CHRIS KIRWAN SAYS: Ambition needed to get big nights back

BIG NIGHTS: Dragons fans want to see their team go up against the likes of Toulouse and Maxime Medard

BIG NIGHTS: Dragons fans want to see their team go up against the likes of Toulouse and Maxime Medard

First published in Sport South Wales Argus: Photograph of the Author by

THOMOND Park, inspiring yet deflating at the same time.

The reaction of the Newport Gwent Dragons squad to playing Munster’s premier venue last week spoke volumes.

To a man they were in awe of the surroundings, pledging that it had stoked their desire to return. It is a magnificent stadium and being there for the Dragons’ game was enough to ponder what it must be like on a winner-takes-all Heineken Cup night.

Sadly, the Dragons are some way off being involved in the premier European competition, let alone making waves in it.

They pushed Munster in Limerick and their performance was a vast improvement on their display against Cardiff Blues.

Yet there was still the impression that they were being patted on the head by the double European champions, who had the ability to go up a few more gears if required.

At the start of the season there was optimism that the region would push their rivals hard in the tussle for the three Heineken Cup qualification spots.

It’s certainly not all over yet but that hope has been dented by a combination of the Dragons’ failure to add to the five points earned on opening night against Zebre and the fine starts made by the Blues and Scarlets.

It seems daft given that they have travelled to Leinster and Munster, but the Dragons’ results have deflated their supporters.

They are already fearing another grim season and if things don’t go to plan tomorrow night against Edinburgh then the mood will be acerbic.

The Dragons have come to rely on a hardcore of support, the 4,500 to 5,000 that will head to their usual spots on a cold, wet night to watch Connacht, Treviso or Glasgow.

But they mustn’t be taken for granted and they want some sort of glory.

Not necessarily Heineken Cup quarter-finals or battles to earn home advantage in the Pro12 play-offs.

But they want to be proud of their team and to see them producing performances that will ensure no opposition thinks of them as ‘the fourth Welsh region’.

At times it is easy to ponder whether the board shares the ambition of those in the stands.

Admittedly it is easy to sit on the side telling others to put their hands in their pocket but it has been clear for some time that the Dragons need more power in their front five.

Supporters have seen big earners – Brew, Charteris, Willis, Castle – go out of the exit door and haven’t seen big names heading in.

The reasons for that are understandable, the money ‘saved’ has gone to members of the squad who have earned a pay rise. However, all the support can see is a stripped down squad.

There is no doubt that Dan Evans, Tom Prydie and Ian Nimmo have added to the team and look to be astute signings.

As I have said in this column before, the policy of polishing rough diamonds is necessary for the Dragons while the academy needs to produce a stream of better players.

The likes of Jack Dixon, Ieuan Jones, Hallam Amos, Elliot Dee and Ashton Hewitt must be followed by more talented teens.

But the failure to add as least one South African, Aussie, New Zealander or even a gnarled Argentinean rankles with the punters.

The Dragons budget is simple – more money in equals more money spent on the squad.

But without the latter the former won’t be happening and bums will be on sofas rather than plastic seats.

Build it and they will come. Trundle along and they will watch Coronation Street instead on a Friday night, leaving a sparse, frustrated and miserable crowd.

Comments (7)

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12:01pm Thu 27 Sep 12

high x boy says...

we have signed some rubbish.
Jamie Smith for one.
we have signed some rubbish. Jamie Smith for one. high x boy
  • Score: 0

1:55pm Thu 27 Sep 12

Dai the Milk says...

