Wales will be represented at the National Championships by 10 of Wales’ 13 colleges. More than 180 students from across Wales will make the trip to Tyne and Wear with the aim of bringing back some more silverware and improving on last year’s ninth-place finish.
This year’s team has a real mix of talented athletes, including some familiar faces and some rising stars.
The Welsh regional team has a reputation of regularly punching well above its weight at the National Championships, winning numerous medals and providing a high level of competition, particularly in team sports. This year will see some new sports also represented with the introduction of Ability Counts football and Indoor 24 cricket for the first time.
Last year’s result: 9th place
Colleges representing Wales in 2016: Bridgend College, Coleg Sir Gâr, Coleg Cambria, Grŵp Llandrillo Menai, Gower College Swansea, NPTC Group of Colleges, Cardiff and Vale College, St David’s Catholic College, Coleg y Cymoedd, Pembrokeshire College.
Star team: The women’s rugby team is heading to Tyne and Wear with the aim of defending its title for the seventh year in a row. The next two months will see the girls step up their training with the aim of overcoming an increasingly high standard of competition at the National Championships.
The 2015 event saw the other regional teams from around the UK pushing the Welsh girls all the way with several games going down to the wire and memorably some fantastic last ditch tackling and great teamwork pulling them over the line.
Sports Coordinator at CollegesWales and Wales’ regional team manager at the Championships, Rob Baynham are looking forward to the challenge facing the girls this year:
“It is an amazing achievement that the girls have won this event 7 years in a row. It’s testament to the hard work put in by colleges, players and the coaching team that they are again heading to the finals with confidence. Defending a title is a massive challenge in any sport and I am sure that the girls will be ready to face the challenge from the other regional teams in Tyne and Wear.”
Heading up Wales’ women’s rugby challenge for the 10th successive year will be Jenny Davies, sports lecturer at Grŵp Llandrillo Menai’s Coleg Menai and Wales’s most capped women’s international at senior level.
And despite years of experience and success at the Championships, Jenny is especially excited by the team she is working with this time around: “This season has seen a huge increase in the number of young women coming forward for selection, allowing us to build on previous success at the National Championships.
“There are a number of players within the current Welsh women’s squad who have played for Welsh Colleges or who work in colleges, providing outstanding role models for the current team.”
One to watch: After a really positive experience at the 2015 Championships in men’s rugby and women’s volleyball, Coleg y Cymoedd will be hoping to build on this experience with a larger and more experienced team for 2016. The Coleg y Cymoedd team for 2016 will include men’s rugby, women’s volleyball, women’s football and numerous individual competitors. The men’s rugby and women’s football will both head into the competition with real confidence, with both faring well in AoC elite leagues and respective Welsh competitions.
National Championships veterans: Traditionally one of the mainstays of the Wales team at the National Championships, Gower College Swansea will again provide a significant number of students for the competition. They are regional winners in women’s hockey, netball, men’s football, Ability Counts football and a range of individual sports including golf, cross country and tennis, to name a few. With more than 60 students travelling, this presents a logistical challenge to the college but it is one that they value as a great experience for their students.
“The National Championships provides our students with a great opportunity to challenge themselves against the best college athletes in the UK,” said academy manager Marc O’Kelly.
“Gower College Swansea has a proud reputation of competing at the national championships and this year is no exception with a really talented group of students looking forward to the event. At a college level it is not just about the competition but also the holistic experience for these young people and the confidence and increased employability that this provides. We are looking forward to experiencing a new venue for the Championships and some of the outstanding facilities that are in place.”
What they say: “To have 180 students from ten colleges come together to represent Wales over a weekend of competition in Newcastle is a superb opportunity for personal development in so many ways.
“It is not only about the challenge of pitting their sporting skills against their peers, but it also serves to build team spirit, camaraderie, confidence and motivation.
“Notwithstanding the significant logistical challenge and resource commitment in supporting the staff and students who take part, that is a real return on investment for the colleges. I am delighted that Welsh Colleges Sport is fielding such a strong team and I wish them all a great experience and good luck in bringing medals back to Wales!”
(Judith Evans, Chair of CollegesWales)