JULIE PATERSON is easily the Welsh Rugby Union’s longest serving senior figure – having been appointed to its inaugural executive board 12 years ago as Head of Compliance and, since, moving on to a second executive position as Head of Rugby Operations in 2015.
She has walked the corridors of power at Welsh Rugby’s headquarters in a variety of different roles over three decades but, still only 47-years-old, she is as enthusiastic as she has ever been about the future of our national game.
Speaking during a period of rapid modernisation for Welsh Rugby and on International Women’s Day, she is confident the first entirely elected female Board member will be voted in by WRU member clubs within the next two years – joining Aileen Phillips who was appointed as a non-elected director in 2015 – in what will be a ‘watershed moment’ for the game.
“There is wide acceptance from our clubs and the Board that it should be the best person for the job regardless,” says Ms Paterson, who was appointed to the first executive board in 2005.
“I think in the next 18 months to two years we will see our first female board director elected by the clubs. We are not about token gestures when it comes to encouraging women to step forward in our game, but we know that there are great women working out in the clubs.
“We work with them all the time, and it’s just about making sure we encourage them to have the courage to take that one step forward and give it a go.”
Her own story would inspire many to do just that. In the 90s she admits she was very much a ‘woman in a man’s world’, but growing up in rugby-mad Cardiff household with her parents, Cliff and Angela, three brothers, Neil, Gareth and Michael – and a grand-father Ted John, who was an archetypal Arms Park club man – she has never felt out of place.
“I don’t think anybody realised that the WRU was the first Union to have a woman on its executive staff,” she says.
“We were the first Union to take that step, other unions have moved that way now, the RFU and the French, but when I was first on the exec board there were no other women at that level in rugby.
“I was an anomaly, I’d turn up to ERC (European Rugby Cup) meetings and they’d think I was the interpreter. I find it quite entertaining sometimes to see those who have known me for a really long time, watch as someone new, who hasn’t met me before, tries and work out what part I’m going to play in the meeting.
“Then you walk into the room and everyone sits down behind their microphones and I sit down behind ‘Welsh Rugby’ and you see it dawn on the faces that I am not the interpreter or the caterer – I get quite a good laugh out of that and then we all get on with business.”
Ms Paterson makes no apology for a forthright attitude, in the right context, in fact she makes an attribute out of it and would advise and positively encourage any woman wishing to track her footsteps to follow suit.
Personally she puts success down to a sense of self-confidence instilled in her at an early age and whilst she is strident in her view that women should – and will – have equal opportunities to men when it comes to joining a modern, forward thinking Welsh Rugby Union, she is firmly against any kind of positive discrimination as part of the process.
WOMEN IN RUGBY WAITING IN THE WINGS
“I’m not into quotas.” she continued, “What we are saying is that it’s about providing the opportunity to women in equal measure.
“I don’t think anyone is entitled to anything in life, you have to work for it, but the opportunity should be there for everyone.
“We’ve advertised for quite a few staffing roles over the last few years, everyone’s been allowed to apply and it’s about the best people for the job. If that person is a man then there is no issue. If the best person for the job is a woman and a man gets the job then I would have an issue.
“I never applied for promotion, not once, but I would still be doing things the same way if I was still finance manager. Not in a million years did I ever envisage I would be at executive board level. Being the only girl with three brothers, my parents both had the same attitude on day one, ‘she is no different to the boys’.
“I never thought I was going to be doing what I’m doing now, but that is something that has stuck with me and stood me in good stead in the wider world. You can’t be precious, you can’t be getting offended when you turn up to somewhere and they think you’re bringing in the catering, those things can be moved passed quickly.”
YOU CAN EARN YOUR STRIPES IN DIFFERENT WAYS
She has two daughters, Olivia who is 20 and studying law at University in Leicester and Jessica, 24, who is an architect.
Given her own experience and her current knowledge of the WRU’s vision for the future, would she ask her own daughters to get involved with Welsh rugby and what sage advice would she offer?
“Absolutely,” she says, “We have to be careful that we don’t put women off getting involved in the game just because they may not have played.
“We’ve got some really good women working throughout our clubs. Aberdare and Mold are two great examples where women are at the centre of the clubs and they are very much involved in every aspect of managing things.
“There’s two different things, there’s pushing participation – and I agree everyone should be given the same opportunities, boys or girls – but I also think that women getting involved in the game, regardless of whether they played or not, is something we need to concentrate more on and indeed we are, because you can earn your stripes in different ways.
