Tuesday 20th Jun 2017 - The WRU CEO (Martyn Phillips), Dragons CEO (Stuart Davies) and newly appointed Dragons Head Coach (Bernard Jackman) spent the day with the Media briefing on the new branding for the Region, and their own vision and objectives. At the end of this day they made the time to meet the Dragons' Supporters at Rodney Parade, and not only brief us all on these subjects, but spent majority of the available time with an open floor, in both a Q&A format, and also requesting feedback and 2-way discussions from the audience on a number of matters.
For those of the Dragons faithful that could not make it down to RP for the evening, the following is an attempt to provide a relatively concise list of some of the areas covered, and the headline responses/statements from the Dragons' Senior Leadership.
- Martyn Phillips (MP) & Stuart Davies (SD) : Confirmation that all Legal requirements had been met, and that the WRU ownership would be formalized on 27th Jun 17.
- SD : Discussed the process for redesign of the Logo, and decided upon a refresh with a sense of familiarity rather than a complete overhaul of the identity.
- SD : Acknowleding the loyalty and continued support demonstrated by the Region's Supporters it was announced that it had been decided that Season Ticket prices would be frozen for the coming season. It was furthermore added that as a additional token of appreciation it was decided to extend this offer to encompass the next 3 seasons
- SD : The new Desso pitch would commence installation in coming weeks, and confident that the pitch could sustain 3 sides playing on the surface. Additionally, all surrounding areas of the playing surface, behind posts, touchline and changing rooms, was to be a 3G surface to help durability.
- MP & SD : A lot of effort is being expended developing the Matchday experience at Rodney Parade, with intent to innovate to establish a 'buzz' around the Stadium, and establish and sustain the atmosphere that RP is famous for.
- Bernard Jackman (BJ) : Provided outline of why he was so attracted to Welsh Rugby, with the love and passion for the game imbedded within it's culture. He stated how incredibly proud he was to be representing the Supporters, and a proud and historic Rugby Region. He felt honored, and having already discussed the position with a number of stakeholders, is clear on just what a strong Rugby community existed in the area.
- BJ : Ambitious vision over the length of his current 3 year contract is to develop the structure of the Region, from top to bottom, to be capable of competing in, and sustaining, European Cup Rugby. It was clear that this vision seemed unrealistic with current results and standings, but having been involved in transformations at Connacht and Leinster, is aware of what the environment needs to be, and what will need to change, to reach those goals. Wants to change people's behaviors and skills for the long term.
- BJ : The top to bottom review will include the current Player Pathway in the Region, where the aim is to establish a system that inspires young players, and maximized their potential. With such a wealth of young talent within the Region it was important that they were nurtured and developed in the right ways. Stated players are a result of the environment they work in, and in response to a previous question over players leaving Dragons to be better elsewhere, BJ suggested that it provides evidence that other Regions/Clubs are capable of providing better environments. BJ confirmed the intent to ensure that this will change, and no stone would be left unturned in the desire to introduce the correct environment for the Team to develop both individually and together.
- BJ : Responding to question on recruitment, BJ confirmed his intent to assess the players available within the Region, and implement what he wants in terms of aggression, high tempo, and expansive game plan. During his time in France his team were noted for an aggressive style of Rugby, and high try scorers, that is his vision for the Region on the field, dynamic and powerful. Whilst implementing this plan he intends to challenge personnel and make them increasingly accountable, in a stable yet challenging environment. Once this foundation has been built, and clarity has been delivered over what is expected, he can assess what people can and cannot adapt to expectations, which will then inform recruitment. Does not want to start in the role and 'blindly' recruit without assessing what he holds. From the conversations held it appeared that the Autumn period would be the likely time when playing recruitment would be assessed, whilst the additions to backroom staff would commence as soon Bernard identified a requirement, and could identify the correct talent.
