LATEST:

Our History

The following are extracts from the comprehensive Menu/Booklet prepared for the 50th Anniversary Dinner of the Wanderers on

4th May 2001.

The first is by the late Brian Stephens, former Secretary of the Club, on his time as a player, referee and long-standing official of the Club.  The second by Tim Jenkins who was the brains behind the formation of the Minis, Juniors and Youth teams in the 80's and 90's.  Both were at pains to say they were personal observations and both claimed 'Diplomatic Immunity' at the time.

 

IS IT REALLY FIFTY YEARS? - Some recollections by Brian Stephens.

I'll start by getting the record straight and establishing my credentials to talk about the "early" days.  I was not there at day 1, but I did first play for Llanelli Wanderers in the September of season 3 under the captaincy of Meredith Evans, and I recall that we drew 3-3 at Gorseinon that day.  As an 18 year old, your thoughts never stretch to the Club's 50th celebrations, or to yourself being an O.A.P., but events have led to both, and I am only too pleased to be here to tell the tale.  As long ago as 1971 when Welsh Rugby Magazine did an in depth article on the Wanderers, I recall the then Chairman, Gareth Morris, saying "We certainly have a tale to tell", and that after only 20 years existence - since then events, honours, personalities, etc. have continued to come thick and fast.

As a club, I don't think we ever set out for records, but some of our experiences were I think more History Making - gaining membership of the Welsh Rugby Union after only 5 years existence; I think I can confidently say will be an achievement never to be equalled; being the first "second class" club to tour abroad independently was a proud boast; as was being amongst the first clubs of our status in the area to open a Clubhouse.  We can also claim that the Chairman of the W.R.U. 'Big Five' selection committee, Major Cliff Jones, once came to People’s Park to officially watch a Wanderers game - not many clubs can boast that, although I must confess that he really came to see Gerald Davies prove his fitness playing for Cardiff Athletic, and, regrettably, no Wanderers' players caught his selectorial eye that day.  Entertaining teams from Toronto University, Fairfield University (US.A.) and Roan Antelope (Zambia) were other proud days in our history, as were the off-field achievements such as singing on Radio Eiran, and the very complimentary reference in Winston McCarthy's world-wide broadcast as part of New Zealand's reply to one of The Queen's Christmas Day Messages to the Commonwealth.

Until Clive Rees came along, we used to claim Peter Evans as our first home produced international, but as he was capped in Year 1 of the Wanderers perhaps the claim was a little ambitious, but there is no doubt that part of Clive's rise to wear the Wales and Lions shirts was spent in the Maroon shirt of the Wanderers.  A player in the Scotland final trial at Murrayfield is also somewhat history-making.  lan McPherson was the man, a wing threequarter in the R.A.F. stationed at Pembrey.  He enjoyed his rugby playing for the Wanderers, but alas he did not make the Scotland side.  A couple of Blues, many Scarlets, and (whisper it) a few All Whites came via the Wanderers ranks, and in more recent years many age limit honours have come our way.  Amongst the Scarlets were Mike Tanner and Roger Howells who were at the time Wanderers 2nd XV players and who played at short notice at Pontypridd and Newbridge respectively, but despite both having good press reports, both were back in the Wanderers 2nd XV for the following games.

Looking back on 50 years of rugby and selecting a couple of unforgettable moments is indeed a daunting task, but for me the most memorable moment was that mammoth dropped goal kicked at St Helen's in a game against Swansea Athletic by Mike Tanner.  His kick from a point near the players tunnel, near the intersection of the half way line and the touch line was indeed some goal.  As for the most memorable try (and I choose my words carefully), for me it has to be one of the numerous tries scored by Wynne Davies, -- this one in a 2nd XV game at Bryncoch.  We were trailing by a dubious try (aren't they all) when Wynne took possession well in his own "25" (as it was then) and made to run out of defence, but in full cry he was forced to run over the touch line, continuing around the Touch Judge and a spectator, around two kids fighting, and back onto the field.  Hearing no whistle, he kept running, ending up beneath the posts, and, to the amazement of all (including the two kids who even stopped fighting to protest) was awarded a try - this might sound somewhat farfetched, but I can assure you the account is accurate - I know, because I was that spectator he ran around, and I can with some confidence say that there will never be another try quite like it.