“You have to be in it to change it and don’t ever think that you are not good enough to put yourself forward. It is about backing yourself and just having the courage of your convictions.”
So how did one of the most powerful women in Welsh sport arrive in this position, how has she stayed so long and what are the attributes that will allow others to step out of the shadows they may be in at club level, or elsewhere, and follow?
Ms Paterson has overseen some historic moments in the Welsh rugby in her time, from the implementation of National Dual Contracts to the drawing up, revision and day-to-day working of the Rugby Services Agreement that currently serves as the bedrock of the professional game in Wales.
She represents the Union on a variety of World Rugby committees, Olympic committees, in Europe, on PRO12 matters and sits on our own rugby management board and PRGB which deals with issues at regional level – but has being a women made a difference to her professional working life?
“I think its fine to ask the question, I honestly think that being a woman in rugby or sport, I can work with coaches and players on sensitive matters,” she says, “Because I’m not seen as someone who is directly competing with them. Because I’ve not been an international rugby player or an international coach and because I’ve earned my stripes over time, I would like to think they just accept me and trust me fully.
“The Regions, for example, have never had an issue with me representing their interests, they’ve always very much been about ‘the best person for the job’ whether it’s a woman or a man. I think that is where we are now.”
TRY, TRY, AND TRY AGAIN
Finally then, the WRU has been very public in its ambition to promote women throughout the game and in particular, increase diversity on its Board.
But Paterson, often the champion of clubs – as you might think – has always been an advocate of the good work done by both sexes on and off the field throughout the game, so what is different and does she welcome a new approach?
“Of course it’s welcome, but I’ve always been that way myself,” she added.
“Like I say, you can’t be too precious, because you’ve got to be in it to change it. You can’t change it from the outside. You can sit outside and keep getting frustrated about things that aren’t happening but unless you just step up and say ‘well I may have to swallow my pride on this one, but if it gets us to the end goal then so be it’ – only then over time will you earn people’s respect and start to affect change.
“You might fail on the first time of trying but just keep going. If I’d given up on the first time of trying I wouldn’t have got past 1990.
“Don’t let your own nervousness get in the way of allowing that opportunity at any level. We want our workforce to grow not reduce. We don’t want anyone to be replaced or women to take the place of a man, we just want everyone to have the opportunity to come to the fore, man or woman. That’s all it is.”
Aberaeron win again
WEST Wales Cricket Conference leaders Aberaeron earned another win on Saturday (Aug 11) as they beat Aberystwyth Seconds by three wickets.
Aberaeron won the toss but elected to field and the Seconds went on to make a good score of 201-6 from their 40 overs.
Ceri John fell early on to the bowling of Simon Mitchell for a score of 6 but scores of 21 from Rowan Dunbabin and 71 from Zaid Khan kept Aberaeron’s bowlers at bay.
Paul Hughes bowled Dunabin and he then had Iestyn Evans stumped for a duck by Sam Jenkinson.
Tom Constantine was also in good form for the Seconds as he hit four boundaries in his score of 51 before he was caught by Sion Lewis, also off the bowling of Hughes.
Khan hit 11 fours and a six in his knock of 71 but he was then caught by Jenkinson off the bowling of Josh Roper.
Ted Trewella made a late score of 21 as he helped the Seconds pass 200 runs. Simon Mitchell took his wicket when he was caught by John Fice.
Openers John Fice and David Grinszpan got Aberaeron off to a good start in their reply as they shared 78 runs for the first wicket.
That was brought to an end when Grinszpan was caught by Ceri John off the bowling of Augistine Benny on a score of 43 which included seven fours and a six.
Fice scored 21 but he was then caught by Ted Trewella off the bowling of Titus Mathew.
Strange also made 22 with two fours and two sixes but he was then caught by Zaid Khan of the bowling of Trewella.
Hywel Rees and Alexander Pitchford then shared 49 runs to take Aberaeron to within touching distance of their target.
Rees made 31 before he was caught and bowled by Zaid Khan and soon after Pitchford was caught by Trewella off the bowling of Rowan Dunbabin on a score of 23.
Dunbabin then bowled Josh Roper on a score of 8 before Sion Lewis was bowled by Trewella for a duck as Aber’s Second team searched for an unlikely victory.
That left Aberaeron on 184-7 but scores of 7 not out from Dave Floyd and Simon Mitchell saw their side to victory.
