Dukes of Hertogenbosch (Netherlands) Mini, Junior and Youth tour, Pontypridd 2006
Friday 29 April saw the tour begin with the red and yellow of the Dukes army descend on Sardis Road like a thunderstorm!
As the coaches stopped there came the nearing clunking and stomping of a hundred clogs as youths in drag or other forms of dress made the Sardis club's car park their playground. A brief informal welcome was followed by a buffet for the hungry guests and a dozen games of mini or junior rugby on the Sardis turf as the Ponty juniors mixed with their Dutch counterparts, with language clearly no barrier where an oval ball is concerned. A few beers and some organising later, Sardis Road fell into silence as the young Dukes were taken away by their host families, or the older Dukes retired to their arranged accommodation in nearby church halls.
Saturday morning started bright and early, with the Dukes warming up on Sardis Road in anticipation of the weekend to come! A photo-shoot and a brief training session with a couple of Pontypridd's senior players is what the Dukes were expecting. On the other hand, a certain Dai Flanagan and the young Adam Powell were expecting much the same with a dozen or so Dutch youngsters.
The two Welsh under 21's players were a bit shell shocked at first to find 108 Dutch youngsters of various ages all bouncing with anticipation! But like the consummate professionals that they are, Adam and Dai soon took control; splitting the squad into forwards or backs.
Dai then took the backs through kicking and skills practice. He was pleasantly surprised to find several budding "Dai Flanagan's" amongst the Dukes players, with one youngster kicking immaculately throughout…
Adam was even more surprised to find several young girls amongst the Dukes forwards who had travelled along with the more liberally minded Dutch for the experience of the tour. So with his sunglasses on and his hair gelled, Adam took the forwards through scrummaging and contact skills. Adam clearly showed the maturity he has gained this year and the coaching skills he has enhanced through his experiences with assisting with the coaching of Pontypridd's under 12's this season, in the handling of the session.
The Dukes youth were especially pleased as they were facing the huge Pontypridd under 16's pack the following day and came away buzzing with the new skills they had acquired.
The two young Pontypridd players made a huge impression on the Dutch Dukes, who were extremely thankful and full of praise for the training they had received. Dai and Adam were amply rewarded for their efforts with tour t-shirts that were themselves vouchers for free beer at any pub in Hertogenbosch, should they ever visit.
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Sut y gallwn hawlio yn ol ein gem genedlaethol? Oes angen newid y strwythur? How can we reclaim our national game? Is there a need for a restructure?