I am going to bang my drum again.......the more support, the more income. The more income, the more that can be spent on quality players. The more quality players in the squad, the more likely the team will achieve things on the field. Now I don't have a maths degree. It's just logical. And how do the Dragons get more support? Become truly regional, drop the name Newport, become creative in its marketing strategy in how the club welcomes valley support and becomes truly inclusive. The same dilemma faces Cardiff. The other two sides are not perfect and far from the finished article but they are inclusive and representative of their respective geographic areas. Cardiff will survive because they have enough big money backers. Newport 'little g' Dragons, on its last legs like the 'city' itself is, is another kettle of fish. I have been banging this drum for nine years now, and have been scoffed at by the 'stand-aloners' but be warned........the knives are out. Take heed or top flight rugby in this part of the world will become a thing of the past.
I am going to bang my drum again.......the more support, the more income. The more income, the more that can be spent on quality players. The more quality players in the squad, the more likely the team will achieve things on the field. Now I don't have a maths degree. It's just logical. And how do the Dragons get more support? Become truly regional, drop the name Newport, become creative in its marketing strategy in how the club welcomes valley support and becomes truly inclusive. The same dilemma faces Cardiff. The other two sides are not perfect and far from the finished article but they are inclusive and representative of their respective geographic areas. Cardiff will survive because they have enough big money backers. Newport 'little g' Dragons, on its last legs like the 'city' itself is, is another kettle of fish. I have been banging this drum for nine years now, and have been scoffed at by the 'stand-aloners' but be warned........the knives are out. Take heed or top flight rugby in this part of the world will become a thing of the past. Dai the Milk
  • Score: 0

2:48pm Thu 27 Sep 12

high x boy says...

A lot of people support the Dragons that don't live in Newport.
A lot of people support the Dragons that don't live in Newport. high x boy
  • Score: 0

8:28pm Thu 27 Sep 12

Dai the Milk says...

Very very few from the Eastern and Western Valleys I can assure you. Monmouthshire maybe, up as far as Cross Keys maybe (where the valley actually starts) but that's it.
Very very few from the Eastern and Western Valleys I can assure you. Monmouthshire maybe, up as far as Cross Keys maybe (where the valley actually starts) but that's it. Dai the Milk
  • Score: 0

10:10pm Thu 27 Sep 12

Dai the Milk says...

..........and those closet supporters that lie to their loved ones and tell them they're off down the Workingmen's Club or whatever and hide their Newport scarves before they resurface in the Valleys are not proud of what they're doing..............t
hey don't support the Newport team openly like they should. I am not against the Newport hierarchy......far from it.........I just want to see a truly representative side formed.......one that EVERYONE can buy into.......one that will attract 10,000 supporters not the piddling 4,000 they're getting....and allow the set-up to
invest in real quality players.
..........and those closet supporters that lie to their loved ones and tell them they're off down the Workingmen's Club or whatever and hide their Newport scarves before they resurface in the Valleys are not proud of what they're doing..............t hey don't support the Newport team openly like they should. I am not against the Newport hierarchy......far from it.........I just want to see a truly representative side formed.......one that EVERYONE can buy into.......one that will attract 10,000 supporters not the piddling 4,000 they're getting....and allow the set-up to invest in real quality players. Dai the Milk
  • Score: 0

10:48pm Thu 27 Sep 12

kalwales@hotmail.com says...

I Fully support those with greivances against the Region & wont buy quality players and i say that because why?? they know they have hardcore and devoted fans like you who will stick around no matter what so whats pushing them to did deep?? NOTHING, I also fully support DROP the name that Dai stated and have a bit of initiative and maybe you will darw some fans back also sort out the bars is another major issue but what is pushing the management team to sort it out?? NOTHING, if teh Fans voted with their feet then they would pull their fingers out and do something about it , im diff from Dai, i do have issues with the heirarchy and management set up because they only care about those in teh BISLEY stand and im not the only person who thinks that !
they wont invest in quality star names because they have no BALLS now ban me from here too if you like and i will just set up under a different name and email address
I Fully support those with greivances against the Region & wont buy quality players and i say that because why?? they know they have hardcore and devoted fans like you who will stick around no matter what so whats pushing them to did deep?? NOTHING, I also fully support DROP the name that Dai stated and have a bit of initiative and maybe you will darw some fans back also sort out the bars is another major issue but what is pushing the management team to sort it out?? NOTHING, if teh Fans voted with their feet then they would pull their fingers out and do something about it , im diff from Dai, i do have issues with the heirarchy and management set up because they only care about those in teh BISLEY stand and im not the only person who thinks that ! they wont invest in quality star names because they have no BALLS now ban me from here too if you like and i will just set up under a different name and email address kalwales@hotmail.com
  • Score: 0

12:17am Fri 28 Sep 12

Dai the Milk says...

I'll say that for you Kal............you got passion.
I'll say that for you Kal............you got passion. Dai the Milk
  • Score: 0

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