Talybont keep the pressure on
TALYBONT kept the pressure on leaders Aberaeron with a 46-run win over Aberystwyth’s first team on Sunday (Aug 12).
Aber won the toss but elected to field and they watched on as Talybont scored 207-9 from their 40 overs.
Openers Ben Harper and Joseph Thomas fell early on as Harper was trapped leg before by Gareth Lewis and Thomas was bowled by Zaid Khan.
Khan also had Rhodri Lloyd Williams bowled for a duck but Talybont rallied after those wickets.
Vinod Mathew scored 35 with four boundaries before he was caught by Khan off the bowling of Gareth Lewis.
He shared a good stand with Philip Abraham who scored 38 with six fours and a six before he was trapped leg before by Titus Mathew.
Anish Kuriakose also played well for his score of 29 (four boundaries and one six) before he was caught by Tom Constantine off the bowling of James Breese.
Breese then had Matthew Novak caught by Constantine as Aber’s bowlers began to fight back. Khan had Tibin Joseph trapped leg before and Mathew had Nijo John caught by Tom Constantine on a score of 5.
That left Dave Barrow not out on an excellent score of 66 (7 fours) as he took Talybont to their total.
Aber lost opener Robin Varley early in their reply as he was caught by Ben Harper off the bowling of Anish Kuriakose and the same bowler later bowled Anthony Burrell on a score of 19.
Zaid Khan scored just five before being caught by Rhodri Lloyd Williams off the bowling of Tibin Joseph.
Mel Jones and Rob Rudge rallied for Aber with scores of 35 and 40 respectively before Jones was caught by Joseph Thomas off the bowling of Mathew Novak who then also bowled Rudge
Philip Abraham had James Breese caught by Thomas on a duck and he then took another catch of Tom Constantine to give Milton John his first wicket.
John then also bowled Iestyn Evans on a score of 12 and Tom Williams on a score of 25 and although Gareth Lewis and Titus Mathew finished not out they had not done enough to earn victory as Aber finished short on 161-9.
Tywyn edge past Commoners
TYWYN and District earned their third win of the season on Sunday (Aug 12) as they beat UWA Commoners by one wicket.
The Commoners won the toss and elected to bat but they were all out for 125.
They lost opener Rakesh Bhatia for a score of 5 when he was caught by Dylan Williams off the bowling of Jack Mynard.
David Wilcockson only scored 14 before he fell in similar fashion and Will Copeland scored 16 before being bowled by Callum Taylor.
Ian Lawton scored just 1 before being trapped leg before by Richard Rees and Morgan York then had Dean Davis caught by Simon Jenkins for a duck.
Opener Bill Somerfield hit six fours in his score of 47 but he eventually fell to the bowling of Richard Rees when he was caught by Williams.
Richard Lucas scored 27 late on but he was caught by Ed Hughes off the bowling of Taylor and Marcus Cheyne brought the innings to a close when he bowled Chris Ward.
Tywyn made a steady start to their reply with Callum Taylor and Tom Kistruck sharing 33 runs for the first wicket.
Tayklor made 22 before being caught by Bhatia off the bowling of Lawton and he then trapped Richard Rees leg before.
Will Copeland then bowled Marcus Cheyne as Tywyn slipped to 38-3.
Kistruck and Dave Jenkins then shared another good stand of 43 as they looked to set their side on their way to victory.
Kistruck made 29 with four boundaries before being caught by Bhatia off the bowling of Bill Somerfield.
Jenkins then fell in similar fashion for a score of 19 and David Wilcockson then bowled Dylan Williams leaving Tywyn on 86-6.
Jack Mynard made just seven before he was caught off the bowling of Wilcockson who then also bowled Ted Hughes on a score of 14.
Bill Somerfield then had Morgan York caught by Bhatia on a score of 5 as Tywyn slipped to 116-9 but Simon Jenkins (5*) and Ed Hughes (7*) held their nerve to see Tywyn to victory.
On Saturday (Aug 18), Aberaeron play Talybont in an exciting top of the table clash. Aberystwyth are also at home as they take on UWA Commoners.
On Sunday (Aug 19), Aberystwyth Seconds are at home as they take on Tywyn and District.
Walker wins it for Aber on opening night
ABERYSTWYTH Town got their 2018/19 JD Welsh Premier League season off to the perfect start as they earned a thoroughly deserved three points against Llandudno at Park Avenue on Friday evening (Aug 10).
