TO say it has been a memorable first season in the Principality Premiership for RGC would be something of an understatement.
The Gogs have defied all the experts who gave them little chance of making an impact in the highly competitive top flight, but the predicted strugglers thrived amongst the elite and ended the campaign with talk of an official North Wales region being formed somewhere down the line.
Head coach Mark Jones has done a fantastic job since replacing Phil Davies at the helm, ensuring the squad remained grounded despite their success and putting the right measures in place to keep them progressing long into the future.
For the Parc Eirias outfit to finish in fourth and secure a playoff spot was a truly remarkable achievement, even if the trip to Merthyr proved to be a game too far in the grand scheme of things.
There was also some silverware to celebrate for the North Walians, who were one of the best supported side in the league, in the form of the WRU National Cup which they got their hands on for the first time in their short history.
While a team ethic has been the catalyst behind their success, a number of Gogs’ stars have caught the eye during the season, with New Zealand fly half Jacob Botica deservedly winning the Premiership Player of the Year after making an instant impression.
He has been flawless with the boot and equally adept in crossing the white wash, and you cannot underestimate what his presence and experience has meant to the squad during both the good and bad times this season.
Another to demonstrate his immense talent on the national stage was Afon Bagshaw, with the full-back providing energy and power in one of the most pivotal positions on the field to turn in a plethora of standout efforts for a side he has now made more than 100 appearances for.
Backs Tom Hughes and Tiaan Loots have been instrumental in the team’s success and the tandem were among the top try scorers in the league, with the likes of Sam Jones, Efan Jones and Evan Yardley providing plenty of hope for optimism as they look to progress further next term.
The club’s Rugby Academy continues to thrive as was demonstrated by the performances of Dan Owen, with the 17-year-old Rydal Penrhos School pupil making a handful of senior appearances while also named as the only North Wales representative in the Wales U18 squad, where he went on to win four caps.
In addition to his efforts on the pitch, the acquisition of legendary prop Phil John also had a huge influence on the squad, with the veteran coach putting his experience to good use to ensure that this talented and energetic side were primed and ready for any situation.
While replicating their success will be difficult next season, the foundations at RGC are such that growth in both their brand and on-pitch performances are sure to grow, with their recent clash against the Welsh national team gaining them further recognition.
Jones and his backroom staff deserve enormous credit for that, and not only are the Gogs a team feared throughout the country, but they are also changing the way people perceive rugby in the North Wales region.