Ospreys players will be proudly displaying their rugby roots this season thanks to a new initiative that will publicly recognise the community club where they began playing rugby.
For the first time ever every player in the squad will take to the field with the name of their home club attached to the shorts when selected for the senior Ospreys team, with the opening RaboDirect PRO12 game of the season, the 27-3 win over Leinster at the Liberty Stadium on the first weekend of September the first time that the players had worn their personalised shorts.
More than 80 per cent of the squad has its roots firmly planted in Ospreylia, and the move had been designed to recognise not only this fact but also the role that junior clubs the length and breadth of the region, and beyond for that matter, have played in helping to develop the players who now wear the Ospreys strip with pride on a match day.
The players were all asked during pre-season to name the club that they identify with, that they consider their ‘home’ club, with the name then being added to their shorts to serve as a permanent reminder of where they have come and the cause they are representing.
Ospreys Managing Director, Roger Blyth, explained:
“It is important for everybody to remember and recognise their roots, wherever they are in life and whatever their achievements. We must never forget who we are or where we have come from, and this is just a way of reminding people that. As a rugby organisation we are proud to represent the region, and to represent the Ospreylian cause for every single rugby person in our community. Players also need to understand that the cause is greater than the individual and in this instance the cause is Ospreylia.
“Community rugby clubs are the lifeblood of the game, not just across Ospreylia but right across the rugby world. Without the fantastic work carried out in the community by coaches and administrators who put in many hours of unpaid work, then young players would have nowhere to learn the game and fall in love with rugby. As a result, there would be no professional game and no Ospreys.
“We are working incredibly hard to help our community clubs grow, to give them the assistance they need to continue their fantastic work and we have a fantastic new club scheme in place that will allow our Community Development team to really make a huge difference to that end.
“However, carrying the club names on the shorts is just something a little different, just a way to offer recognition to the clubs from both the player himself and from the Ospreys, for the part that club played in their development. It’s a thank-you for their hard work. Be it Joe Rees with Mumbles RFC, Rhys Webb with Bridgend Athletic, Bonymaen RFC for Alun Wyn Jones or Adam Jones and Abercrave RFC, everyone of our players is proud of their roots.”
Young backs Dan Biggar and Eli Walker both came through the ranks at Gorseinon RFC and will wear the club’s name on their shorts this season and they both agree that it is a small but important gesture.??
“We are all proud of where we come from and what we represent at the Ospreys and to be able to acknowledge Gorseinon in this way is something I’m really pleased to be able to do” said Dan.
??“Having learnt my rugby at Gorseinon before entering the Ospreys system I can say that I wouldn’t be doing what I am now without the help of the coaches and everybody at the club. When I play for the Ospreys I represent Gorseinon” added Eli.?
The initiative has even been extended to include players from outside Ospreylia, with the whole squad paying tribute to their home club, including the likes of summer signings Joe Bearman (Newquay Hornets) and George Stowers (Pukekohe RFC).
“We have to remember that the global game works no differently to the Welsh one. Each of our players is indebted to the community club where they began, and will represent their local community every time they pull on the Ospreys kit. As such, that recognition is equally as important as the recognition we give to our own clubs for the work they have done, and continue to do, in the ongoing task of discovering young rugby players.”