Declan Walker’s sublime 15th minute strike was enough to see Aber to victory, in what was an impressive defensive performance from the black and greens – centred around young 16 year old debutant Lee Jenkins, which saw Aber home through ten minutes of injury time to kick off the new season in the perfect manner.
Aber started the game on the front foot, playing with great intensity and tempo, with Declan Walker the first to test Llandudno’s goalkeeper after just four minutes with a long range effort. Soon after, it was Joe Phillips’ turn as he cut inside from the right flank and fired a shot narrowly over the crossbar.
Then, on 15 minutes Aber got the breakthrough their early play deserved, as captain Declan Walker found space on the edge of the penalty area, before shifting the ball to his right and curling a magnificent effort into the top corner of the net to make it 1-0.
He quickly ran over to the famous terraced corner of Park Avenue to celebrate with Aber’s jubilant fans, and the hosts were off to the perfect start.
Rather than sit back on their lead, Town continued to pepper the visitors goal, as Walker again found the net on 20 minutes only for the referee to disallow the goal for an infringement on the goalkeeper.
On 25 minutes, winger Ryan Edwards whizzed down the left flank before cutting inside and seeing his shot go inches wide of the post, before Aber somehow failed to double their lead on 28 minutes as Rio Ahmadi and Joe Phillips saw their efforts saved by Llandudno’s Shaun Pearson, before Declan Walker’s rebound rattled the crossbar.
The hosts were utterly dominant, with Ryan Wollacott and 16-year old centre back Lee Jenkins snuffing out any danger posed by the visitors’ attacks.
As half time approached, Aber again went agonisingly close as Ahmadi raced through on goal only to see his shot brilliantly saved on to the crossbar by the fingertips of goalkeeper Pearson, and the hosts would go into the break with a slender advantage.
Aber started the second half in similar fashion to the first, looking organised and solid, with Paulo Mednes and Mathew Jones bossing the central midfield areas.
On 52 minutes came Aber’s first worrying moment of the game, as Toby Jones crossed for Mike Pearson who was denied by a superb last ditch block by Aber’s Steff Edwards.
However, Aber goalie Leigh Jenkins, who’d performed admirably up until that point, was caught between both players on their way down and suffered a nasty injury to his right leg – resulting in him leaving the field and striker Rio Ahmadi putting on the gloves to play as goalkeeper for the remaining 35 minutes.
It would have been easy for Aber to panic at that moment, but instead they did the exact opposite as they continued to dictate the tempo of the game and threaten the visitors’ goal, with substitute Nashawn Blake providing additional pace and power up front.
Llandudno began to opt for a more direct route to goal, pumping long balls towards experienced centre forwards Mark Connelly and John Owen, but Aber’s 16 year old centre back Jenkins, aided by Baynes and Wollacott either side of him, was unfazed as he dominated the physical battle.
On 70 minutes, Nashawn Blake strode forwards before unleashing a swerving effort just wide of the post, before Mathew Jones’ goal bound header was blocked by Llandudno full back Ieuan Hewitt as Aber looked to press home their advantage.
Visitors Llandudno slowly began to crank up the pressure as the clock struck 80 minutes, with Danny Hughes volleying over before former Seasider John Owen headed wide, but the men in yellow were standing firm.
There were agonising groans from Town’s vocal supporters as the fourth official indicated a minimum of 8 minutes additional time, as the visitors piled forwards in search of an equaliser.
Kai Edwards headed wide in the final minutes before Mike Pearson’s bicycle kick was well saved by striker-come-goalkeeper Ahmadi, and Aber saw the game out to earn a massive 3 points on the opening weekend.
A huge victory for the black and greens under the circumstances, in what was the perfect start to the 2018/19 season.
It was an exciting attacking performance matched by an equally impressive collective defensive display, and Aber must now build on that momentum as they face Cardiff Met at Park Avenue on Friday evening (Aug 17) in front of the Sgorio cameras.
Bhatia and Shah batter Seconds
THE UWA Commoners picked up an excellent win on Sunday (Aug 5), as two of their batsmen blasted centuries against Aberystwyth Seconds.
The Commoners won the toss and chose to bat and that proved to be a good decision as openers Bill Somerfield and Rakesh Bhatia put on 98 runs for the first wicket.
