Ollie’s doing very well for The Otters in the National League Championship!
Narberth RFC have enjoyed a terrific season in the Championship section of Welsh Rugby despite early forecasts of a transition period after losing so many experienced players at the end of the previous campaign - and there is no doubt that one of the players who has played really well in the Narberth cause has been Ollie Reyland.
Ollie plays in the centre and has formed an excellent midfield partnership with Jack Price that has provided a real cutting edge to The Otters' play that saw them rocket at one stage into second spot, with only former top class club Pontypool above them.
At 26 years of age Ollie is arguably near the peak of his powers and he has successfully climbed up into the championship standard after previously playing for Haverfordwest and the quaintly-named 'Ding's Crusaders' that played in Division Two (South) of the English League set-up.
Not the best start for an upset young feller
He started out with the junior section at Haverfordwest RFC with Steve Barnett as an excellent coach of the under 10 section, although the start of his rugby career wasn't the most auspicious in the world!
"I found it hard going from the first time I went, although there was no rough stuff and when I went off in tears I said it was because I had hurt my finger," admitted Ollie, "but my parents Jane and Tony were very patient and supportive and gradually I got to love it so much I couldn't wait for training nights or match days to come!"
From there he played initially as a No 8 or flanker under Craig Jones from under 12 to under 16 where Haverfordwest were rarely beaten with players of the calibre of Mikey Jones, Dan Birch, Simon Gardiner, Matthew Kiff, Will Bowen and Darren O'Sullivan all involved, with Whitland as their main opponents.
A real highlight for young Ollie!
One real highlight of his time in junior rugby came when Ollie was chosen to play for West Wales in his age group against their counterparts from East Wales, receiving his cap straight after the game and still treasuring it amongst his souvenirs. The match took place on the Brewery Field in Bridgend, with his team mates including Pat Roberts, Sam Pettit and Josh Thomas - and Ollie told us,
"It was a better surface than my carpet at home," with a typical chuckle!
Ollie played schools’ rugby for STP under the guidance of Gelly James and Med Richards and was delighted to captain the school team which beat Pembroke in their age group final at Narberth, with Josh Thomas, Jamie Barnett, Danny Richards, Adam and Matthew Clark in their line-up.
Good days with the Blues’ Youth . . . and an award winning senior start!
Then he made the move into youth rugby and was part of a very good Blues' side which not only won the Youth Cup but the Griffiths Cup for 18 year olds in Neyland, with coach Andrew Morgan switching him to play on the wing or in his preferred position of inside centre, where he still revels in creating space for others.
"I moved straight into first-team rugby at 18 against Cardigan at home and was chosen as the 'Man of the Match' - and I still have the unopened bottle of Bell's Whisky given to me as a memento. I was really looked after by experienced players like Gareth Green, Richard Brazell, Andrew Thicker, Mark and Paul Busch.
"It was a good time and when we won a match in Division Three (West) A at Pontarddulais by 70-0 I managed to score five tries, but still needed one more to break Nigel Griffiths' long-standing record.
Off to Bristol and skipper of ‘Ding’s’
From there Ollie followed fiancée Bethan Calas to Bristol and as well as working there he joined Ding's Crusaders and learned ' a hell of a lot' playing against the likes of Clifton, Redruth, Canterbury, Hartbury College, Ampthill and Henley Hawks.
"In my second season they made me one of their youngest captains ever and although we were relegated from a high-quality section we managed to win the Bristol Combination Cup as we beat Cleve at Bristol RFC's Memorial Ground, so it was nice to pick up some silverware!"
Back to The Blues and a switch to The Otters
"Then when Bethan qualified as an occupational therapist and got a job at Withybush Hospital we came home and as well as returning to Haverfordwest to play I also had a couple of matches on the bench for Narberth.
"I really enjoyed playing at Pembroke Road but when in 2015/16 Jonathan Dodd asked me if I wanted to play for The Otters I jumped at the chance and went along pre-season to get to know the rest of the squad.
Helped hugely by Steve and the coaches
"I was made really welcome, not only by the players but supporters as well, and really enjoyed myself from the start - and in outside centre Steve Martin I was lucky to have a midfield partner who was a massive influence on my play, talking me through things when it got tough and ever-ready to give advice.
"Jon Dodd was another important cog in my development there, as is Sean Gale as new head coach alongside Liam Gadd as backs' coach and Lloyd Phillips as defence coach - but it was like being thrown in at the deep end because we played teams like Merthyr, Bargoed, RGC and Swansea who had huge financial backing and real strength in depth.
"This season saw loads of new players drafted in to replace experienced campaigners and it is great that Jack Price and I have gelled in the centre, with Nick Gale and Liam Hutchings scoring their share of points, plus good young players up front like Pat Roberts, Dewi Williams, Callum Tree and Steff Williams helping us do far better than we ever thought possible.
Enjoyed the chance to represent Llanelli in the Premiership
"On top of us doing far better than expected I was also delighted to be invited to play a couple of matches for Llanelli in the Premiership against Swansea at St Helens and then against Carmarthen Quins.
"We lost 40-33 in the Fosters Cup against Swansea and 42-12 against Carmarthen Quins but it was another part of my learning curve and I'm hoping for more games if required."
Ollie is very keen to maintain high fitness levels and as well as being a good attender at training on Mondays and Thursdays he also pays three visits a week to the gym or the Power Shack facility run by boxing guru Graham Brockway.
It is typical of his thorough approach to his rugby and we wish this talented player continued success because he Ollie Reyland is committed, talented and professional in his approach as a very talented player at Narberth RFC!