On the serious side, we played much good football against quality opposition, and whilst we usually lost a few more games than we won, that was probably due more to the quality of the opposition than to the lack of quality in our rugby.  Throughout we have been blessed with industrious and capable officials, and equally industrious and loyal players.  The wisdom and foresight of the early officers like Graham Pugh and Dai Hughes, and the endless industry and enthusiasm of Harry Evans has been well documented and the Club's debt to them and their successors is indeed great, and when I sit and think about it, I can come up with so many anecdotes about so many characters who have gone through our ranks, I could go on indefinitely. I suppose it was inevitable that in 50 years we got a few things wrong ­perhaps none more than Dai Rees's efforts to get his season as Captain off to the perfect start.  After intensive pre-season training, on the coach to the first game, Dai had a pep talk with each player and handed them a "pill" which he assured them would ensure that they played at their best.  I never found out what these pills were, and often wondered whether Dai had risked the good reputation of the Club, but my mind is always put at rest when I look at the result of the game and realise that the mysterious tablets had no performance enhancing powers - Glamorgan Wanderers 2nds 56pts, Llanelli Wanderers 3pts.

Much of the social life evolved around the baton of Cliff Jones, and although we belted out the same songs/hymns again and again, we never ceased to enjoy singing them.  Everybody had a solo prepared, and whilst some singers like Les Evans, Jackie Jenkins, Rheinallt Jenkins, Oai Hughes, etc, etc, were quality, some of the less melodic amongst us were equally popular - I think Dennis Shanahan and his ever popular "shakers" as he called it, clearly fell into this category as did Harry Bevan and Llew John and their "unique" duets and Elfryn Thomas and his famous rendering of "The Flea".  If there was a downside of all the singing it was when we played home to English touring sides, they would expect us to start singing straight after the meal, and go on well into the night.  Club stag nights were legendary, none more than Jeff Keenan's - he did not turn up, but we all had a great time, and then had a second stag party some days later when Jeff did turn up.

I think I have wandered around the subject enough to suggest we have had 50 years full of enjoyable events, happenings, and Rugby Football, and I have little doubt that the next 50 years, whilst being different, will be equally eventful and enjoyable in what is now a very much faster moving world than the Club was born into.  May officials and players continue to join the conveyor belt of the 21st century, and may they have as good an experience as we, now old stagers, had in the 20th Century.

 

Tim's View - Some Observations from Tim Jenkins

The "80's" will not be fondly remembered in Llanelli, falling victim to recession, massive unemployment, social deprivation and increased crime.  To cap it all there was the Teachers' Strike and those who ran the schoolboy game withdrew their goodwill.  Organised rugby for our youngsters withered.  Indeed the demise was national: schoolboy rugby became at best fractured and elitist.

I recall that it was at one of those famous Cricket Section dinners that someone made a suggestion that we should put a junior team together to fill the gap that the schoolmasters had created and at the same time provide some hope of players in later years coming through into the senior team.  In that night of insobriety the "Die was set".

And so it was on a bright and sunny morning in 1988 that four primary school-aged boys attended at the Wanderers ground at Stradey and keenly passed the ball around.  They were Andrew Barrah, Ceri Thomas, Adrian James and my son Ceri.  The following week each brought a friend and a week after that eight had become sixteen - more than enough to play mini rugby.

With numbers in hand the 10/11 's played in their first formal game at Narberth in January 1989.  Looking like world-beaters in their spanking new kit - they lost by lots to nil!  Indeed it was nil for several games.  I recollect that it was Jamie Mansel (son of Nigel) who got the first try against Laugharne - now that was cause for a celebration!  By the end of the season we ran two mini teams; the older age group being coached by Martin Jones.  Other parents in harness at this time were Nigel Mansel, Peter Daniels, Mike Eatley, John Thomas and Alun (Bach) Davies.  Fun was the name of the game and players and parents had plenty of it.

