- Written by Gary Baker
NEWPORT High School Old Boys Youth have won the cup and league double in a glorious unbeaten season.
The club’s teenagers won the Dragons A League and also took the Dragons Youth Cup at Newport’s Rodney Parade ground when beating Brynmawr in the final by five tries to one and in a convincing 30-11 final score.
And among the Old Boys Youth backroom staff, they have had the help of one big coaching name who has been in charge at international level and played alongside the greatest Welsh player of all time, Gareth Edwards.
The Old Boys Youth topped the Dragons A League table after beating top opposition including Pontypool, Newbridge, Senghenydd and St Julian’s Old Boys during the season.
It was the first time in the team’s history that they have done the double and it has helped that they have had a joint coaching team of former Newport RFC hooker Gary Hicks, who looks after the pack, and ex-Newbridge, Newport and Wales U21s coach Paul Evans, the backs coach.
Hicks and Evans took over the NHSOB Youth side this season, and Hicks, with the help of club chairman Geraint Bowden, fitness guru Mike Burke and team manager Kay Bird has seen the teenage side thrive.
But Hicks said it could not have been achieved without the influence of long-time coaching legend Evans.
“He was my former Wales U21s and Newport RFC coach. He has also coached the Welsh Academicals, Newbridge and East Wales senior teams so to have him on board with our youth side has been something exceptional,” said the forwards boss.
“Paul was a first-class player in his day with Newport and Cardiff, forming a formidable half back partnership with a certain Gareth Edwards.
“He has coached for thirty-plus years, playing a big part in a lot of the careers of many players in both senior and youth teams, some of whom have gone on to play for the Welsh national sides.
“At NHSOB Youth, he has tremendous respect from the players, coaches and parents who are all fond of him. He is a straight-talking coach and I have learned a lot from him.
“If this is his last coaching role, I have valued my time alongside him. He is a family man through and through having watched his two sons Peter and Mathew playing for Newport RFC and now his grandson Ben, who plays in this NHSOB side, while Luke is a promising young footballer.
“All of us at the Old Boys appreciate his dedication and passion.”
Hicks has also been delighted with the way the young squad has developed through the superb season, which has resulted in some gaining age group honours and regional squad representation.
He said: “Captain Sam Taylor and vice-captain James Barrett are both very skilled players, leading the way on and off the field and setting the standards for the rest of this fine squad by helping along the youngsters of the team.
“Ollie Thomas, Aaron Dowse, Morgan Mohring and Callum Oliver are, to name a few, players who are coming through the squad and are among many of our side which have made it into the Dragons U18 squad.”
Indeed, exciting prospects Brodie Coghlan and Aneurin Owen have landed Academy contracts with the main Dragons squads, while Adam Young has been capped by the Wales Rugby League team at Under-19 level this season.