Welsh Deaf Rugby Union (The start)
Where it all started
Deaf boys from Swansea Deaf club were meeting in 1995 and discussed about their love of playing rugby and decided to set up their own Deaf rugby club.
Coincidentally or not Deaf boys from Newport Deaf club were thinking along the same lines and subsequently set up their Deaf rugby club within Pill Harriers Sports and Social Club in Pillgwenlly, Newport and called themselves Pill Harriers Deaf Rugby Club.
Swansea Deaf and Newport Deaf rugby teams played each other for the first time in October 1995 in Tredegar Park, Newport with Swansea winning 52-0 and the return match was played in Loughor RFC in March 1996 and the result was 26-0 to Swansea. More matches followed and deaf rugby players and spectators alike enjoyed the game.
As the Deaf club rugby continued to grow it was agreed by both clubs to establish a formal Wales Committee structure in October 1996 to attempt to further enhance the game of Rugby in the Deaf community and promote development and awareness of our teams.
From this Committee we developed our Constitution and Rules of our Organisation, including a Membership scheme. Wales Deaf Rugby Football Club was born and we have been granted charitable status, which have allowed us to increase the scope of our fund-raising. We also developed links with the Welsh Rugby Union.
The structure of the committee was based on elected officials and two representatives from Swansea and Pill Harriers Deaf Rugby Clubs. The first match between Swansea Deaf and Pill Harriers Deaf was publicised in British Deaf News that was read by Kevin Pivac of New Zealand who set up New Zealand Deaf Rugby Football Union in 1991 to contact us.
This contact with the New Zealand Deaf Rugby Union resulted in two major events. The first was that Wales Deaf RFC hosted a Tour by New Zealand in November 1998, the very first event of its kind even in the UK or Northern Hemisphere, where we arranged their three-week stay with us. During this time they played a warm up game at Laugharne, losing narrowly, followed by 3 Saturday Tests at Major Club grounds of Rodney Parade Newport, The Gnoll Neath and Stradey Park Llanelli. There were also mid-week matches versus Swansea and Pills Harriers Deaf Teams.
Having been established for 10 years with many more Players than we have and receiving a great deal of support from the New Zealand Rugby Union, they were able to win all these games but not without a fighting performance from us. We gratefully acknowledge the support of the Welsh Rugby union in this venture and those who contributed to a lesser degree.
The second major development during the Tour was the attendance at Cardiff RFC's Clubhouse next to the Millennium Stadium by Representative from Wales, New Zealand, South Africa, England, Japan and Australia meeting in order to formally establish a controlling body, agreed as the International Deaf Rugby Organisation (IDRO).
Since this time, IDRO has 3 Founder members who are all directly linked to their National Rugby Unions, and therefore the International Rugby Board. They are Wales, New Zealand and South Africa. Australia, France, Japan, Scotland and Fiji have since joined and England, Argentina, USA and Canada hope to follow soon.
This also resulted in the set up of first ever Deaf Rugby World Championship that will be held in Auckland, New Zealand in August 2002. Wales went to New Zealand and won the inaugural Deaf Rugby World Championship in Auckland beating host and favourites New Zealand 28-14 in the Final played in Eden Park. This could not have been achieved without the support of players, coaches, support staff, fundraisers, members and sponsors.
Wales Deaf rugby team played Scotland in Pyle RFC in May 2000 winning 26-0 and the return match was in Livingston RFC in October 2000 winning 22-17 and France played against Wales in Paris in June 2001 losing 52-5 to the Welsh. The return match was in Maesteg in February 2002 with Wales beating France by 18-3.
The Structure of Wales Deaf Rugby Football Club committee meant that one has to join either Swansea Deaf Rugby Club or Pill Harriers Deaf Rugby Club which discriminated those who play for mainstream rugby clubs and do not belong to either Deaf rugby clubs therefore it was agreed in 2001 to change the structure of Wales Deaf Rugby Football Club.
That year also saw the change of the name from Wales Deaf Rugby Football Club to Wales Deaf Rugby Union and the committee was made up of three officials namely Chair, Hon Secretary, Hon Treasurer and five committee members democratically elected by the members.
Geoff Evans of Laugharne was made our first President at the AGM of 2001 in recognition for his dedication, commitment and hard work for Wales Deaf Rugby Union.
Additionally, Deaf Rugby has become separate from any other Organisation or group in Deaf sport, and as we in Wales appeared to be European and Northern Hemisphere pioneers by staging regular matches.
And as they say the rest is history......
Wales also won the bid to host 2nd Deaf Rugby World Championship in Cardiff in July 2005. The bid received support from the National Assembly for Wales, Cardiff County Council, Welsh Rugby Union, Cardiff Rugby Football Club, East District Rugby Union and Wales Tourist Board. Without their support we may not have won the bid.
Thanks to everyone who contributed to the continued success of Wales Deaf Rugby Union now matter how large or small the contributions were.
Cymru am Byth!