In the seasons that followed the teams grew in number and from strength to strength.  The U8's - U11's playing friendlies far and wide whilst the U12's - U16's were involved in the Swansea & District League.  Rugby was guaranteed and standards high as Junior rugby flourished.  Teams entered Mini and Sevens tournaments and everyone enjoyed touring.  The first of these was to Scotland in 1990 when we filled Peebles and Pennywick Rugby grounds with 150 of our players and supporters.

I look back fondly at the first minis team and feel privileged to have spent ten years organising their rugby - from boys to men if you like.  Certainly they achieved remarkable success as individuals and as a team.

In their first season at Youth level (and in the first Wanderers Youth team) three sixteen year olds were capped for Wales Youth against Scotland at Ayr. They were Jeff Adams, Nathan Bonner-Evans and David Jones (whose father Les coached the Wanderers Youth at the time).  From the same Youth XV Darren Bowles, Dominic Evans and Byron Tyler were also capped at a later date.  In their second year of Youth rugby they won the Llanelli & District League, the Mowlem Cup, the President's Cup and reached the semi-final of the Welsh Cup losing narrowly away to Bridgend.  In their final season 11 players provided the backbone of the Llanelli & District Team which won the MK Electric Cup (a national competition for District Youth teams).  Out of Youth rugby, Daniel Griffiths has recently been capped by Wales Students, and Rhys Harries has toured South Africa with the Welsh Colleges.  Many of these players have since moved on to more senior clubs but most will tell you that the Wanderers provided a great vehicle to develop the skills, confidence and lasting friendship - all from players who lived mainly within two miles of the Club.

As we created our ladder of rugby I had hoped that other local clubs would follow our lead so that the rugby-playing base could be maximised.  Lord knows there were enough youngsters out there to do just that.  Regrettably our neighbours did not fancy the hard way of providing for their futures; preferring instead to lure coaches, players and even whole teams away from the Wanderers!  Mind you the stand of certain schools has also impacted negatively on the development of Junior and Youth over the seasons, and still does.  In short there are too few youngsters coming into the senior game.  For our part, there would be no senior team today without the products of our Youth XV's.

Everyone involved in Mini, Junior and Youth rugby at the Wanderers has a story to tell.  Amongst my favourites concerns Karen, wife of the Senior coach J onathan Mayze, who was supporting her son Richard on the U13/14's tour to Mantes la Jolie (1992).  After the match the teams were welcomed back to a magnificent buffet and Disco.  At the table of food and drink one of our hosts asked Karen, in broken English, if she would like a 'Pastis' ( a local Pernod).  Without thinking Karen replied "No, thank you bach, I've eaten already"!

I am sure that everyone here this evening would want to pay tribute to the scores of male and female (where are the women tonight?) coaches, managers, fixture secretaries, first aiders, bag handlers, fund raisers and referees who have underpinned the whole spectrum of talent that is Llanelli Wanderers Minis, Juniors and Youth.  In particular Keith Tucker, Gary Davies, Stu Murray, JeffSpuffard, Tudor Rees, Terry Davies and Dai McAlister.  All have worked tirelessly and unselfishly over the years to provide rugby for any youngster in Llanelli who wants it.

Another personality who deserves recognition is Mike Jones.  He's given so much and surely his greatest reward was in watching his son Matthew play for Wales Schools U16's last season.  I also think at this point I should also mention the much maligned Hon Sec. Steve Pike who has wholeheartedly supported the cause from the word go.

Thirteen seasons on and the sections are still thriving - now under the leadership of Andrew Norton, Steve Richards, Michael Thomas, Wyn Roberts and Co.  Long may it be so.  They have done a great job in perpetuating the most significant Rugby Development Programme in Llanelli Town's history.  Where else would you see 200 plus youngsters involved in rugby on a weekend?

The sum total of all our efforts has made Llanelli Wanderers RFC what it is today - a Club that is in the fore of fostering the sport of Rugby Football- our National Game.