By Adam Cleary
SINCE their formation in 1995, the Llanelli Warriors mixed ability rugby team have been offering the chance to play rugby to people with and without disabilities.
Now, 26 years on, the club are going stronger than ever and have seen almost 500 people pull on the Warriors jersey. The club aren’t short of opposition either, having faced 110 other sides since their inception.
Gwilym Lewis is the Warriors’ chairman and player coach. He is the club’s lifeblood, and despite all of the effort and work he puts in, Lewis insists it’s all worth it.
“It’s hard work but it’s definitely worth it” said Lewis.
“Sometimes the attention to detail goes unnoticed and I definitely get fed up of answering the same questions on WhatsApp.
“But the club does powerful good on many levels and I do love the good bits.”
Lewis explained how the club was formed and how it works when it comes to arranging fixtures.
“The club was formed in 1995. It was formed at a day centre for people with learning difficulties in Llanelli – Heol Goffa Sac” said Lewis.
“Some staff played for the Swansea Gladiators team and challenged the centre to play them. They played three games against the Gladiators over 2 seasons and then expanded from there.
“The Warriors became the first mixed ability team to play 300 fixtures. Mixed ability teams are sides that look to include players, with and without disabilities.
“We try to play every fortnight and whenever Wales play. We usually have 20+ fixtures each season. We’ve played 12 since coming out of lockdown and have at least two more lined up over Christmas, it should be one of our busiest seasons.
‘The club have followed the 2015 and 2017 Lions tours to New Zealand, we also played in Samoa in 2017.
“We have a seven match unbeaten streak in New Zealand while we got thumped in Samoa.”
— Bernard Chyzy (@BernardChyzy) August 20, 2015
The Warriors were most recently in action when they took on the Mixed Ability Rugby Invitational team (MARI’s) at the Arms Park last weekend.
It was Lewis’ 310th appearance for the club, a game that resulted in defeat by the tightest of margins with the MARI’s coming out as 32-31 victors.
He said: “It was a great game of rugby. I’m really pleased with how the Warriors played, it was probably our best performance.
“The result itself was very frustrating, we have lost seven on the bounce despite some good play.
“If we had realised that we were ahead with a minute to go I think we could have closed it out, however we continued to play out and they got over at the end.
“As a coach though, you have to look at the performance and that was really good. A win would be nice at this point though.”
Lewis made his 300th appearance for the club against Ammanford at the beginning of the season and in doing so he became the first person to play 300 mixed ability matches.
“My 300th appearance came at the start of the season and I really enjoyed it,” added Lewis.
“I didn’t make much of a fuss then knowing that Saturday’s match was coming (against MARI’s).
“I really enjoyed Saturday, in fact it’s all surreal. I saw some old friends, made some new ones, played at the Arms Park and had two nights out in Cardiff. Not a bad celebration!
“I’m really proud to have played 300 games. It’s taken over 20 years but it’s a nice landmark. To be the first person to play 300 mixed ability matches is lovely to reflect on.”