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Neath Port Talbot Sports Festival in a league of its own

Port Talbot based social enterprise A2B Active Sport CIC recently partnered with Aberavon Fighting Irish Rugby League Football Club and Trefelin Boys and Girls Club (BGC) to stage the Autumn League Festival of Rugby League in the steel town.

Supported by Neath Port Talbot Counckl through the UK Shared Prosperity Fund and hosted by Trefelin BGC, the festival was a concerted community effort and included a schools’ programme, Wales’s first ever Mixed-Ability Rugby League fixture, and the Wales Dragonhearts vs England Community Lions Amateur Rugby League International.

Originally scheduled to take place on the same day at Trefelin BCG’s picturesque Ynys Park stadium, due to the adverse weather conditions, the programme had to be hosted at alternative venues- including St Joseph’s RC Comp Playing Fields, with the main international event held at Ynys Park.

The match, played in atrocious weather, resulted in a comfortable win for the experienced visitors who ran out 52-8 victors, but the occasion was memorable attracting a bumper crowd who witnessed wonderful skills on display from both sides despite the prevailing conditions.

Hosting the main event in such adverse weather conditions, was a great credit to the leadership team at Trefelin BCG, who honoured their commitment to stage the game and showcase Ynys Park as a fantastic multi-sport venue and one eminently suitable for international standard competition.

Neath Port Talbot epresentation came from Aberavon Fighting Irish’s nine home-grown players in the Dragonhearts squad- Aaron Lewis, Conor O’Callaghan, David Felton, Iestyn Williams-Jones, Scott Whitelock, Lloyd Allen, Lewis Francis, Jake Price and Tyler Hopkins- and their performance augurs wells for the club’s pursuit of its first ever Grand Final victory during the 2024 summer season.

The Mixed-Ability Game between the Aberavon Fighting Irish Wolfhounds and Team Colostomy UK, consisting of stoma wearers from across the United Kingdom, was the first game of its kind ever to be staged in Wales.  The home side, laced with representatives from the Port Talbot Panthers team showed some great skills and huge enthusiasm for Rugby League.

Guests at the event included Aberavon Labour MP Stephen Kinnock, Senedd Member Sioned Williams MS (Plaid SW Wales), Cllr A Dacey (Plaid Aberavon), representatives of the JES Group Ltd, Cynffig Motors, Wales Rugby League (WRL) Board Members including CEO, Mark Jones and WRL President and local Aberavon RFC legend Mike Nicholas MBE with  good luck wishes also being sent by local Senedd member, David Rees, Neath Port Tal bot Council Deputy Leader Cllr Alun Llewelyn (Plaid Cwmllynfell & Ystalyfera) and Neath Port Talbot Council Cabinet Member Cllr Jeremy Hurley (Independent Cimla & Pelenna) who had generously supported the event

In reflecting on the festival, a spokesperson for main organisers A2B CIC said:

 “This was an historic day for Rugby League in Wales but it was not without its difficulties. Heroic community support principally from Trefelin BGC, St. Joseph’s School & 6th Form Centre staff and pupils, Bulldogs BCA, the Aberavon Fighting Irish, Aberavon Green Stars RFC and the JES Group Ltd made a truly great event possible. Many of those participating and attending, experienced the sport for the very first time.

“The event attracted several hundred first-time visitors to the area, who, despite the inclement conditions, were able to witness NPT’s outstanding natural beauty. I am sure, due the enquiries already fielded and the incredible number of social media interactions generated, that the hospitality, welcome and friendship that they received will encourage them to make return visits in the near future.

“We are indebted to everyone that made this possible, particularly our great friends at Trefelin BGC, who have been staunch supporters of rugby league since 2021 in NPT with the reformation of Aberavon Fighting Irish RLFC.

“That the local MP and Senedd Member took the time and trouble out of their very busy schedules to join us, has given our work a boost and we are indebted to support received from Neath Port Talbot Council’s officers and members in making the day possible.

“To have hosted the very first Mixed-Ability Rugby League match in Wales was a great honour and we are extremely grateful to the support given by Team Colostomy and the Colostomy UK Charity.  Together, we demonstrated the art of the possible for those facing real challenges in life and I am sure this is the start of what will be a long-standing and very productive relationship.

“Our schools programme continues to go from strength to strength and continues to pay dividends in opening opportunities for many local children previously without the opportunity and means to participate in Rugby League.

“I hope that this is the first of many events that A2B CIC can attract to the area, helping to boost the local economy and in providing accessible, affordable and appropriate opportunities for our local communities to experience top-class sporting action on their doorstep”.