Strength in the face of adversity

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There was certainly some surprise when the Cardiff Blues pre-season training arrangements first appeared via social media over the last few weeks.

The decision was taken to leave the training base at The Vale Resort, with the Football Association of Wales taking over, while a new facility is, apparently, to be built out at Hensol in time for next summer.

In the meantime, the team would be based out of the Arms Park, with the plastic pitch used for rugby training, the Martyn Williams Pack Bar and Shop transformed into a gym, and the Jack Matthews Bar becoming the team room.

There will also be a grass pitch available at the Welsh Institute of Sport at Sophia Gardens, meaning training will be split across two sites.

Of course this has brought some comment from opposition supporters, and some stick from Cardiff Blues fans as well, with videos emerging of players lifting weights in the car park and around the edge of the pitch at the Arms Park.

It is certainly far from ideal to have a training setup like this, but adversity can often bring out the best in people, and in specific rugby terms, those people are often exactly the sort of players you want on your team.

That adversity can often work to bring groups together as well, and with an already close-knit squad at Cardiff Blues, any addition to that culture can only make us one of the strongest groups around.

Nick Williams pre-season
Nick Williams trains on the Arms Park

Willis Halaholo got it spot on last weekend on Twitter when he said “I’m Getting itchy feet to win something @cardiff_blues. Save this tweet. Culture is building no matter what’s going on off the field. UNDERDOGSTATUS. SmallGroupBigHeart. BLEESSGOOO”

Following it up with “I’ve won two championships where there has been a bit of adversity. Remember the shambolic time we had with travel to South Africa two seasons ago? It actually brought us together…What did we end up doing… won a trophy…”

And, in his inimitable way, he’s absolutely right. Nothing is ever really plain sailing for Cardiff Blues, and as I’ve mentioned a number of times this summer, things were actually more turbulent off-the-field in 2017/18.

The proposed handing over of the rugby operation to the Welsh Rugby Union, the non-signing of Franco van der Merwe, the announcements that Danny Wilson and Matt Sherratt would leave, the lengthy search for a replacement and some poor early season form all painted a picture of turbulence behind the scenes.

However, the players pressed on, became tight as a group, and against all the odds ended the season lifting the Challenge Cup in Bilbao.

So we might not have the training facilities that other teams will enjoy this summer, but the squad is together and looking settled, knowing that we weren’t far off pushing for the Pro14 play-offs last season.

The coaching staff is settled and has had a year to bed in, getting to know each other, the players and the league, and can now properly push on with a full pre-season.

And the World Cup gives us a great chance to get the season off to a flyer, as we don’t lose too many players to Japan. In the words of The Hotstepper himself, LESSSGOOOOOOO.

2 comments

  1. As a long in the tooth Cardiff Rugby supporter, who has an all too frequent moan at the off field stuff at this time of the year. Like the players and despite the respective blazer/suits organisations best efforts to make life difficult for players, playing staff and supporters. We too get galvanised behind our team. Cmon Cardiff, Less Go. 👌👌👌

    Liked by 1 person

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