Awen’s a potent force with Haverfordwest Ladies!
Haverfordwest Ladies RFC has made enormous strides over the past couple of seasons and there is no doubt that one of the contributory factors in last year's promotion and this year's consolidation has been the play of flanker Awen Prysor, who originally hails from Bala in North Wales but now works as a physiotherapist at Withybush Hospital.
As well as playing as a tough-tackling back-rower with Haverfordwest Ladies, Awen has also played five games this season with the Cardiff Blues Ladies in inter-regional games against the Scarlets (twice), the Dragons (twice) and the Ospreys - and Awen would say that their game is progressing well under coaches Stuart, Catrina and Mark as they train on Saturday morning in Pontypridd.
Lots of travel with Cardiff Blues
She stays in the area with friends and then enjoys her involvement on match days where the home games are played at the world-famous Cardiff Arms Park.
"It means a fair bit of travel," admitted Awen, "but it is worth it because of the experience I am gaining in tough training sessions on a 3G pitch where we do lots of drills on things like rucking, mauling, linesout and scrummaging; take part in game situations and run through specific plays worked out by the coaches.
"The matches are fast and furious, with high skill levels that are also bound to help my game with Haverfordwest."
College sport in Cardiff University
Awen started out in rugby at Cardiff University after previously playing hockey and netball in school at Ysgol y Berwyn in Bala, playing on the left wing in the former sport and representing Gwynedd on a regular basis.
"I played as a goal attack in netball and enjoyed that too but my games teacher told me that I was too rough to be a very good player and she obviously knew her horses for courses because I eventually gave it up!
"I played hockey throughout my first year in college but then decided to join my sister Cari in switching to rugby because although there was no organised playing of the oval ball game in Bala I used to go with my father Deiniol to watch games like Wales A playing against Romania at The Racecourse in Wrexham.
Doing well for their rugby team but initial disappointment with Cardiff Blues
“Two of my other sisters named Elain and Cerian had also played rugby so playing at college was fine for me - and although Cardiff University only had one team which played in the BUCS League Division Two I was made very welcome by the rest of the players, plus coaches Richard Jones and 'Patch'.
"I was soon heavily involved as we fended off the challenge of the likes of Chichester and Oxford to gain promotion that season and I must have impressed someone because I was invited to attend trials with the Blues Ladies.
"We trained for a few weeks at Taffs Well before I was told I had just missed out on selection, and although I was naturally disappointed I told myself that I only had a few games under my belt and there was still plenty of time for me to try again."
Found Haverfordwest Ladies – on the internet!
When Awen graduated her work brought her to Withybush and so she Googled 'Ladies Rugby' and was delighted when Haverfordwest Ladies RFC cropped up - and after she phoned Clodagh Llewellin it was just two hours later that she attended her first training session and afterwards was 'encouraged' to sign up.
"Training was comparable to what I had been used to as Ben John, Gareth Charles and Chris Beggan put us through our paces, and since then our skill levels have soared.
"Coincidentally, Chris, who is Irish, had coached my sister Cari at Edinburgh University!”
Settled in quickly and soon having a great time
Awen joined quality players of the calibre of Nina Colville, Jo Price, Clodagh Llewellin and Lyn Egelstaff, plus relative newcomers like Maria Phillips and Ceri Coleman-Phillips in a team which quickly developed a great camaraderie.
"We just missed out on promotion," said Awen, "but our confidence was boosted by the fact that we won the national ladies' Bowl competition by beating Ynysybwl in a hard-fought final.
Last season saw Awen and Co do well and in their final game of their league season, against old rivals Ynysybwl, who had beaten them at Merlins Bridge, and won an exhilarating match to take the section silverware.
"It was a brilliant game and everyone celebrated in style but we already knew that this current campaign would be far more testing.
"Perhaps we were a little overawed because we lost our first match at home in the current season - but we have certainly put that aside by winning most of our matches since then, including a 55-10 victory over Ynysybwl as we have been joined by the likes of Rachel and Helen Finnan, Delyth Foster and Emily Banner."
Great support from her family – and her team-mates
Awen about support and she would be quick no name her family because as well as dad Deiniol, who has driven all the way down to watch her play in the south, her mum Alwenna has always been there in support, as have sisters Cerian, Cari, Ffion and Elain.
Ask her team mates about Awen and the first compliment that always pops up is that she trains really hard, is fiercely committed and a terrific tackler, whose work rate provides a lift for those around her.
And finally . . .
This is certainly true because we have watched Awen play alongside Nina Colville and Clodagh Llewellin in the Haverfordwest back row and she never shirks a challenge and relishes the physical side of the game despite the fact that she is often slighter than her opposite numbers.
As Awen told us,
"I've been lucky to escape serious injury but had more than my share of blows to the face from opponents' knees or shoulders in the tackle - and I've definitely turned up for work with more than my fair share of black eyes!"
Be that as it may, her colleagues at Haverfordwest, plus her coaches, would agree that it was a good day when Awen Prysor searched the internet for a ladies' rugby club to join and their name cropped up - because in the intervening two and a half years she has served them so well!