A year to remember

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The life of a sports fan is more often than not a funny one. Despondent one week, chuffed the next. Especially when it comes to Welsh rugby, and specifically the Cardiff Blues, that is generally the case.

Rewind to January and we were in a slightly different place. There was still fallout from Danny Wilson announcing his departure, while we were still waiting for news on a replacement as potential suitors were linked then un-linked almost as quickly.

Announcements had been made regarding the Arms Park lease and how Cardiff Blues were looking at alternative locations for a new stadium, with concerns rearing their head once again in regards to the name and identity of the club.

While there were still perennial threats of financial problems hanging overhead as a new deal between the regions and Welsh Rugby Union was still a little way off and new revenue streams were few and far between as investment in the professional game dwindled.

cap-v-newport
There was some uncertainty at CAP at the start of the year

On the field results were still up and down as we were still reeling from THAT Sale Sharks away game and had gone one from three in the Welsh derbies over the festive periods, leaving us floundering in the Guinness Pro14’s Conference A to an extent.

However, little did we know that what was to follow would be some of the most enjoyable months supporting Cardiff Blues in a good number of years.

Completing ‘le double double’ with wins at home against Toulouse and away at Lyon and six consecutive Pro14 wins during the always tricky Six Nations period set up a brilliant end to the season that truly captured the imagination.

The trip to Edinburgh, the home game against Pau and then Bilbao were personal highlights that will stay with me for a long time, not just because of the performances and the results, but because they were thoroughly enjoyable days/weekends to be a rugby supporter.

It’s easy to get caught up in social media bickering and Welsh rugby politics, but when push comes to shove it’s all about enjoying a beer, the company of mates and supporting your team come wind, rain or shine. It’s a little bit better in the Spanish sun though.

Credit to the club as well in creating that bond between players and supporters. Forming the tunnel to cheer them from the hotel to the San Mames Stadium was a superb idea, while spending the evening after the win celebrating with the team and other supporters was a really nice touch.

It wasn’t all good news though, bidding farewell to familiar names like Fa’ao Filise, Sam Warburton and Gethin Jenkins from the playing side, especially odd when guys like Melon and the King of Tonga have been around forever and a day.

Wishing Danny Wilson and Matt Sherratt best wishes as they left right after winning the Challenge Cup was equally strange, especially as Danny had built such a rapport with the supporters in his three years at the Arms Park.

Filise Challenge Cup Final 2018
Fa’ao Filise is given a guard of honour in Bilbao

John Mulvihill has come in with an almost completely new coaching staff and, although it has taken a bit of time to settle, there have been moments to cheer. The home win over Munster and the away victory on a return to Lyon and the Heineken Cup stick out in the memory.

That all culminated in last weekend’s superb 5-34 hammering of Scarlets in Llanelli, as we enter 2019 in a positive place, ready to launch an assault on the Pro14 play-off places and with the great memories of 2018 in the back pocket.

There are questions to be answered as the New Year comes around, with Alun Jones coming in as chairman amidst a governance refresh, no solution on a home ground obviously forthcoming and the financials of Project Reset yet to be ironed out.

However, 2018 will always be a memorable year in the history of Cardiff Blues.

On a personal note, thank you for reading, interacting and generally supporting the website, Twitter, Facebook and podcast this year. The blog only started as a way to avoid paying for therapy as a Cardiff Blues fan but has developed into something a bit more than that!

Happy New Year from me, hope it’s a healthy and happy one (mainly at the Arms Park).

Dan

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