Clubhouse Champions Squad

The Unofficial Squad: Clubhouse Champions

In every rugby clubhouse across Wales there are people who work tirelessly year after year, displaying the same unwavering commitment as our players on the pitch. Principality Building Society wanted to reward these special individuals and celebrate them for their incredible efforts.

That’s why, during the Guinness Six Nations, they’ve been on the hunt for The Unofficial Squad – a team of 15 Clubhouse Champions who work hard to make their clubhouses feel like home.

The Unofficial Squad, selected from more than 800 nominees, embody everything that’s great about the Welsh rugby community – pride, resilience, commitment and dedication. We’re proud to introduce you to Principality Building Society’s Clubhouse Champions and a little bit about why they were nominated:

Neil Short, Newport High School Old Boys RFC

"Neil Short is currently our NHSOB RFC mini's and junior's chairman. It is so hard to know where to start with how much of a difference Neil truly makes to our club and each and every child that plays in it. Since Neil took over the M&J section he really has led by example. He puts in every hour he possibly has to the club, answering phone call after phone call, manning the gate during covid restrictions for hours on end to ensure the right kids were coming in and working behind the bar, sometimes till 3-4am in the morning, because he knows it’s bringing money into the club.

"He is always at the club first thing on a Saturday and Sunday morning doing pitch inspections, opening the club house, putting heating on and turning on all kitchen equipment so the kids get hot food. He is also called on most weekends to referee matches and he never says no to anyone or anything if it’s for the good of the club. The kids also think Neil is brilliant!"

Hayley Clare, Penarth Athletic Club

"Hayley has transformed the Clubhouse in Penarth since she took on the management during the first lockdown, after her family's plans to move to Canada were ruined by the pandemic! Many would have sat at home feeling sorry for themselves in the circumstances but being the exceptionally positive, entrepreneurial and community spirited person she is, Hayley rose to the challenge and, working collaboratively with the related committees, transformed the Penarth Athletic ground from a rarely used, tired facility into a modern, welcoming family friendly space that is now bustling every weekend as well as regularly throughout the week.

"Despite the continued additional challenges caused to sports and hospitality as a result of the pandemic, Hayley has never complained. Instead she has adapted and developed the club, creatively and effectively partnering with a variety of local businesses community groups and charities."

Rachael Thomas, Porthcawl RFC

"I have nominated Rachael because she is the glue that holds our Senior Women’s team at Porthcawl RFC together. Whether that’s buying us jugs of dark fruits cider after a game, taking all the dirty kit home to wash (every single time) or being a shoulder to cry on to each member of the squad, she is always there. She is the most amazing team manager, which is quite difficult to be for a Women’s team in a sport which is still dominated by men.

"She is incredibly organised, and was so on the ball last season when it was disrupted by Covid, always trying her best to get us a game. She is so supportive of those who struggle with mental health, to the point that I sometimes worry about her because she is listening to everyone else’s problems! I personally struggle with my confidence, and I know I probably would have given up rugby without her support and encouragement. This woman deserves all the recognition she can get because I sometimes think she doesn’t get enough."

Darren Hughes, Gilfach Goch RFC

"Darren works tirelessly for the club and has put a huge effort into improving the facilities for spectators to encourage more people to come and watch the team. He also asked the community for old pictures of the village and turned the pictures into boards hung around the pitch. 

"During the lockdown he volunteered to help others to deliver food to vulnerable local people. He is a genuine, kind-hearted and hard-working person who deserves to be recognised for the effort he puts in."

Elaine Jones, Llanidloes RFC

"Quite Simply, our Club would not function as a hub of the community without her.

"Elaine has been the club secretary for the last 10 years. The secretary position is only a small part of all she does. To name just a few things she does; manages all volunteer staff rota's, after match cooking, manages all bar orders and inventory, cleans both club house and changing rooms, prepares and manages all the clubs hygiene inspections, club membership, facility up-keep etc.

"Her latest initiative to make our club a hub of the community has resulted in the following local community groups using our facilities free of charge on a regular basis - Brownies, youth club, charity bingo, cheerleader's, dog club and local St John's Ambulance. Elaine opens up and greets every group every week.

"Elaine certainly is the bed rock of the club, and never fails to amaze us all with her enthusiasm."

Jeff Davies, St Clears RFC

"Jeff Davies has been involved with St Clears RFC since its inception back in 1985. His initial role was as a player and then as a committee member. During this time he has held the role of Chairman on two separate occasions, for a tenure of two years per occasion. Jeff remains a committee member, and since St Clears RFC proceeded to build its own clubhouse in 2015, Jeff has held the role of steward, which he does on a voluntary basis.

"His role involves ensuring the smooth running of the clubhouse; from stock taking, cleaning, running the bar, arranging staffing, events and generally maintaining the clubhouse.

"The clubhouse is used by many different organisations in the community on varying days and evenings and Jeff is always there to open the club and makes sure that the minor details are seen to. For example, he ensures that the heating is turned on, which may seem like a minor matter, but for these groups comfort is important.

"Jeff displays incredible passion and commitment towards the club."

Mike Roberts, Shotton Steel RFC

"Mike is a true unsung hero of grassroots rugby and I felt completely compelled to nominate him.

"In 2020 he set about negotiating a strategic move for the rugby club to a new venue, a massive leap of faith for him, the club and those involved. He had to persuade a lot of people and his love of rugby and natural friendly determined approach helped make it all happen.

