Celtic Crusaders
The Brewery Field

Ground No. 17
Visited - Saturday 5th September 2009
Result - Celtic Crusaders 16-42 Huddersfield Giants
Competition - Super League
Attendance - 1988

Founded in 2005, then as with nearly all Rugby League teams, Celtic Crusaders can trace their roots back to the code of union, although theirs is a slightly more unconventional route than those who broke away and formed the Northern Union in 1895. Situated in the valleys of South Wales, the historic clubs of Pontypridd and Bridgend merged in 2003 to become the Celtic Warriors, one of a number of new regional sides. The venture however was short-lived, disbanding in 2004, but from the ashes arose a new team and with it a switch of codes, with the hope that RL could be expanded into an area that hadn’t seen any real number of clubs competing for nearly a century.

Crusaders had started off well, winning the titles of both National League’s One and Two within their first three seasons, enough for them to be awarded a Super League licence for 2009. Their nod over established sides like Leigh and Widnes had been controversial, but with most fans supporting the expansion of the game then they had been welcomed into Super League with the hope of similar success that Catalan Dragons had achieved during their first few years.

Unfortunately their first season hadn’t turned out positive at all, with an awful points return, not to mention low crowds and a visa scandal which had seen the deportation of 6 players. Another major criticism of the club had been that of their home ground, the Brewery Field, so in response they announced that they would be leaving there at the end of the season and moving 30 miles up the M4 to Newport. It had made me kick myself a bit, having turned down the opportunity of visiting when Wigan played there earlier in the season, but with one game left then I was determined to get along, circling their final home fixture of the season, against Huddersfield Giants.

Setting off early, then the journey down to Mid Glamorgan had gone well, changing trains in Shrewsbury before arriving into Bridgend just after midday. Walking around the town beforehand, fans had already started to arrive, with shirts of both clubs visible outside pubs, but the game wasn’t due to kick-off until 6pm, so I’d taken advantage of this and had planned an earlier match, heading off to see Bryntirion Athletic take on Pontardawe in the Welsh Football League, before a change of sports and on to the main game of the day.

Situated on the edge of the town centre, the Brewery Field has a long history, first having been used in 1878. It’s been pilloried by the RL community, especially since the clubs move into Super League, however after entering I found myself pleasantly surprised. Along the near side sits the Grandstand. From the outside it looks relatively modern with blue metal cladding and a modern brick built extension to the rear, however once inside it clearly dates back much further, perhaps pre-war. The seating is raised from pitch level with hard standing in front and a number of stairwells allowing access to the seats, which are covered by a half-pitched roof supported by a number of pillars with two glass screens at either end adding more character. It only runs for about two thirds of the pitch, with the club shop and some offices in the near corner. The ‘Dunraven Family Stand’ sits at the near end which, surprisingly for a ‘Family Stand’ is a terrace as opposed seats. A low cover provides shelter from the elements, whilst beneath is sloping ‘pavement-style’ terracing as opposed traditional steps which can be found on the far side. The biggest at the ground, the East Stand was formerly an open terrace, running nearly the length of the field and sloping in at each end, but in the late 90s a row of corporate boxes was added overhanging the rear of the terrace, and large roof providing cover to the front, albeit not a lot with the roof so high above the terracing that the rain which started to fall just before kick-off still came in thanks to a light wind. The far end of the ground is unfortunately empty, with a car park to the rear past a patch of grass which contained a number of amusements for the children who had come to the match, including bouncy castles. This was the only let down to the ground really, although there was one more in store. All week running up to the match I’d been looking forward to a pint of Brains, preferably their dark mild, yet despite sponsoring the club there was none to be had, Worthingtons or fizzy yellow pop (alternatively known as lager) being the only beers on offer. Worthies it was then, and after sitting down to read the programme, then it was eventually time for the game to start.

As mentioned, Crusaders’ results had been disappointing throughout the season, and more so since losing six of their Aussie imports thanks to visa irregularities. Leeds had stuffed them 68-0 in their last game, and with Huddersfield being one of the form teams, not to mention a Challenge Cup Finalist, then the result seemed rather inevitable, the resignation, and almost lack of interest from the home fans testament to this. Starting with just 8 of the team that had played at Wembley the week before, it took the visitors only four minutes to open the scoring, David Hodgson touching down in the corner with little resistance. Liam Fulton was next over and in a dull, lacklustre game they were 36-0 ahead by the hour mark without ever really having got out of first gear. Celtic did get three tries back late on, but by that time you half suspected that Huddersfield weren’t even trying any more, and having added another of their own, then the game was well and truly over, if it had ever really begun.

Afterwards then I made my way out fairly quickly to get the train home, the journey back going as planned, arriving home in good time, glad to have got the chance to see the ground. Whilst it might not portray the image that the club/RFL want to, it is a place that has character, and I found myself liking. Indeed, if there had been another stand at the far end then it might even be described as ‘a cracker’! The put-downs of worst ground in Super League are a little over the top, I’d put it above Wakefield, and it had a similar feel to Castleford’s Wheldon Road being a bit bigger/more developed than Belle Vue. For those upset about missing out, there is still hope though. Whilst the Crusaders will be playing in Newport from next year, the ground will still be in use, by Bridgend RFC and Bridgend Town FC, so it’s good that it will still be around, although what the future holds remains to be seen if Crusaders’ plan for a new modern stadium in the town comes to fruition. Whether that will happen is anyones guess, as whilst no one was expecting them to storm the league, their first season has been disappointing, and there seemed to be a malaise amongst the crowd that you don’t feel bodes well, especially if results don’t pick up next year. The game aside, one thing that did really annoy me and kind of signifies the apathy that such a run of poor results can bring was a Kiss (Ibiza, dance music) tent in the corner. It’s not unusual to see the likes doing a promotion before a game, but they didn't stop playing music throughout, which seemed somewhat disrespectful and makes you question the standards set if this is allowed. It might not be a major thing, and of course wouldn't have changed the result, but you can't imagine it happening anywhere else. It makes you wonder how the matchday experience and interest of potential new fans can be focussed towards the game itself when you have sanctioned ‘entertainment’ which so belittles it. I do genuinely hope that expansion works here, and whilst I left feeling more positive towards it than I did before, there is still a lot of work that needs done for the club to prosper instead of going the way of other sides like Paris or Gateshead. For the sake of the game as a whole, let alone Crusaders, then hopefully the venture does work out.  

Welcome to the Brewery Field

Rear of the Grandstand

The Club Shop & Offices

Opposite corner to the turnstiles

Rear of the East Stand

Rear of the East Stand and Hospitality Entrance

The East Stand

The Far End

The Grandstand

The Grandstand

The East Stand

The Dunraven Family Stand

Ready for Kick Off

The Grandstand

The East Stand

Brewery Field Panoramic 1

Brewery Field Panoramic 2

Brewery Field Panoramic 3


No comments:

Post a Comment