Rugby Academy award winners with Dan Fish, Gethin Jenkins, Kay Martin and Martyn Fowler

Cardiff and Vale College’s Rugby Academy has celebrated another season of success at its second presentation.

It has been a year of firsts for CAVC’s Rugby Academy – spending its first year in Tier 1 of the Welsh Colleges league programme and beating the formidable Coleg y Cymoedd team for the first time. It is the first year that the Academy contributed ten players to the Cardiff Blues Regional U18s squad and the first time the team has had four international players.

The Academy entered the WRU Urdd Sevens for the first time and won it. It was also the first year that the team entered the world’s biggest schools’ rugby contest, the Rosslyn Park Sevens, and came fourth out of 750 teams.

The event brought together current and future players with their families. They were joined by the Academy’s coaches and business sponsors – Bae Coffi, Circle IT, Principality and Simply Fresh - for a three course dinner and awards presentation at the College’s City Centre campus.

CAVC’s Rugby Academy works in partnership with Cardiff Blues, giving its players the opportunity to play home games on the hallowed turf of BT Cardiff Arms Park. Cardiff Blues Gethin Jenkins and Richard Holland were joined by WRU Head of High Performance Geraint John as guests.

Gethin gave an inspirational speech, talking about his background and development into Wales’ most capped player. He congratulated all of the players who have made it onto the Blues squad and international success.

“It’s a great occasion, and I am enjoying the awards that celebrate the boys’ season,” Gethin said. “This is an excellent venue and it’s an amazing college.”

The coveted title of Player of the Year was awarded to Joe Miles, who was worked hard and reaped the rewards, gaining an U18 cap at Wales vs England at Ebbw Vale.

Dafydd Smith was given the award for Players’ Player of the Year after outstanding performances at Rosslyn Park and WRU Urdd U18s, earning his Welsh shirt in Paris in 2016.

Dafydd said: “I’m really honoured to win this award. All the team have played really well and it’s a massive honour for myself to win this award and for the team for having such a good season.”

Marley Lovell won the Coaches’ Award, while Dylan Lawley was named Most Improved Player and Tony Lamerton won Most Promising Player. Ben Thomas, Joe Miles, Dafydd Smith and Odin Pronk were given framed jerseys to recognise the international honours they have accrued this year.

Ben Thomas also won the Captain’s Award. Ben, outside half and captain, gained his first cap last year, toured South Africa and put in an impressive performance against France and England at Ebbw Vale.

Giving the Captain’s Speech, Ben thanked the Rugby Academy staff and coaches, and the College. “The last two years have brought about some of the best experiences of our lives,” he added.

Ben said later: “It was good to win the award – I had already achieved but it was nice to receive something. The awards evening has been great – it was well organised and it was good to be able to sit down with all the team, have some food, and chat and catch up.”

Ben is going to Cardiff University in September to study History. “I cannot wait to go to university,” he said. “I picked History as I wanted to be able to focus on just one subject.”

The evening was hosted by CAVC Principal Kay Martin. She said: “I was thrilled to able to celebrate not only excellence in rugby tonight, but also excellence off the field.

“We are seeing Academy members predicted to get excellent A Level results, eight are progressing on to university, two have gained apprenticeships and two are returning to College to study. They have achieved all of this as well as playing professionally and gaining international caps.

“Our aim is to ensure each player is supported and challenged to reach their potential in both rugby and in their studies and tonight demonstrated this is happening.”

The College’s Director of Rugby, Martyn Fowler, added: “One question I’m often asked about the Academy is ‘How do you measure success?’ While the trophies are nice to hold, they will no doubt lose their lustre.

“What stays with us and everyone involved with Cardiff and Vale College is the knowledge that we have made a positive contribution to the lives of our young men when delivering on the Academy mission statement: developing better people and better players. You only had to look around the room tonight to see how we measure success – the room was full of success stories.”

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