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Principality Premiership Award Winners

Principality Premiership Award Winners

Neath captain and Wales Sevens squad member Lee Beach walked away with the Principality Premiership Best Player Award at the third annual Principality Premiership Awards dinner last night.

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Beach followed previous winners Phil Dollman (Bedwas) and Morgan Stoddart (Llanelli) onto the Principality Premiership’s ‘Roll of Honour’ and will now be seeking to follow their lead by becoming a Regional player.

Pontypridd Coach Paul John succeeded Ebbw Vale’s Alex Codling as the Principality Premiership ‘Coach of the Year’. The former Wales international took Ponty to the Konica Minolta Cup final and third place in the league.

Neath Coach Rowland Phillips was also given a special ‘Outstanding Achievement’ award to mark his side’s league and cup double and fourth successive Premiership title.

Bedwas and Wales U20 fullback Jason Tovey followed in the footsteps of previous winners Alun Wyn Jones and Tom James in receiving the ‘Best Newcomer Award’; Mike Dams of Newport won the ‘Services to Rugby Award’, chosen by Principality Building Society for an unsung volunteer of the Premiership; and Ebbw Vale received the referees’ Fair Play Award for the second year running.

Beach, who effectively stepped down from the Ospreys regional set-up to commit to Neath last season said: “It’s something special to be recognised in this way. It’s been a good year for me personally because playing regular Premiership rugby for Neath has given me renewed confidence in my game. Although everyone would love to be playing regional rugby week in, week out, it’s no fun if you’re not getting games. 

“I got some great advice last season from Lyn Jones and Sean Holley at the Ospreys and I’ve been able to put that advice into practice this season with Neath and with Wales Sevens.

“I’m only 25 now so I certainly haven’t given up hope of getting back into the frame as a regional player and I’ll just keep training and working hard and see what happens. I picked up a hand injury in the Cup final last Saturday which has kept me out of Wales Sevens action in London this weekend and Edinburgh next week but there are two World Cup Sevens qualifiers to come this summer which I hope to play a part in.”

Paul John acknowledged his coaching and backroom staff in receiving his award. “Dale McIntosh has been inspirational as assistant coach, as have the rest of the backroom staff at Sardis Road.

“My father, Denis, has always been there for me if I ever need to ask any coaching questions regarding ideas for sessions or selection and I got a great start to my coaching career working  with Simon King for three years.

“It was disappointing to lose the Cup final in the way we did last Saturday, but finishing third in a competitive League was pleasing. However, we need to work on our consistency next season if we want to challenge Neath and Cardiff at the top.

“It’s a difficult job to compete with the best as inevitably our best players gain regional recognition, so you need to build a new squad each season. But we work closely with the Blues Academy set-up, who continue to provide good, young players as we’ve seen this year with scrum half Rhys Downes, hooker Rhys Williams and prop Sam Hobbs.”

Wales Coach Warren Gatland was at the awards dinner and stated one of his goals for next season is to watch more Principality Premiership rugby.

“The Premiership gives youngsters the opportunity to mix with more experienced players week-in-week out and gives them valuable game time to ready them for regional rugby.

“I’m a big advocate of the Regions using more Welsh qualified players and, if players are performing well in the Premiership, that gives regions the confidence to give them a go at the next level. It’s certainly an important stepping stone to senior rugby.”

Gatland also sent a clear signal to players not to give up on their dreams of one day playing Regional rugby: “I would advise players to keep working hard. Sometimes it may take an extra year or two to break into a Regional set-up and for Regional coaches to give them a chance. But hard work will bring opportunities. Players should never give up on their dream to play to their full potential.”

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