Martyn Fowler, Head of Rugby, joined Cardiff University in 2002. His achievements include leading the Cardiff University Rugby team to three Varsity victories.
Rugby has always been and continues to be one of my lifelong passions. Prior to coming to the University I had the privilege of coaching numerous clubs. In particular on a representative level, the Cardiff Blues regional age grade squads from under-17 to the under-20s team who won the inaugural Welsh Rugby Union Reebok U20’s Championship.
In 2002, it was requested by some of the then University squad members that I come and deliver some coaching sessions for the University first team; this was the year that Cardiff University won their first Welsh Varsity match against Swansea University. Subsequently I was asked to come in to deliver more and more coaching and when my predecessor left I had an interview with the University and was offered the role of Head of Rugby.
Since working at the University, I have had the privilege of been involved in four Welsh Varsity Matches winning three of those, which is a record I’m particularly proud of. The first time we won was pretty special; we were the underdogs as Swansea had won the previous eight games. Another proud Varsity fact for me and my family has been the involvement of my son Aaron in two of the Welsh Varsity Match Victories. Aaron is half way through his Legal Practice Course at Cardiff, and as current captain will lead the team out next year on April 29 at Cardiff Arms Park, setting a record of four consecutive Varsity starts.
One of the bonuses of my role is watching the students prepare to play every week. Seeing the pride, excitement and anticipation on a Wednesday afternoon as students leave Cardiff to represent their University all over the country is contagious. No matter what happens during the day or week, it keeps them going and it provides a much needed break in the academic week and a chance to recharge the mental cells. There is no doubt students are here for the academic excellence of the University but I believe there is a place for sporting excellence which goes hand in hand with academic excellence. Current Welsh international, and Cardiff student Jamie Roberts is a great example of this – his School, the School of Medicine is very proactive working with the Welsh Rugby Union, to ensure that Jamie gets the opportunities to develop both rugby and his medical studies.
Cardiff University Rugby Club has a fantastic reputation on a national level. On an international stage it also carries a lot of weight. As well as competing in the prestigious Hong Kong 10s, this year we also plan to compete in the Big Apple Classic in New York and a great deal is being made of our visit. In Hong Kong the students have competed against some of the greatest names in world rugby. If they hadn’t attended Cardiff University how many would have been given the opportunity to play against world greats Jonah Lomu, and world Cup Winner Joe Roff
Since I’ve joined the University, we have produced 18 semi-professional rugby players which is something else we’re very proud of. Again, side by side with their degree, a sporting heritage from Cardiff University can help open many doors while seeking for employment opportunities.
Our contribution to the local community game is tremendous. We place players in and around the local clubs giving the students another opportunity to experience a very different style of rugby. Another initiative the rugby club is extremely proud of is their new website www.cardiffunirfc.co.uk which has proved to be a very productive recruitment tool.
Recently, as part of the University’s 125th anniversary celebrations, we held a player’s association dinner for past and present University rugby players. It was a huge success. It was eye-opening to see how proud the alumni were of “their” rugby club and how keen they were to ensure it remained in good hands. Graham Price and Gareth Davies, both former Wales and British Lions players, and University alumni attended the event. They shared a story with me about how they would travel outside of the UK to represent their country on weekends; but they would rush back on a Wednesday to play for their University rugby club because their University and its rugby club was so important to them. Dr Jack Matthews, also a former Welsh International, expressed how much the University had meant to him. A common theme of the night, from the alumni, was that Cardiff University had impacted on them, and played a huge role in shaping their lives.
I am very proud to have been born, lived in and worked all of my life in Cardiff. I can genuinely say that Cardiff University means so much to Cardiff; the local community seems somehow less when the students are away - it’s as if an inner town has shut down. For the future, I wish that Cardiff University - not just the University rugby team - continues to get bigger, better and stronger and that its reputation on the national and international stage continues to grow. I am very proud to have been given the opportunity to represent the University wherever our travels take us.