Here’s the second in a series of articles about our clubs who participate in Wales Rugby League’s community programme, primarily written by the clubs themselves.
Wales’ biggest rugby league club in 2019 with over 200 registered players was Cardiff Blue Dragons. They have become a well-established brand in Cardiff rugby circles since it found its permanent home in 2017 at the very accessible Dragon’s Nest Memorial Ground in Ely, West Cardiff.
In 2017 they established a solid partnership with hosts Glamorgan Wanderers RFC, based on a shared vision of all-year-round rugby being played at the club. Both clubs work together in bringing rugby action to local fans every weekend, plus giving local children and adult players a full programme of training, game time and social events throughout the year. Current Club Chairperson Chris Stiles and Head of Development Louise Morgan take up the story…
In the 1980s, the Cardiff City Blue Dragons played out of Cardiff City’s Ninian Park ground representing Cardiff in the RFL’s Division Two competition, relocating to Bridgend in their final year before folding.
In 1996, professional rugby league came back to Cardiff in the form of South Wales RLFC. They folded after one season after missing out on a Super League place, but out of the ashes came Cardiff Demons RLFC in 1997, a club that produced current Wales men’s captain Elliot Kear amongst others. In the early 2010s, Cardiff Spartans RLFC also became established, and in 2015, these two clubs merged to form the foundations of our club as Cardiff City Rugby League. The club played out of a variety of Cardiff grounds including Rumney RFC and Cardiff Arms Park.
In 2017, once the sustainable partnership was struck with Glamorgan Wanderers, and under new management, with Alf Harvey as Head of Development, who worked tirelessly as a volunteer for the club, the new brand of Cardiff Blue Dragons Rugby League quickly became a household name for the summer sport, throughout rugby circles in and around Cardiff and the Vale.
Glamorgan Wanderers’ union code is uninterrupted throughout the winter season, whilst the Blue Dragons use the facilities on non-union days, and then start their season of Rugby League as the Rugby Union comes to a close. This partnership has meant that Cardiff Blue Dragons has been able to flourish at all levels, boasting a year on year increase in player registrations at all WRL age grades from U12s to 14s, 16s, 19s and then seniors, or ‘open age’ for both men and women; plus an over 35s ‘Masters Rugby League’ squad.
As a result of a very successful first Masters season for Cardiff in 2019, Wales Rugby League has selected eight players from Cardiff Blue Dragons to represent Wales in the first ever Tri Nations Masters tournament, which was due to be played in May but is currently postponed.
For our younger age groups, there are also a number of U16s players that have been selected for the Wales U16 Development Squad.
Cardiff Blue Dragons boasted a three-year ‘hat trick’ of winning the WRL U17s title from 2016-18. Members of this team went on to play for the East Wales origin side in stadiums such as Cardiff Arms Park and Steboneath Park in Llanelli, achieving a three-year whitewash of West Wales! Out of the group of 16 core players, a total number of 11 national caps were achieved, plus 48 East Wales Caps, and one Commonwealth 9s player representation.
In 2019, for the first time ever in Wales, Cardiff Blue Dragons ran rugby league training camps for under 9s and 10s every Sunday between May and August at Dragons’ Nest Memorial Ground. The Young Dragons sessions attracted boys and girls from all over Cardiff and the Vale who came to train and play in weekly matches amongst themselves. As a result, the club registered 50 Young Dragons players, building good foundations for the future.
Finally, another proud result of the sustainable Cardiff expansion, is becoming the first Welsh club along with our sisters in Rhondda to establish a full open age Women’s club side, providing 11 players for when Wales Women played their first ever capped international match against the English Lions and beat them 24-20 in 2019.
In 2020, Cardiff Blue Dragons has evolved again with Louise Morgan and Chris Stiles (who along with Alf Harvey, helped set up the newly rebranded club three years’ ago). Equally as important are our other committee members who are:
- Shaun Gustard – Club Secretary
- Jamie Iles – Men’s Head Coach
- Martyn Williams – Junior Coach
- Charlie Mundy – Senior Womens Rep
- Jamal Abdilahi – U18s Coach
- Jack Dryden – Merchandise Manager
- Chris Thomas – Masters Coach
- Craig Field – Women’s Head Coach
- Rhys Lewis – Senior Men’s Rep
- Geri Vaughan – Safeguarding Officer
Cardiff Blue Dragons was set up with the ethos to attract players of all backgrounds and social classes in and around Cardiff and the Vale, and it is not run as a business, as Louise Morgan explains: “The club’s core aims are to be community focused and open to all. Giving to our Cardiff community is key but that’s also how we will produce the stars of the future as we attract a bigger pool of players.
“Our club’s work in fundraising and obtaining sponsors means that we can charge next to nothing for players to register with us, and those that are struggling can also be accommodated. We have a dedicated management committee of volunteers at Dragon’s Nest, and along with the great relationship we have with our union partner, Cardiff Blue Dragons Rugby League has a bright, exciting and sustainable future.”