The Fall and Rise of the Cardiff Blues
My name is James, I’m 21 and I’m a Cardiff Blues fan. I’ve supported Cardiff since I was a youngster, cheering on the likes of Dai Young and Neil Jenkins in the Blue and Black of Cardiff RFC right through to the modern heroes of Gethin Jenkins, Jamie Roberts and Leigh Halfpenny. I was at the last game at the Cardiff Arms Park and the first game at the Cardiff City Stadium and have followed them as they’ve battled across England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland and into Europe.
But it has been a depressing time to be a Blues fan of late and the 2011-12 campaign has been nothing short of a disaster. The first major blow was seeing Dai Young leave for Wasps before the start of the season. Dai had helped the Blues built a great team that improved season after season and helped them grow into a force to be reckoned with, lifting the Amlin Challenge Cup along the way. Under the leadership of Gareth Baber and Justin Burnell the Blues have had a torrid time; failing making the Pro12 play offs, receiving a 34-3 thrashing at the hands of Leinster in the Heiniken Cup Quarter Finals and finished winless at the bottom of their pool in the Anglo Welsh Cup.
And what about the players? Well the Blues have had to say goodbye to a large amount of key players at the end of the season with Hooker T Rhys Thomas, Prop Gethin Jenkins (Widely regarded as one of the best forwards in the world alongside his Wales partner Adam Jones), Centre Casey Laulala, veteran prop John Yapp and scrum half Richie Rees all joining the mass exodus out of Welsh Rugby. Gethin Jenkins will be sorely missed as he is a truly world class player and a powerhouse in the scrum and Casey Laulala has been an incredible talent for the Blues since joining from Canterbury back in 2009, it has been a real pleasure watching both.
Scottish fly half Dan Parks joined the Blues in 2010 to replace fly half flop Sam Norton Knight with the hope he could solve the Blues long lasting problem in that position. Parks has been one of the most consistent players for the side since joining, it’s just a shame it has been so consistently poor. I, and many other Blues fans will agree I’m sure, am not sorry to see him go. The Blues have also seen the last of Deiniol Jones, Maama Molitika, Tau Filise, Club Captain Paul Tito and Welsh legend Martyn Williams who all retire from the game and top scorer back Ben Blair who has been released.
And then there was the Gavin Henson experiment. Promising rugby player turned reality TV star surprisingly signed for the Blues after controversially leaving the Ospreys and being released by both Saracens and Toulon. Whilst drawing the club mass media coverage Henson never found his form on the field and was sacked after just six months thanks to a drunken incident on a team flight from Glasgow.
But, things are looking up.
Phil Davies joined the club as Director of Rugby at the beginning of the month from Worcester Warriors. Davies has a proven history of taking teams to the top, taking Leeds from League 3 to the Heineken Cup, leading the Scarlets to the Semi-Finals of the Heineken Cup and helped guide the Warriors to the English Premiership in 2010. I’m very pleased with Davies’ appointment and I’m sure he is the right man to turn the Blues around.
More good news came in the merry month of May as the club confirmed they would be returning to their historic home at the Cardiff Arms Park. The Cardiff City Stadium is a wonderful, modern stadium but it lacked the atmosphere of a real rugby ground and its size dwarfed the modest crowds the Blues were achieving. The Arms Park is home for Cardiff and I’m sure the return home to the city centre will see a rise in attendances and create a real, passionate atmosphere grow around the club once more.
And whilst they have lost key players and legends that will be sorely missed there are some exciting young talents rising through the ranks. Alex Cuthbert lit up the international stage as Wales stormed the Six Nations and he will play a key part in the rise of the Blues if he should decide to stay. Josh Navidi and Andries Pretorius join Wales captain Sam Warburton on the flanks whilst Jason Tovey (who joins Cardiff from local rivals the Newport Gwent Dragons) may finally be the answer to their fly half prayers.
If Phil Davies can sign a few more players to replace players in key positions, the Blues could be set for a successful season.
by James Rhys Baylis