- BJ: Remembered his visits to RP, and what the atmosphere and support is like. Wants the Dragons Supporters to play their part, and make it a very uncomfortable place to play. Widening pitch to limits to get closer to supporters, and provided anecdotes about how difficult it was throwing in as a hooker on the RP touchline, and wants to ensure we all, the team and Supporters, make it a thoroughly horrible away trip for teams.
- MP : Backed up BJ's view, and drove home message that the support he needs is there, and he will be backed in terms of recruitment etc when he identifies his requirements. There is a finite playing budget, however there were very interested external investors identified. The WRU and Dragons are carefully assessing the options presented, as they want to ensure the right people are brought onboard, with the best interests of the Region in the long term. MP then opened the floor once more, and requested the audience broke into groups, and after a short period of reflection, provided him and SD with 'one thing you would change at the Region if you owned it'. The audience then provided a list of ideas, in terms of Supporter engagement, ticketing, facilities, player development etc, an activity that provoked some healthy conversation and debate.
- BJ : After questions on his vision, Bernard confirmed that his desire was to leave the Region in a far greater, and far more stable position whenever he eventually departed. This included a team that made the Supporters proud, players that had helped develop the right environment for people to flourish, and a wider Rugby Region that viewed the Dragons in a hugely positive light, and saw them as supportive and beneficial to them. Intends to take his team, and his coaching staff around the Region as much as possible, to engage with the local coaches and players, from all age grades, and to build a sense of identity. This will start very soon in terms of coaching sessions around the Region, and with a number of Summer Community Days across many of the Clubs.
- BJ : Briefed that he was aware that the changes planned would not come quickly, and that his vision may provide to be more challenging to deliver in the short term, but he stated he remained positive this was the correct path and environment to develop for the team. As such he requested two things from the Supporters during the initial period of his appointment, patience and positivity. BJ stated that significant change was being delivered, and part of that was changing the mood and the feel of the current environment. He wanted to deliver a healthy, challenging and positive environment, both at training, and within the Stadium on Matchdays. He intending to drive this message with the Media, and insisted that this is where the Supporters can help, by adopting a positive outlook on the team for the new season. We can all shape how our Region is perceived, and by the tone we adopt, from how we talk to opposition supporters, to what we post on Social Media, BJ insisted that we can all help drive forward this change in vision and culture, and all play a part.
- MP & SD : Questions from the floor on facilities, from floodlighting, bars and disabled facilities. SD confirmed that with WRU support RP could receive some much needed uplifts through the Summer, and although not all Agenda items could be delivered within this timeline, significant improvements would be made, and will continue to be made in future. Of note was the state of disrepair of the Clubhouse, which it was not envisaged to continue past 12 months as a feasible venue. It was therefore necessary to look at the reprovisioning of these facilities into the Matchday experience at the Stadium.
- BJ : In response to further questions on recruitment, BJ stated that alongside his determination to recruit correctly, once he assesses the ability of the squad to play his style of Rugby, it was also a difficult time of year to recruit the correct caliber of player. BJ honestly insisted that as a Team we were not currently good enough to be recruiting the standard of player he wants to attract. Therefore it was critical that the standards and environment were at the necessary level quickly, so that you can attract the right quality of player through the right messaging and with the aformentioned positivity. BJ confirmed how he wants to develop the young Welsh talent, and therefore key in terms of recruitment are the correct players, in both ability and attitude, to provide the necessary mentoring of these young Dragons players.
- WRU & Dragons Commercial : In response to question confirmed they will increase the research into the correct marketing of the Region, and an additional priority was valuing and showing appreciation to the current season ticket holders for their loyalty.
- SD : Question raised on having a high profile and engaging kit launch this Summer, which was agreed would be beneficial and would be reviewed.
- SD : In response to question confirmed that season ticket holders would be receiving a pack in the post early July.
The formal event then came to a close, with a number of the Dragons and WRU teams staying behind to discuss any other questions with Supporters directly.
If there are any questions regarding the event, or the matters discussed then please do not hesitate in contacting the team at the usual contact details below:
Dragons Official Supporters Club
Twitter Acct: https://twitter.com/DragonsOffic_SC
Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/214242215641004/