Our History

The Modern Era: 1975-2000

Outlined below is an attempt to paint a picture of some significant events in the club's recent past. An effort has been made, where possible, not to single out too many individuals as, inevitably, deserving people would be overlooked. Obviously any review of the last twenty-five years will differ from person to person, as the memories will be relatively fresh in the minds of most people connected with the club. If there are any startling omissions or factual errors these can be remedied in the future!

Development of Facilities
The 75th anniversary brochure looked to the future and outlined plans to own a ground free from local authority control and develop new changing rooms and training facilities. The 'ground' ambition became a reality soon after when a long-term lease was secured from the council to enable the development of the lower end of the Recreation Ground.

The developed ground soon became the envy of the majority of second-class clubs and boasted an excellent new playing surface with terracing and a small stand on the southern side. A boundary wall and the natural hedgerow of Roseland Road enclosed the ground on three sides with the main Swansea to Carmarthen railway line completing the job! (The row of leylandii trees planted between the pitch and the railway line has grown 'beanstalk-like' to form an impressive 30 feet high screen on this side of the ground). New changing rooms were built adjacent to the clubhouse at the same time. However as this complex was built on the other side of the railway line this made Waunarlwydd unique in Welsh rugby as the only club where the players needed to use a railway tunnel to get to the pitch from the dressing rooms!

Llanelli RFC paid the club the great honour of bringing a star-studded side, including Phil Bennett and Ray Gravelle, to play Waunarlwydd to officially open the ground.

The Junior Section - The beginning
The growth of the junior section has been arguably the most significant event in the modern era of Waunarlwydd rugby. When the 75 th anniversary booklet was compiled it was still in its infancy and did not merit a mention! Let us digress one moment and consider Youth rugby. The Welsh Youth Rugby Union was formed in 1949 and right from the beginning Waunarlwydd RFC has been one of the 'backbone' clubs of this organisation. However the development of rugby below this level in the village did not take place until 1970. Prior to this time it was the schools that catered for the needs of rugby playing village children.

The junior section had its origins in a 'phenomenon' that took place in Penlan Secondary School in the very late sixties. The start of the 'Golden Era' of the national side had inspired unprecedented numbers of boys to play the game! The school could no longer satisfy the demand and many keen youngsters could not get games. Luckily one of the teachers who ran one of the school sides at the time was Clive Morgan, an ex-Waunarlwydd player who would also become senior coach in the future. 'Rastus', as he was fondly dubbed, was instrumental in bringing this matter to the attention of the club. An under 13 side was set up and run by Howard George with the help of many of the parents of the boys. In addition to the nucleus of village boys a large contingent of other youngsters from the Penlan school catchment area began their acquaintance with the village. Many of these are now respected village figures that have made a significant contribution to Waunarlwydd rugby since this time.

The 1970-71 side contained two future senior coaches (current coach Tim Lillicrap and Garry Howells) and two players who went on to play for Swansea RFC (Gareth John and Jeff Trotman). The impetus was continued by the likes of Stuart Lilburn and Rowland Emmanuel and successive teams followed. Many others too numerous to mention followed suit and have enabled the junior section to snowball to its current size. Due to the devotion of many selfless individuals rugby opportunities are now available to youngsters as young as seven years old living in the vicinity of the village.

On the Field - Cup Rugby
Although the club no longer figured in 'giant-killing' exploits, the early part of the period saw Welsh Cup visits to some of the biggest names in Welsh rugby. In December 1977 Waunarlwydd visited the Brewery Field to play a strong Bridgend side boasting the likes of JPR Williams and Steve Fenwick. Despite a gallant effort our village side only lost 13-3. Two years later we were drawn away to Cardiff in the same competition and only succumbed to a heavy defeat when the home sides' superior fitness told in the final quarter. The following season we were again denied the 'leveller' of home advantage and had to travel to Stradey Park to face those cup legends Llanelli with the inevitable result!

December 1983 saw a return to the scene of that day eight years earlier when the club was close to reaching the semi-final of the national cup competition. Once more Pontypridd were given a stern test before running out as winners. It was some time before top opposition was faced in the competition again. However, in December 1988 another typical brave performance was witnessed at Ely against Glamorgan Wanderers where in the previous round the home side had knocked out Swansea . The home side, then still a force in Welsh rugby, won 24-3 against a Waun side unluckily reduced to 14 men.

In the1984/85 season the 'green and blacks' reached the West Wales Cup Final following memorable victories against Ystradgynlais, Tumble and Seven Sisters in the preceding rounds. However, the final was never a real contest and Carmarthen Athletic were deserved winners.

The local cup, The Alcoa Gower Cup, was a different story throughout the period. Since its inception Waunarlwydd made winning this trophy almost an annual ritual. Some modern Waun players have so many Gower cup medals that their wives refuse to dust them!

On the Field - The First Team and Various Leagues!
At the start of the period Waunarlwydd was a prominent force in the 40-strong West Wales championship. A league re-organisation for the beginning of the 1974/75 season introduced four sections of ten with subsequent promotion and relegation. Amazingly the sections were drawn 'from a hat' and not on recent playing record! Typically the club was drawn in Section D but dismissed this indignity by romping away with the league title - a feat repeated in Section C the following season. By being promoted again the next season the club had arrived in West Wales Section A - a league unofficially dubbed the 'second division' of Welsh rugby. (At this time, the first-class clubs had not yet been subjected to the 'cut and thrust' of league rugby).

Waun spent seven consecutive seasons in the top flight achieving a best position of runners-up in the1980/81 season. Relegation followed the 1983/84 season and two years were spent in section B before returning. However a downturn in the teams fortunes saw the club immediately returned to section B following the 1986/87 season. This 'local' trauma was nothing compared to the domestic upheaval Welsh rugby would soon face.

Following many barren years at international level, the WRU introduced a league structure throughout Wales thus breaking the stranglehold of the sixteen merit table clubs. Five of our former Section A counterparts were fast-tracked to 'mix it' with the big boys. Although the club was soon restored (by default) to the top section of West Wales rugby we could only look up with envy as a procession of other former rivals went 'National'. Our Section A status did not last for long and after the 1992/93 season we had been relegated to section B where we languished for a number of years.

It was only mid-way through the 1994/95 season when the side again began to string together some impressive results after a poor start to the campaign. The following year this side, including a number of 'imports', had virtually won the league by Christmas. All leagues had now been absorbed into the national structure with the lower leagues contested on a regional basis. By winning Division Six (West) Waunarlwydd had reached the National League Division (non-regional) for the first time. Befitting the 'boom and bust' nature of the club's fortunes in the nineties, the side won the first five games but was still relegated!

The 1999/2000 season saw the club playing in Five (West) due to the First Division becoming the Premier Division after yet another re-organisation. After heroically winning 18 of the last 19 games the club finished second to secure a promotional play-off place. After beating a strong Llanishen side in the promotion semi-final, the side was cruelly deprived of the reward it deserved by an injury-time Cwmavon try in the decider.

Despite the gallant effort, few that witnessed the disappointment that chilly day in Pyle could have envisaged the three successive promotions that would follow. The same side won 22 out of 24 league games the following season to take the title by nine points!