Next season, Pontypool RFC will again be playing Premiership rugby.

After an extraordinary season with 26 wins out of 26, 129 points out of a maximum possible of 130 and a cup win, it sounds like a statement of the obvious.

But as all Pooler fans will know, it’s been a long time coming!

It’s taken seven long years of trying since the devastating loss to RGC in 2016 denied Pontypool promotion. Seven years of remarkable consistency on the pitch, and growing confidence and professionalism off it. In that time, Pontypool have been denied by ringfencing, a global pandemic and a playoff against a scarlet-tinged Llanelli.

Yet the fans have stayed loyal, travelling in huge numbers to watch the team home and away.

Pooler certainly took over Cardiff at the cup final, causing panic amongst Principality Stadium staff as they opened section after section of the ground to be filled by red, white and black jerseys!

The players and staff deserve huge credit for such sustained excellence.

Leighton Jones has faced the daunting task of maintaining such high levels of performance with real skill. His commitment to his club shines through, and he’s built a core of Pontypool locals who know that coaching Pontypool or pulling on the Pooler shirt isn’t like playing for any other club.

We may never have been fashionable, certainly in the halls of the rugby establishment. Take the treatment of Dai Bishop for example – the most talented man I’ve ever seen play the game, yet given only a single Wales cap. But we won’t be bitter, as we wouldn’t change our club for any other.

Because we’ve had the world-renowned Pontypool Front Row, the legend of Ray Prosser and his all-conquering teams, and the much-missed Eddie Butler, one of many players who showed that the cliché of Pontypool being merely scrappers was wide of the mark.

Pontypool is more than just a rugby club. It’s a part of our community, part of our identity, cut through our town. Of course, we’re lucky that Peter Jeffreys understands that. He invested in the club at one of our lowest points, and under his leadership alongside Ben Jeffreys, the club has gone from strength to strength.

Thanks to the efforts of Peter, Ben, all the players, staff, volunteers and fans, Pooler can have a future that lives up to our past. Next season can’t come soon enough.

It’s not just Pontypool looking forward to next season with relish either.

Rugby in the Eastern Valley is going from strength to strength.

Blaenavon, Pontypool United and Talywain make up a strong Torfaen contingent in League 1 East next season. Croesyceiliog, Cwmbran and Garndiffaith will line up in League 2 east. New Panteg will look forward to League 4 east after a resurgent season. Forgeside, Abersychan and West Mon will compete strongly in League 5 east and Girling in League 6. There will certainly be some keenly-fought local derbies!

So many of those teams also have thriving junior and mini sections, standing at the heart of their communities, bringing people together and getting our young people active and enjoying the huge life-lessons that team sport brings.

Good luck to each and every club next season, and a big thank you to everyone who gives their time to help out.