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Bumper turn out for rugby league tournament full of firsts

Port Talbot based social enterprise A2B Active Sport CIC (A2B CIC) recently partnered with Aberavon Fighting Irish Rugby League Football Club and Trefelin BGC to stage the Autumn League Festival of Rugby League in the town.  

The festival was a “concerted community effort” which included a schools’ programme, Wales’s first ever Mixed-Ability Rugby League fixture, and the main event – the Wales Dragonhearts vs England Community Lions Amateur Rugby League International, which took place at Trefelin BCG’s Ynys Park stadium.

The inclement weather conditions were no challenge to the visiting side, who ran out 52-8 victors, watched by a bumper crowd who witnessed wonderful skills on display from both sides.

In a first for Wales, the Mixed-Ability Game between the Aberavon Fighting Irish Wolfhounds and Team Colostomy UK, consisted of stoma wearers from across the United Kingdom, and was the first game of its kind ever to be staged in Wales. 

Speaking about the event, Plaid Cymru Member of Senedd for South Wales West, Sioned Williams MS, said:

“When communities pull together, it shows what can be achieved. The rugby league festival was not only a huge success, but a very enjoyable day out. I extend my congratulations to the leadership team at Trefelin BCG who honoured their commitment to stage the game and at the same time showcased Ynys Park as not only a fantastic multi-sport venue but one suitable for holding international standard competitions.

“It was great to see the extent of local talent on display. The solid performances of the Neath Port Talbot players featuring in the Dragonhearts squad bodes well for the Aberavon Fighting Irish club’s pursuit of its first ever Grand Final victory during the 2024 summer season.”

The Dragonhearts squad featured nine of Aberavon Fighting Irish’s nine home-grown players, while the Aberavon Fighting Irish Wolfhounds mixed-ability side featured representatives from the Port Talbot Panthers rugby union team who showed some great skills and huge enthusiasm for Rugby League.

In reflecting on the festival, a spokesperson for main organisers A2B CIC said:

“This was an historic day for Rugby League in Wales but it was not without its difficulties. Heroic community support principally from Trefelin BGC, St. Joseph’s School & 6th Form Centre staff and pupils, Bulldogs BCA, the Aberavon Fighting Irish, Aberavon Green Stars RFC and the JES Group Ltd made a truly great event possible. Many of those participating and attending, experienced the sport for the very first time.

“The event attracted several hundred first-time visitors to the area, who, despite the inclement conditions, were able to witness NPT outstanding natural beauty. I am sure, due the enquiries already fielded and the incredible number of social media interactions generated, that the hospitality, welcome and friendship that they received will encourage them to make return visits in the near future.  

“We are indebted to everyone that made this possible, particularly our great friends at Trefelin BGC, who have been staunch supporters of rugby league since 2021 in NPT with the reformation of Aberavon Fighting Irish RLFC.

“That the local MP and Senedd Member took the time and trouble out of their very busy schedules to join us, has given our work a boost and we are indebted to support received from Neath Port Talbot Council’s officers and members in making the day possible.

“To have hosted the very first Mixed-Ability Rugby League match in Wales was a great honour and we are extremely grateful to the support given by Team Colostomy and the Colostomy UK Charity.  Together, we demonstrated the art of the possible for those facing real challenges in life and I am sure this is the start of what will be a long-standing and very productive relationship.

“Our schools programme continues to go from strength to strength and continues to pay dividends in opening opportunities for many local children previously without the opportunity and means to participate in Rugby League.

“I hope that this is the first of many events that A2B CIC can attract to the area, helping to boost the local economy and in providing accessible, affordable and appropriate opportunities for our local communities to experience top-class sporting action on their doorstep.”