Welsh rugby league author Ian Golden has predicted a bright future for the sport as all 14 Engage Super League teams head to Cardiff for Millennium Magic.
Golden, whose book A Welsh Crusade: Building Rugby League in Wales 1990-2009 was released just over a year ago, believes rugby league can look forward to increasing Welsh participation figures and on-field progress over the coming decade.
Golden told Rugby League Books: “We actually now have a full pathway for players, both junior and senior, and the number of rugby league matches in Wales will this year go well into the hundreds.
“Twenty years ago I think there was Aberavon amateur club and a few student sides.
“Now, we’ve got Crusaders fixtures at U15s, U16s and U18s along with two Welsh sides in the U18 National Youth League, the Welsh Conference, and Valley Cougars up in the National Conference, meaning players have got a level between the Welsh Conference and the South Wales Scorpions.”
He continued: “We’ve also got 150 schools sides in the Carnegie Champion Schools tournament and that figure is increasing every year.
“The more players that get involved, the more we’ve got to pick from and the more Welsh stars we’ll see coming through.”
A Welsh Crusade: Building Rugby League in Wales 1990-2009 was the product of Golden’s own devotion to the 13-man code.
“I first thought about writing it a couple of years ago when I was watching a Wales football match at the Millennium Stadium.
“Putting the book together was good fun. I did a lot of research during the off-season and a lot of writing when I was on the coach going on long away trips with the Crusaders when they were still based in Bridgend (Golden worked as the Crusaders’ media officer until the club’s relocation to Wrexham).”
He added: “I made a few trips to libraries, gathered some material from the books and DVDs I already owned and one of the real pleasures was getting to interview David Watkins at his home as part of the research.”
Golden admits he approached the book in a methodical way.
He said: “It was a very big task, but I did it in a structured way by breaking it down into chunks.
“I knew I had a certain word-count for the book to reach, so I worked out the chapters first and then put appropriate word counts for each chapter that made sure I hit the overall word-count.”
Golden’s first live rugby league match was the 1990 Charity Shield when Wigan met Widnes at The Vetch Field in Swansea.
His next, Wales versus Papua New Guinea, came more than a year later. But one of Welsh rugby league’s unsung heroes certainly won’t be struggling for live action any time soon.