IN the South rugby league is often looked upon the poor relation to it’s union cousin. It’s season running at a time of year when thoughts turn from muddy fields and goalposts to prepared pitches and wickets.

It is a problem that has blighted local rugby league club Swindon St George in recent years. Over the winters many of the union clubs have undergone massive expansion in terms of juniors and coaching staff. St George were left to survive on the league diehards and a few union players who fancied a bit more rugby in the summer months.

It led to a situation where the club were regularly having to rely on ringers to get a side out, culminating in last season’s in a disatorous campaign where they lost all but one of their games, twice conceding more than 100 points.

The club realised something needed to be done in order to continute. George Cowley was appointed as captain for the new season and over the winter the core of the side trained with Sean Millwaters’ Supermarine union side whilst the club actively recruited players from around the county.

This season they have a pool of over 30 players to pick from, a far cry from the the dark days of last season for captain Cowley. The skipper is not expecting miracles at St George but is pleased to see the club enhancing its reputation and picking up new players.

“When you’re zeroed off in many games it disheartening and can make morale drop,” said Cowley.

“Team ethic, is the most important thing at the club. Everything we’re trying to do comes down to team ethic. Rugby players always take to the field to win, that’s a given, our players are taking to that field to play rugby league and to enjoy their sport.

“When you’re kind of forced into that position, where you’re phoning around for players it’s not going to improve.

“Now with the new guys they are all working really hard. I’m not expecting us to top the table but we’re attracting new players week on week and we’re attracting players who wouldn’t have come before because of bad press and other reasons, now that’s changed.

“Historically cohesion has been pressurised by internal anti-union politics, these players are here to play rugby league and that’s it. We have guys here from a few different clubs and said leave your union issues at the door.”

Development seems to be the word du jour at St George, they are not expecting to immediately tear up trees. Intsead they are looking to put something together to see them become a more stable force in the local rugby scene.

There have already been discussions about possibly relocating back to their original home at Supermarine, with the South Martson-based club’s chairman Hywel Rees offering an invitation in the Advertiser last week. It is an offer the club are considering as they look to find the best facilities and atmosphere to develop.

On the pitch St George started their season with an opening day defeat against Somerset Vikings. After that game Cowley was pleased by the performance and with the high standard of the some of the play by his players, some who are still learning the code, encouraging signs he thought.

As well as their able-bodied men’s side St George also have a thriving wheelchair team, who have begun their season in a solid fashion. In next week’s Grassroots we get a full lowdown on St George’s other rugby league team.