As our first game is just over two weeks away, the workload both on and off the field seems to have tripled.

This is a very important time of the year in the world of rugby league in the United Kingdom as the majority of the league teams prepare for the season. The first official game of the year sees St Helen’s face Leeds Rhinos in the opener of the Super League season. Just three days later our boys will travel away to Chester, this will be the first time ever for us to play against Chester Gladiators, so as an unknown and unfamiliar territory, the first game of the season should be a great encounter for our large travelling squad.

This year we have decided to use our games in February and March to assess our large squad and decide upon which players should be part of our 25 man squad for the upcoming season.

Players who may not make the squad will also have plenty of game time as we will have a reserve squad plus an under 17’s this season. It’s great to see so many new faces in training this year and I think selection for certain positions is going to be tough with so many quality players going for the same places. It is also pleasing to see so many players from all over Wales wanting to be a part of the team, with players from Cwmbran to Milford Haven attending training on a regular basis.

This week has seen us meet with our Kit Manufacturers to choose our new Kits for the season. Following a few discussions, we chose a brand new colour for our away kit, both kits will be released later on this week for all to see.

With plenty of work going on for us all at the Raiders, we still manage to find time to partake in our roles with our university sides (Swansea & Aberystwyth) although due to exams this week, Swansea had to cancel their fixture with Gloucester. As Jon Ellis and myself found ourselves with a spare afternoon we decided to help coach Aberystwyth. On the eve of the fixture between University of South Wales and Aberystwyth the BUCS (British University & Colleges Sport) officials contacted Jon asking if he would be willing to officiate the game, even though being very busy, he agreed. With so much going on with the sport in West Wales it is very difficult for all the staff involved at the Raiders to ensure that all the connected universities, colleges and schools receive the equal and consistent attention.

Off the field connections this year seem to have improved vastly with one key connection we made last year proving to be ever fruitful in offering opportunities for young West Wales players. This key connection is with none other than the Super League Academy side of the City of Hull. Last season, we managed to get 5 players a week’s trial at the academy. Again, this year, the staff from the City of Hull Academy trust Jon’s knowledge and asked him to choose three of the best up and coming players at the under 16’s age grade in West Wales. These players will have the opportunity to trial with the academy over the half term period. We are in the process of contacting the three lucky players to let them know that they have been selected, the three players, once informed will be named in a future column. Jon is in regular contact with Hull and other Super League clubs with regards to young Welsh talent.

To find out more on how the games and trials turn out for all the players at the club and connected sides, keep an eye out for my weekly column.

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