Kim Williams – Mission (Im)possible? Part 2

There is no doubt that one of the biggest challenges West Wales face is the negativity and loud shouting of the naysayers and anti-expansionist factions of the sport following such a poor first year.

In order to truly spark growth of rugby league in Wales, perceptions of the Raiders need to be reversed both locally and across the UK.

This is something Williams is keen to focus on, through initially the development of a more successful playing squad but, ultimately, by developing pathways for local kids to provide opportunities to reach the professional heights of the sport.

“We’re keeping the focus on what we can control and to change the perception of those on the outside comes from success on the field; that is what success is measured on and there is no doubt that we deserve some of the criticism from last year,” he said.

“It’s important to get people believing in what we’re doing through our actions on the field but also creating pathways for young players has been a really big focus for me.

“I do some coaching at two of the universities in the area and we have a very strong link to the rugby league programme that the local college runs; we had an under 16s academy session that was well attended, and I was impressed with the level of talent that showed up to that.

“We’re trying to complement the Welsh rugby league pathways by making the club sustainable long term and not just be a band aid fix.

“I don’t want to come in and try to buy wins; we need things in place to provide success for years to come. It is important for us as a club in an area dominated by other sports and it is a process that will take time.”

It is no secret that sport in Wales is consumed by the opposite code of rugby. It is a safe bet that the majority of kids growing up and learning sport in schools in Wales are drawn towards becoming the next Dan Biggar or George North rather than a Ben Flower or a Gil Dudson running around in Super League.

The task of adjusting this sporting culture seems almost impossible, but not in the eyes of Williams, who believes that rugby league provides chances for players not seen in the 15-man game, with structures in place to offer an alternative to those who may be better suited to league.

“Our sport presents great opportunities through the representative pathways in Wales. There’s the under 16s, students and under 19s programme, the Dragon Hearts and of course the nation team that have just qualified for the next World Cup so those opportunities are quite an attraction to young players,” he said.

“It’s a very hard road to make it into the Welsh rugby union national side so we probably present more opportunities to kids who may miss out on that initially.

“I’ve got no doubt that that will have appeal to players who like rugby in general and may be able to be swayed to the rugby league side of things.

“Being active in the community and in schools is huge and something we fully intend on doing. That is one of a number of little things we need to be doing well to raise our profile and kids will then be able to see what is available to them,” Williams added.

So, with the ambitions and goals set and the foundations developing, what does success look like for a club whose expectations have been at an all time low at the end of 2018?

“We’re aiming to win games next season. I’m not going to put a number on it but we definitely need to be competitive in every game and not have a return to some of those cricket scores that we had last year,” Williams said.

“The off-field mark is developing the club. We’re in week eight of our pre-season and the level of change visible so far has been significant already and that is the message coming from the players who were here last year.

“We have already made some successful changes, but we’ve still got a long way to go and hopefully these changes will be reflected in some success on the field.”

It is clear that this expansionist club that seemed almost certain to fail before it had really got going can now see light at the end of the tunnel. With Kim Williams giving the Raiders some genuine confidence about their future, it’ll be exciting to see where they can go from here.

In case you missed it, click here to read part one our the exclusive interview with the West Wales Raiders new head coach.

Author: Tom Alderson

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