A large gathering attended the Narberth RFC Annual Dinner and Presentation Evening, with the ladies adding a touch of glamour to a well-decorated function suite.
Robert Basher Lewis opened proceedings by welcoming everyone, congratulating both the 1st and Youth squads. He mentioned the special guests this year, all products of the club Junior Section, who had achieved national and personal success by receiving their Under 18 and Under 20 Welsh caps.
These were Ryan Conbeer, who was recently awarded a contract with the Scarlets, Sion Bennett, who has just signed a two-year contract with Cardiff Blues, Will Boyd, who has just completed an outstanding season with the Scarlets, and Connor Lloyd, who is hoping to join Leeds.
After a delicious buffet, followed by cheese and biscuits and dessert, the evening moved on to the presentations.
Youth team manager Bill Ridge announced the Youth awards. He commented on their narrow loss in the Youth Cup Final 11-10 to Neyland and which might easily have been won if a penalty had been converted.
He particularly thanked the Youth coaches who coached the squad into producing attractive rugby and engendering a great spirit within the squad. He also gave an appreciation of the support from physio Jenny.
The awards were as follows: Supporters Player of the Year - Harry Phillips; Coaches Player of the Year - Lewis Tomkin; Most Improved Player of the Year - Mathew Harris; Clubman of the Year - James Thomas; Players Player of the Year - Jack Broadhurst.
Those leaving the squad were presented with Youth club jerseys and finally the Youth presented the club steward, Sheena Conbeer, with a bouquet of flowers.
The senior awards followed, with head coach Sean Gale welcoming former players Chris Macdonald, Adrian Young and Andrew (Bowes) Bowen, and he particularly thanked club steward, Sheena Conbeer, for her support.
He also thanked the management committee for being so supportive of the 1st XV. Whilst acknowledging he did not always get his way, he said during the season the rugby committee suffers much hassle supplying videos, rugby gear, touch judges attending on freezing days and wet nights, but without all their hard work there would not be a rugby club.
He acknowledged the support from fellow coaches, Liam Gadd and Lloyd Phillips, who had brought a huge amount of enthusiasm and professionalism, and recalling the past season, had assisted in achieving second place in the league; they also assisted in replacing the 10 leaving players with 15 newcomers.
He acknowledged the commitment from the physios, Janet Tebbutt, Francesca and Jenny, who travelled from Milford Haven to Pontypool with the teams. The captain, in his first year, namely Alex Jenkins, had done a great job, not a man of many words, but he had not asked the players to do anything he would not do himself. Both he and the vice-captain Ollie Reyland had done an excellent job this season and he congratulated Alex on being appointed as captain again for next season.
The way the players had committed themselves had been absolutely fantastic. The first game at Pontypool was a big lesson for the coaches. At the home games, the tries scored had been fantastic and helped to attract a large crowd. Well done to the players.
He thanked the supporters who travelled to the away games, whether it was one or two hours travelling.
Whenever you have a successful season, players come and go. Premiership clubs have come in and as a result Jack Price will join Carmarthen Quins, Ollie Reyland is off to Llanelli and James Bain to Neath.
Sean wished them success and hoped for their future advancement.
To sum up the season, there had been a good mix of players, the senior players who had been there for years had stood up to the plate, they had a lot of players in from either the Premiership or local clubs and they gelled to create the right environment.
“We have fun, but we have a hard edge,” said Sean. “To bring in the crowds, you need the hard edge and we have achieved that and well done to the players for achieving it.
“We had new players in Lewys Gibby, Jake Jenkins, Gethin Gibby and Aaron Mayne, players who have come in at 18 and grown up. There will be new players coming in next season and these lads will have to step up, we cannot have people relaxing on their laurels. We cannot sit back on our laurels, we will pick players on form who can step up to the challenge and we hope to at least repeat this season’s success.”
Robert Lewis, moving to the senior awards, announced that the first was for the most appearances for the 1st team, which went jointly to Alex Jenkins and Jake Simm.
This was followed by most Man of the Match awards, which went to Jack Price, who was also top try scorer with 15 and equalled the record number of tries in a game with six.
Most Promising Player award went to Lewys Gibby; Player of the Year - Jack Price; Players Loyalty award - captain Alex Jenkins; Coaches Player of the Year - Steffan Phillips.
A new award introduced is for players achieving over 200 games with the club since participating in the WRU Leagues. Those present were Chris Macdonald with 252 games, Andrew (Bowes) Bowen, Jason Jennings with 217 games, Dan Smith with 249 games and still playing and Alex Jenkins with 220 games. Not present to receive the award were Nick Jones, Adrian Killa and Steve Martin. The award is in the form of a club cap designed similar to national caps, but in club colours.
Chairman Dorian Phillips then announced the Clubman of the Year as Bill Ridge and and followed this by announcing the recipient of the Gordon Hallwood Trophy, presented to a clubman who has over a significant period of time, given unstinting service and support to the club. The the recipient was supporter Derek (Ecker) James, who was given a standing ovation by those present.
Continuing, Dorian Phillips thanked the players and coaches of the 1st and Youth squads for their successful season, the committee for their unstinting support and especially the social committee in a year of numerous changes, with thanks also to the club steward and staff.
Dorian Phillips then announced that rugby committee member John (Chinko) was to be awarded life membership at the next AGM.
Finally, he thanked and praised the club main sponsor, G. D. Harris & Sons Ltd., without whose support the club would not have been able to be so successful; representing the sponsor was CEO Janet Phillips.
The evening ended with dancing and entertainment provided by live music.