Tough times ahead on the field for Pooler
PONTYPOOL RFC rise this morning faced not only with the stark reality of having been dropped out of the Premiership but also by the daunting prospect of a mammoth rebuilding job.
Yesterday’s courtroom decision that backed the Welsh Rugby Union’s restructuring of the leagues condemned Pooler to the Championship.
They don’t have long to lick their wounds – the season starts in seven weeks and the courtroom battle has left them unable to plan for it.
The uncertainty surrounding the club’s future led to an exodus of players and the undoing of plenty of hard graft.
Pooler’s 12th-place finish last season doesn’t sound mightily impressive but it was their best campaign for some time, all despite rumblings about the Premiership restructuring in the background.
They looked like a club that was developing with a strong coaching team and a tight set of players.
But eight of Pooler’s squad from last season – full-back Geraint O’Driscoll, fly-half Tom Hancock, centres Dan Robinson and Adam Davies, scrum-half Andrew Quick, hooker Ryan Prosser, lock Rhodri Jones and flanker Craig Attwell – have headed for rivals Newport this summer.
Back row forward James Thomas has penned a deal with Bedwas, lock Rhys Bowen has moved to Abertillery and a number of Dragons academy players who plied their trade at Pontypool Park last term have been allocated elsewhere.
There have been losses on the sidelines as well as on the field.
Former head coach James Chapron is unable to combine the job with his role heading the Dragons academy and his assistant Shaun Connor has left for a job as WRU skills coach based with the Ospreys.
Pooler need to work fast to build a squad for the 14-team Championship where they will be going up against some pretty formidable outfits.
Ebbw Vale, Newbridge and Bargoed were very strong in Division One East last season and stunned Premiership opposition in the Swalec Cup.
They possess gnarly, well-seasoned packs while the opposition from out west promises to be just as uncompromising.
Pooler have shown plenty of fighting spirit off the field in recent months but now their players will need to display even more on it.
Rebuilding is nothing new to those at Pooler. Just four seasons ago they did a fine job in returning to the top flight from Division One East.
But this time they have had the stuffing knocked out of them and are hindered by a feeling of it just not being fair.
It was that spell out of the top flight that led to them not making the re-jigged Premiership, because of a meritocracy table (six-year record).
The next few months will be vital in Pooler’s bid to return to where they feel they belong in the future.