A top rugby coach is hoping to find a star of the future after teaming up with a housing association.
Ex-Wales international Ceri Jones, who recently took charge of North Wales regional rugby side Rygbi Gogledd Cymru (RGC), says he’s excited by the partnership with Cartrefi Conwy.
As part of Cartrefi’s renewed sponsorship deal, RGC will be staging coaching sessions for tenants’ children and taking part in a host of community activities across the county.
According to former Harlequins prop Ceri, who won two caps for Wales, the coaching sessions had a two-way benefit because there was always the chance of finding a new star on a par with winger George North, who hails from Anglesey.
He was speaking at a rugby-themed family evening organised by Cartrefi Conwy at the multi-use games field off Church Road, Rhos-on-Sea.
Ceri, who previously worked as an assistant coach at Worcester and Newport-based Dragons, said: “It is entirely possible that the next big name in rugby could be the child of a tenant of Cartrefi Conwy.
“The beauty of grassroots community events like this is that they give youngsters a taste for the game.
“A young boy or a girl may come along here and find that they have a real passion and natural talent for the sport.
“With some top class coaching under their belt, they could go all the way into the professional game.”
RGC is also giving Cartrefi Conwy 30 tickets for every home game at the Parc Eirias stadium in Colwyn Bay to give away free to its tenants over the coming season.
Cartrefi Conwy director of partnerships and social value Sharon Jones said: “Children get in free anyway but if parents want to take along their youngsters then they can get a ticket through us so long as there are still some available.
“We will be handing them out on a first come first serve basis. All our tenants have to do is contact me before the game that they want to attend. The only condition is that they must be a tenant of Cartrefi Conwy housing association.”
Cartrefi Conwy chief executive Andrew Bowden said the strong partnership with RGC over the last few years had been greatly beneficial for the local community.
He said: “As an association we do not just consider ourselves as housing providers, but we make it our goal to engage with community leaders and connect with our tenants.
“It is important that we listen to their needs in terms of wider community and recreational issues.
“One of our key aims is to add social value and enable community integration across all our tenants’ residential spaces.
“We are both extremely community focused organisations, with a similar ethos and complementary goals, which I think is why we have developed such a successful partnership.”
It was a message echoed by RGC general manager Alun Pritchard, a former Abergele back row forward.
He said: “Collaborations like the successful one we have with Cartrefi Conwy are extremely important to us as a club because they give us the chance to integrate with the community and inspire young people to come into the game, who might not otherwise have thought about it.
“There is huge rugby potential in North Wales and the more we can engage with our local community group, and be involved with grass roots coaching provision, the greater the chances of putting the region at the heart of the Welsh rugby union map.”
Rugby loving brothers Harry and Oliver Groves, who play for Llandudno juniors, attended the family evening with their mum, Elen Groves and Nain, Lesley Williams.
Harry, 10, and Oliver, six, said it was great to meet the RGC coaches.
Elen said the boys were rugby fanatics, adding: “We are big fans of the housing association and all its events. We attend most of them and always enjoy them. As an organisation they embrace so many sections of the community and are welcoming of everybody. This has been a great evening and we are so glad that we travelled from Llandudno to attend it.”
Tenants Janey and Lenny Mitton, from Rhos-on-Sea, were impressed with the event and they welcomed the chance to give feedback about the recreational needs of residents.
Lenny said: “There is a desperate need to provide more out of school activities for children in this area. There is not a lot going on and they have so much energy which they need to focus into positive channels. It is important to provide events like this or youth clubs which they can enjoy and learn from, including sports like rugby where they get professional coaching.”
Colwyn Bay Under 11s team manager Mike Thelwell and chairman Rupert Corner said they were glad to support the event and to help inspire other young people into the sport of rugby.
Mike said: “Rugby is a vital part of the Welsh culture and much loved across the region. It has so much to offer, whether you are a player, a coach, a behind-the-scenes assistant or a spectator. It is a community sport for all.”
Also working in partnership with Cartrefi Conwy at the event were MW Sports representatives, Shona Roberts and McCauley Taylor, who led sports themed activities and fun games.
Throughout the evening questionnaires were made available and feedback encouraged from Cartrefi Conwy tenants to give their views about what sort of children’s play and recreational activities they would like to see made available locally in the future.
Jasmine Rigby and Kathy Griffiths from Cartrefi Conwy Creating Futures team led the consultation process.
Kathy said: “We have had lots of ideas so far including, more sports, somewhere better to hang out, scooter and skateboard parks, and more team-building sessions.The idea is that we will get tenants to vote on the different suggestions and give priority to those which receive the most votes.”
Any tenants wanting free tickets for RGC’s home matches should ring 01492 588980 or email firstname.lastname@example.org