Cobra Rugby Club’s Success Built on Thriving Junior Section

The success of any sports club is often dictated by the strength of its support network and supply chain that delivers talented young players capable of competing at the highest level.

COBRA Rugby Club is a perfect example of a club that aims to be strong from the roots upwards. Formed as Caereinion Old Boys Rugby Association (C.O.B.R.A.) in 1978 by a group of teachers and ex-pupils from Caereinion High School, Llanfair Caereinion to play friendly matches, the club has risen through the ranks and currently plays at its highest ever level, in the SWALEC League 1 North.

A key to the club’s progress has been the development of a strong junior section since the 1990s, which has produced a conveyor belt of talented young players for the first team.

The club currently has nine teams in its junior section, providing rugby for 157 registered players from the age of five to 16.It’s not unusual to see in excess of 120 players at COBRA’s Meifod headquarters on training nights.

To ensure that the junior section continues to develop, COBRA has secured sponsorship to bring a stronger identity to all its teams. Award-winning work-based learning provider Cambrian Training Company, which has its head office in Welshpool, has signed a three-year contract to become the main junior section sponsor to continue the club’s progess.

COBRA worked on a central concept of aligning all its playing strips from Junior, to youth to senior.The identical new playing strips have been purchased for each of the nine junior teams, with WMO of Welshpool, KLF Insurance from Shrewsbury, Harrisons Solicitors, Welshpool and Karl Lewis Agri Engineers, Manafon providing sponsorship support. Four Crosses Vets is also sponsoring man of the match awards for all age groups.

This central concept of unity in team strips enabled the club to provide potential sponsors with wide exposure and has enabled the club to attract much needed funds from sponsors to continue its development.It has also assisted the club in presenting itself as a well organised body worthy of investment during tough economic times.

In addition, 24 parents have received Rugby Emergency Aid training via WRU Recruitment funding and 15 coaches across the age groups are working towards qualifications, with more to follow. The club is moving forward with its volunteer training having successfully applied to support up to 20 prospective volunteers with referee training in 2014.

Cobra RFC junior secretary Sarah Lewis explained: “The support from Cambrian Training Company and the other sponsors allows us to develop a brand identity for the club and smarten up our act. The junior teams will be playing identical strips at each age group and we want to make them proud to be part of COBRA.

“We are trying to meet the expectations of the children and their parents in demonstrating that we are a club that knows where it is going and we have a development plan in place. The first team’s success has been phenomenal and that has created interest in the club across the board.”

In addition, the club has undertaken a project to purchase portable floodlights for its second pitch.The club is half way towards achieving this, having secured a Welsh Rugby Union Facilities Grant.The club is now in the process of applying to SportWales for further funding to meet the expected £20,000 cost of the project.

The nucleus of the club’s players at all age groups comes from the catchment area of Caereinion and Llanfyllin High Schools. However, success breeds success and players are now also being attracted from other areas.

“The club provides a great way to bring people of the Llanfair Caereinion and Llanfyllin communities together,” said Sarah. “The parents enjoy being involved in the club as much as their children and there’s a really positive atmosphere.

“As a club we are keen to utilise the enthusiasm of parents by investing in volunteer recruitment and training.Parents become more than just supporters on the sidelines contributing significantly to the club’s success.”

COBRA is proud of its record of developing young players to play at a higher level. Rhodri Meyer now plays for Sale and has been called up by Scotland while Huw Worthington plays for RGC and is pressing for a Wales Under 21 cap.

Very much a family-orientated club, COBRA extends a warm welcome to anyone interested in playing, coaching, volunteering, organising or watching rugby. Chairman Gareth Jones said: “All but two members of our first team came through the youth section, which is vitally important for the future of the club.

“Our plan is to provide playing opportunities for the talented young players emerging from the junior and youth sections.”

What the sponsors say:
Arwyn Watkins, managing director of Cambrian Training Company and WMO, said: “We see our three-year commitment to COBRA is an investment in the future and support for the local community.

“We hope that our sponsorship will make the club more sustainable going forward and develop the skills of young rugby players so that they are able to fulfil their potential. Many of the skills that the young players learn playing rugby, such as teamwork, leadership and communication, can be transferred to their working life.

“The company has supported rugby in the region over many years and continues to sponsor the Mid Wales District Rugby Union, which is planning to make an exciting announcement in the new year.”

Alun Jones, from Harrisons Solicitors, who played for COBRA in its early years, said: “We are sponsoring the club because it’s such a successful community project that brings a lot of enjoyment and discipline to children. The club gives them opportunities, which they don’t necessarily get in school, to meet up with children from outside their home area.”

Karl Lewis, from Karl Lewis Agri Engineers, whose sons, Ryan, 12 and Ross, eight, play for COBRA, said: “I have supported COBRA for four years because my two sons play for the club and I am interested in rugby. It’s nice to be able to support such a good community club.”

Angela Hill, of KLF Insurance, said: “We are sponsoring COBRA because we want to encourage young players to fulfil their potential by developing their skills and teamwork. It’s wonderful to see so many young players involved in the club and hopefully some will go on to represent Wales in the future.”

Picture: Sponsors: COBRA Rugby Club’s junior section sponsors (back row, from left) Arwyn Watkins from Cambrian Training Company and WMO, Karl Lewis from Karl Lewis Agri Engineers, Hywel Jones from Harrisons,  Angela Hill from KLF Insurance, Alun Jones from Harrisons.