"He works tirelessly to keep the club going. From grass cuts, line marking and attending various meetings, he’s a pillar of the club and they wouldn’t be where they are without him. 

"During the pandemic he’s continued to help move the club forward to keep momentum and design a fabulous new club facility, if he could have been on the diggers preparing the grounds he would have! He also joined the trust board running the facility to ensure the clubs longevity and voice is heard.  

"He's a true gent and amazing advocate for rugby and he fully deserves recognition as a clubhouse champion."

Steven Wootton, Rhyl RFC

"Steve is an adult with special needs who has played an major role at R&D RFC. Steve is what community rugby is all about, he's first in on a Saturday morning and last to leave after the game. I'm sure we have the cleanest changing room in wales!"

Callum Brammer, Llandudno RFC

"Callum has play for Llandudno RFC for 10 years, since under 8’s. He spent time during the initial lockdown painting the changing rooms, as well as helping maintain the building. Cal runs the line for the 2nd team and films 1st team games for analysis in all weathers and is always first to volunteer if the pitches need water clearing from them in adverse conditions.

"Cal also volunteered to help at junior training, despite waiting for an operation on his ACL. Cal does all of this plus helping to clean the changing rooms, even after having his ACL operation. Cal is now 18 but has done this for several years and once fully recovered and fit he will be back playing senior rugby."

Marc O’Kelly, Loughor RFC

"Marc has gone from being a successful player to a junior coach/leader and fixtures secretary. He has spent many years helping and promoting grass roots rugby, cricket and touch rugby. During lockdown he went into overdrive. Marc obtained funding from the local council, as well as fundraising, to enable him to set up “The Heart of the Community“ hub running from loughor rugby club. This has allowed the club to reach out to various sectors of the community including the elderly, lonely and disabled. Marc built a park and play area for families, to give them outside leisure space.

"Marc has recently started the junior football section and there are now five year groups running. This does not stop here for Marc, he has further plans for the area and it’s community and I think he deserves recognition for all he has done!"

Paul Passmore, Hirwaun RFC

"I would like to nominate our team manager Paul Passmore. He has been through so much, especially during the pandemic. He sadly lost his partner Julie, due to covid. He continues to bring up Julie's grandson, with family support, and he himself is now suffering from Cancer, after being in remission. During all of this he has continued to support Hirwaun RFC, going above and beyond.

"He arranged for a new bar area to be fitted in the cellar area, which enabled the club to have an outdoor seating area. This brought in extra funds for the club, which without could have been detrimental. He never misses a training session or match and is always there (propping up the bar) every weekend.

"He is a very special person to so many and to the club, without him I don't know where the club would be. He has funded several things using his own money. This would be an amazing surprise for Paul and give him a boost knowing how well he is thought of."

Jayne Edwards, Bedwellty RFC

"Aberbargoed RFC, in recent years, has had dwindling numbers and through the pandemic, we were at breaking point and on the verge of folding. Our neighbouring club Markham RFC have been in the same predicament. We then had the idea of a merger to keep rugby going in the area, so a new team, Bedwellty RFC, was formed.

"Jayne was the pivotal person of the merger, organising meetings, dealing with the WRU, the banks, the sponsors, the players, both previous committee’s and everything in between to make sure 2 small communities kept a rugby team going. All work unpaid and all for the benefit of others. Jayne is a genuine community rugby individual and would be a great asset to the unofficial squad."

Ian Horabin, Bridgend Sports RFC

"Ian is a very selfless person and is very committed to Bridgend Sports RFC minis, juniors and seniors. Ian is always willing to help in any way he can to ensure smooth running of the club. He coaches the under 7s and under 6s and his passion really shows - he keeps the sessions fun and always has the children laughing and ensuring they enjoy all session.

"Ian really deserves this award for all he has done and continues to do - he is a massive part of the team.

"Good luck Scouse!!"

June Merrells, Gowerton RFC

"June is an unbelievable lady who has really been through a traumatic time over the last several years, but she turns up at the club house with a smile on her face.

"She is a friend to everyone and raises money for charities whenever she can. She truly cares about the well being of all the club members and youngsters in the community. She is truly amazing and we would love to show her some love and how much she means to us all."

Adrian Dobbs, Gilfach Goch RFC

"Adrian 'Dobbsy' Dobbs and his wife Lynne do so much, not just for mini-rugby but for the entire community. He organises fundraising, community events, rugby matches for all the minis and has done for 20+ years, all as a volunteer.

"We live in a very constrictive valley, one road in and one road out. When the pandemic hit, not only did he help arrange hot meals for the local elderly, he helped to deliver every last one. When Christmas came and the kids had nothing to look forward to he, along with his family, dressed up, decorated a quad, collected over 1000 selection boxes, bought magic keys and reindeer food and delivered them to every child, night after night, for a week, making the magic return. 

"We are a very special community, but we wouldn't be half the community we are without Dobbsy."

Watch some familiar faces announce the Unofficial Squad:

These 15 individuals are the legends of the community game that make our clubhouses the true homes of so many communities across Wales.

Principality Building Society is delighted to invite the Unofficial Squad to Principality Stadium for Wales’s final match of this year’s Guinness Six Nations versus Italy, to give them the star treatment and the recognition they deserve.