Ever wonder what happened to the first players who donned a Dragons jersey in the region’s first competitive fixture? Well, wonder no more as we have delved into the archives and done some research to bring you a good old fashioned ‘where are they now’ article on the very first Dragons XV. The region’s first league game was against 6 September 2003, a 35-11 loss to the Scarlets at Stradey Park. Some of the players in that first side would go on to be stalwarts for the region, racking up a record number of appearances for the region and a few Welsh caps to boot. Read on to find out what those first Dragons players are doing now. We hope you enjoy reading as much as we did writing it.*
1. Adam Black
Barking born Black joined the Dragons from Ebbw Vale following the region's inception in 2003. Known for his strong scrummaging ability and charging runs, he made 163 appearances for the region and became a fan favourite at Rodney Parade, popping up on the scoresheet on many occasions. He left the region to join Worcester in 2009, going on to play 48 times for the Warriors before retiring in 2011. Following retirement, Adam and his wife Naomi moved to Cornwall and set up a luxury Yurt campsite near Bude (http://www.east-thornecornwall.co.uk/home/). Black is still involved in rugby as a player-coach for Bude RFC, helping them claim the Cornwall/Devon South West Division Championship in 2016. Proving the old adage that Props, like a fine wine, only get better with age.
2. Paul Young
Paul Young joined the Dragons in 2003 having previously played for Newport RFC. He joined as a Welsh international following his solitary cap vs Romania on 27 August 2003. Young was capped 16 times by the Dragons in the region’s first season before having to retire in 2005 after sustaining knee ligament injuries. Young went on to become head coach of Connacht feeder side, Galwegians, Highfield RFC and Bridgend RFC and also spent 5 years as director of rugby at Coleg Gwent in Cross Keys, a key feeder team to the Dragons Academy. He is currently a Director of So Exclusive Interiors, a provider of luxury furnishings for residential and commercial clients across the UK. http://soexclusiveinteriors.com/about-us/
3. Chris Anthony
Chris Anthony won 17 international caps for Wales before arriving at the region from Ebbw Vale in 2003. The tight head, also known for his scrummaging, went on play 43 games for the region over 3 seasons before retiring in 2006. He is now a school teacher in the Neath valley area.
4. Ian Gough
An icon at Rodney Parade for his barnstorming performances and bone crunching hits in both Newport RFC and Dragons jerseys. Goughy, arguable one of the region’s greatest servants, played 139 times for Newport RFC before representing the Dragons 102 times in two stints from 2003 to 2007 and 2014 to 2015 (we won’t comment on 2007-2014!). He also went on to represent Wales 64 times between 1998 and 2009, being part of two grand slam winning squads in 2005 and 2008. Goughy retired in 2015 having played 494 games of professional rugby in a career which spanned 3 separate decades! He now works as a consultant for Education Staffing Solutions, sourcing educational professionals for schools and giving motivational speeches to schoolchildren. He is also an ambassador for the Princess Gate Charity Trust.
5. Peter Sidoli
Another who joined the region from Ebbw Vale in 2003. Peter, brother of Rob, Sidoli was a reliable, underappreciated lock who went on to play 114 times for the region over 5 years before joining Calvisano in 2008. Sidoli went on to play for Neath RFC in 2009 and is now a personal trainer. He still turns out for Pontypridd RFC on occasions too! (http://www.sidolifitness.co.uk/)
6. Shawn van Rensburg
A South African back row who joined the region after spells at Bridgend, Neath, Toulon and Pontypool. He had two spells with the Dragons (2003/04 and 2005/06) racking up 16 appearances before switching to rugby league and representing the Celtic Crusaders. Is now back in South Africa and director of rugby at Glenwood High School, in Durban, having been head of rugby at Voortrekker High School (Pietermaritzburg).
7. Jason Forster
Fozzie is a cult hero at Rodney Parade having played for the Black and Ambers 109 times between 1999 and 2003 and scoring 45 tries! He joined the Dragons in 2003 and was capped 73 times for the region from 2003 to 2006, scoring 24 tries. He earned his one and only cap for Wales in their tour to Argentina in 2004, getting on the score sheet with a try in a 50-44 defeat (also represented Wales’ Sevens in two World Cups and toured with Barbarians). Forster left the Dragons in 2006 to join Doncaster Knights as a player coach, helping them to their highest ever league position before joining Henley as head coach in 2008. Forster had a spell as head coach at Chippenham RFC between 2010 and 2013, and he now combines being a sales executive at Clarity Copiers with ambassadorial duties at the Dragons.
