Someone who will be familiar to all Pontypridd supporters, as a former player and coach, is Justin Burnell, who now holds the post of Blues' Academy Director, playing a crucial role in the development of the new region.
Having played for Ponty as an abrasive back row forward, and also having represented Cardiff and Treorchy amongst other clubs, Justin made a name for himself as one of the best of a crop of up and coming coaches with his local side Llantwit Fardre. In 2003, Justin was appointed as senior coach with Pontypridd, taking charge of the club in its first season within the newly restructured premier division. His subsequent appointment as Academy Director for the Celtic Warriors was short lived, due the trauma of the region's demise, but his undoubted talents immediately recognised by the newly defined Blues region which took over the Warriors' Valleys heartland, and a similar post offered to Justin under the new regime.
Justin Burnell is now in charge of the Blues' Academy structure, covering a vast geographical area extending from Llantwit Major in the South to Llandrindod Wells in the North, and working from his HQ at the University of Glamorgan in Treforest. His work entails overseeing all the region's development officers, and liaising closely with national skills coaches such as Neil Jenkins and Robin McBride, and with the senior coaches of the three premiership clubs within the region, Simon King of Pontypridd, Howard Stone of Cardiff, and Fielies Coatsee of Glamorgan Wanderers. In the course of his day to day work, Justin also organises and mentors the development of seventeen Academy players, twelve of those being full time professionals.
A huge accolade for the Blues Academy was to see three of its players recently called up to the senior Wales Sevens squad for their tours to Dubai and South Africa, namely Wayne Evans and Rhys Shellard of Pontypridd and Jamie Roberts of Cardiff.
As further recognition of his coaching skills, Justin Burnell has this year been appointed as senior national coach with the Wales under 19s squad, and has guided his team to success on French soil, and completing a double over the touring Australian team - the first time such a feat has been accomplished in thirty years. The under 19s squad contains a number of Blues players, and youngsters from clubs in the Valleys locality, such as Bradley Davies from Beddau, James Downes from Llantwit Fardre and Keiron Jenkins from Treorchy.
The Blues region, particularly in terms of its Academy structure, has come a long way in the two years of its existence, and with the expertise of Justin Burnell at the helm, can look forward with confidence to further significant development in the near future.
Play Off Final
Total votes 188
Ponty ar ben eu digon - pencampwyr dwbwl Cymru. Pwy oedd yn serennu yn y gem fawr yn erbyn Llanelli? Ponty on top of the world - double champions of Welsh rugby. Who starred in the big win over Llanelli?