James Breese made the breakthrough for the Seconds as he trapped Somerfield leg before on a score of 23.
Rakesh Bhatia and Raghave Shah then took over sharing another good stand of 101 before Breese again made the breakthrough. Bhatia had hit thirteen fours and five sixes in his stunning innings of 113 but he was then caught by Tom Constantine.
The scoring was not over yet as Shah and Umar Aslam continued to pile on the runs. They shared another 134 runs before Aslam was stumped by Owen Keyworth off the bowling of Constantine on a score of 54 which included six fours and a six.
Shah batted on and he smashed fourteen fours and nine sixes in a blistering knock of 153. His spectacular innings was brought to an end when he was caught by Peter Evans off the bowling of Dafydd Jones.
Will Copeland then finished not out on 17 with two fours and a six as the Commoners posted a mammoth total of 385-4 in their 40 overs.
The Seconds tried eight bowlers during the innings as they struggled to stem the flow of runs.
Aber Seconds knew they would need to bat well if they were to stand a chance of matching that total but three early wickets set the tone for the rest of the innings.
Peter Evans scored 11 before he was caught by Dean Davis off the bowling of Chris Ward and Mel Jones scored just three before being caught by Davis off the bowling of Ian Lawton.
Ward then bowled Tom Constantine on a score of 1 as the Seconds were reduced to 17-3.
James Breese scored just 7 before he was bowled by Lawton reducing the Seconds to 34-4 but Zaid Khan and Owen Keyworth did their best to put some runs on the board.
They shared a stand of 49 but Keyworth, who had hit four fours and a six in his score of 25, was then caught by Lawton off the bowling of Guy Baron.
Khan hit seven fours in his knock of 38 but he was then caught and bowled by Bill Somerfield.
Baron then bowled Alwyn Davies on a score of 5 and he then caught Ioan Morris off the bowling of Umar Aslam.
Somerfield then bowled Dafydd Jones for a duck and Will Copeland brought the innings to a close when he ran out Anthony Evans.
It meant that the Seconds were all out for 107 and a comprehensive 278-run win for the Commoners.
Sunday’s other game saw Talybont pick up another win as they scored 250-5 to surpass Tywyn and District’s total of 246-9.
Leaders earn another win
On Saturday (Aug 4), West Wales Conference leaders Aberaeron earned a seven wicket win over Aberystwyth’s first team.
Aber won the toss and elected to bat but they struggled to find runs and they were eventually all out for just 136.
They lost both openers early on as Anthony Burrell was bowled by Hywel Rees without scoring and Robin Varley was bowled by Simon Mitchell on a score of 2.
Zaid Khan scored 19 but he was also bowled by Mitchell as Aber slipped to 30-3. Thomas Burrell and Ted Trewella then shared 34 runs for the fourth wicket before Burrell was caught by Louis Fice off the bowling of Hywel Rees on a score of 26.
Trewella scored 10 before he was caught by Chris Strange off the bowling of Steff Rees and he then had Elwyn caught by Strange for a duck leaving Aber on 68-6.
Rees then also had Gareth Lewis caught by Fice on a score of 8 but Aber’s tail started a mini revival.
Robert Rudge and Joel Dixon shared 31 runs for the eighth wicket before Rudge was bowled by Paul Hughes on a score of 10.
Joel Dixon scored 17 before he was bowled by Steff Rees and Ioan Morris added 16 before he was bowled by Louis Fice.
That meant Aber were all out for 136 and Aberaeron made a steady start to their reply.
Openers Fice and David Grinszpan shared 42 runs before Fice was caught by Elwyn off the bowling of Gareth Lewis on a score of 19.
Chris Strange scored just ten before he was caught by Lewis off the bowling of Titus Mathew.
Grinszpan and Steff Rees then shared another 55 runs as they edge Aberaeron closer to their target. Rees scored 24 with a four and two sixes before he was caught and bowled by Ted Trewella.
That was as good as it got for Aber as Grinszpan and Hywel Rees saw Aberaeron to victory. Rees was not out on 11 while Grinszpan carried his bat to finish not out on 64 with five fours and three sixes.
On Saturday (Aug 11), Aberaeron will look for another win as they take on Aberystwyth Seconds. On Sunday, (Aug 12), Aberystwyth face second placed Talybont and UWA Commoners are at home to Tywyn & District.
The following weekend (Aug 18), Aberaeron are at home to Talybont in an exciting top of the table clash.
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