8. Rhys Oakley
Oakley joined the Dragons from Bristol RFC following their relegation from the English premiership in 2003. As well as representing the Dragons 50 times in 3 seasons, the number 8 also played for Wales twice in 2003, and for Wales Sevens in the 2006 Commonwealth Games. Following his time at the Dragons, he left to join Leeds Tykes (now Yorkshire Carnegie) under then head coach Stuart Lancaster, who was head coach at the time. Oakley spent 5 years at Headingly before spending a season at Bourgoin in France and Northampton Saints before a two year stint as player-coach of Plymouth RFC. He is now a player-coach at Hartbury RFC.
9. Rhodri Jones
Played 12 times for the Dragons in their inaugural season before moving to the Scarlets in 2004. Since retiring from Rugby in 2005, he has continued his involvement within the game as senior team head coach at Trebanos for 7 years and now as backs coach at Swansea RFC. He is also Managing Director and Co-Founder of Accelerate Success, coaching and training provider dedicated to Sport. (http://qa.acceleratesuccess.writemedia.co.uk/about-us.aspx)
10. Craig Warlow
Warlow joined the region in 2003 from Bridgend RFC and went on to amass 351 points in 69 appearances over four years between 2003 and 2007. Retired from playing in 2007 to become a sports lecturer, which he now does alongside a head coaching role at Newport RFC.
11. Ben Breeze
A player who is a triple international after representing England (sevens), Wales (sevens) and Rwanda (tens) in competition. Breeze Joined the region from Newport RFC having made 75 appearances for the Black and Ambers between 1999 and 2003, scoring 28 tries. He went on to play 56 times for the region, touching down 10 times before joining Exeter Chiefs in 2006. Following 3 seasons at Sandy Park, Breeze joined Bristol rugby as a community development officer, a role which he continues to fulfil to this day. He also had a stint as Director or Rugby at Cleve RFC.
12. Steve Winn
Winn joined the region from Swansea RFC in 2003 having previously played for Bridgend. He was capped 29 times for the region over two seasons before joining Newport RFC. Steve Winn Joined Cornish Pirates in 2006 where he made 88 starts and came off the bench 45 times as a replacement – his debut coming against Gwent club Ebbw Vale in August 2006. He re-joined Bridgend in recent years and has been involved in coaching, although he was a replacement in their victory over Pontypridd RFC in the 2015 Swalec Cup final.
13. Andy Marinos ©
Joined Newport RFC from the Stormers in 1999 and subsequently joined the Dragons in 2003, skippering the region in their first year. Marinos played 26 times in his one year at the Dragons as they narrowly missed out on the Celtic League title, settling for third place in what is their best finish to date. He also played 8 times for Wales between 2002 and 2003. Following retirement at the end of the 2003/04 season, Marinos moved up to the board room to become CEO of the Dragons, a role which he held for the 2004/05 season before moving back to his native South Africa. Since then he has combined a number of roles including SARU Acting Managing Director and Board Member (2008-10), Springbok Team Manager (2008), Manager of South African National Teams (2005-2010) and World Rugby Sevens Advisory Group (2008-2015). In January 2016 he rejoined SANZAR, a joint venture between the rugby unions of Argentina, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, as CEO.
14. Nathan Brew
Brewy was capped 75 times for the region in two stints from 2003 to 2007 and 2010 to 2011. He joined the region from Newport RFC in 2003 and left to join the Scarlets in 2007. He moved from Stradey Park to join Bristol in 2008 and, following a one year stint, had a season at Neath RFC in 2009, before re-joining the region for his final year of professional rugby in 2010. Brew was capped by Wales in 2003 in a try scoring display versus Romania. After rugby, Brew has had a variety of business interests and is now an area sales manager for Benchmark by Kingspan.
15. Brett Davey
The former Beddau, Bridgend, Caerphilly and Pontypridd maestro joined the region in 2003 and had one year at Rodney Parade, appearing 5 times and slotting two penalties. After hanging up his boots, he moved into coaching with Beddau RFC, before heading to England, where he had stints at the helm of Coventry, Cornish Pirates and Doncaster. He is now head coach of Caerphilly RFC where he was appointed ahead of the 16/17 season.
*A special thanks to Chris Kirwan and the South Wales Argus for the pictures they supplied in this article.