing fixtures, winning and losing. This will allow new teams and teams who are re-establishing themselves to compete in structured competitive league.

The launch, that was attended by media, Welsh Assembly Members, representatives from the Co-operative Group as well as players and officials from all levels of rugby league in Wales, was introduced by Wales Rugby League’s patron and the Plaid Cymru Welsh Assembly Member for North Wales, Janet Ryder, who was brought up on rugby league when she was a regular supporter of Hull FC at their old Boulevard ground.

Now a Crusaders regular at home and away, Janet is delighted to see the progress that is being made in rugby league in South Wales.

“Four years ago, we launched the new independent Welsh Rugby League in this building,” she said. “It’s important for the national team that we have a strong Conference league, and the work that’s gone on over the years in South Wales to develop the teams and the game in schools, then through to junior teams, then through to Conference league teams, is setting a good foundation.

“I was really proud like everybody else to see us win the European Championship last year. And that was based really on the work that’s gone in over many years to develop rugby league here in Wales. I’m really pleased to be here today.”

Martin Morris, the Chairman of the Wales / Cymru regional board of the Co-operative Group said: “At the Co-operative we’re very proud of our relationship with the community, that’s why we’re pleased to be part of the sponsorship of the Welsh Rugby League and to help extend the game to parts of Wales that otherwise wouldn’t be able to participate. This is a big event for us and we’ve put a lot of money into the competition. We’re very pleased to be helping rugby league in Wales in this tangible way.”

Wales Rugby League’s Executive Chairman Mark Rowley said: “It’s always good to see the expansion of rugby league in Wales. Seven years ago, we had just seven local senior clubs with only two of them fielding junior sides.

“Now, in 2010, there couldn’t be more of a contrast. Wales are European Champions in Rugby League at both senior level and under 18 level. We are the Home Nations champions at A international and student level, while our students reached the semi-finals of the last World Cup, only losing to Australia and New Zealand, and they won the UK regional championships this week. We have over 150 schools sides in Wales competing this year in either the Carnegie Champions Schools tournament, the South Wales Scorpions Primary Schools Cup and the Scorpions Junior School Cup.

“The Scorpions, who are associate sponsors of the Conference Premier this year, currently have 29 players on their books, 26 of whom were born in Wales. Such a side couldn’t have happened seven years ago as we didn’t have the players.

“We now have 16 Conference clubs in South Wales, 13 of them fielding senior sides and a further three running just at junior level. The sport in North Wales is also developing rapidly. Mike Nicholas has been involved with their only side Rhyl Coasters for a number of years, but this year there could be a further five clubs forming and playing rugby league in a merit league throughout the summer.”

The first round of Premier League fixtures on Saturday 22nd May sees reigning champions Blackwood Bulldogs taking on the 2008 winners Valley Cougars at their Glan-yr-Afon Park home. Newport Titans host Cardiff Demons while Bridgend Blue Bulls entertain new regional West Wales side CPC Bears who are based at Carmarthen Athletic RFC.

On the same day, joint favourites for the Championship title, Neath Port Talbot Steelers take on Dinefwr Sharks, West Wales Wildboars play Amman Valley Rhinos while a battle of the newcomers will take place at The Cage in Troedyrhiw when Tydfil Wildcats take on Swansea Llanelli Dragons. The experienced Torfaen Tigers, who like the Steelers have stepped down a level this year, must wait until May 29th for their first game when they take on the Wildcats in Pontypool.

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