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Swimming’s own Santa Claus

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By Jonathan Twigg

IN any sport there are individuals who age like a fine wine and mature from the grape to become, over time, someone who is a respected and admired product, whom many strive to become.

One such full bodied person would be Carmarthen Swimming Club’s John Towle, hailing from Coventry in the West Midlands but now firmly ensconced in the landscape of West Wales sport.

John and his wife Hazel moved to Newcastle Emlyn in 2013 having lived in Bedworth for 32 years, with their two sons Adam, now living in London and Neil who is still residing in the Midlands at Hockley Heath, where John regularly returns for family time and to mix with old swimming friends at galas.

John started swimming in the 1960’s as a teenager at one of the three Coventry Clubs, where the current 50 meter pool stands today in the City Centre. But back in those days 33 yards was a more than a suffice distance for swimmers to train.

As, in all walks of life, choices had to be made when he was growing up and John followed a route into Scouting meaning swimming subconsciously took a backward step for 35 years.

His enthusiasm for Scouting prevailed from being a Senior Scout and gaining the Queen Scout Award, then the next 30 years as a Scout leader, progressing, eventually, to Assistant County Commissioner for Leader Training along with several years of assisting Leader Training course at Gilwell Park in London.

This role entailed him planning and delivering the training programme for all leaders whilst remaining at the forefront of nurturing young people to ‘be the best they can be’.

Eventually the lure of the swimming pool returned as John took his own children to Bedworth Otters Swimming Club. “As a parent I spent hours sitting and watching my two boys swim, so when an invitation was given to train as a technical official I accepted, and the rest is history.”

John committed the same enthusiasm he showed for scouting onto the pool deck and as time passed so swimming took over as his passion where the ‘boredom of sitting and watching the sport now sees him as one of Swim Wales most important cogs’.

His children have moved on from the sport, but John had found his calling and remained actively involved on the pool deck, qualifying as a Referee in 2004.

As part of Nuneaton and Bedworth Swimming Club (they merged late 1990s) he first got involved in training new officials to the sport at the Club, before moving to Coventry Swimming Club, taking responsibility for all their official’s training programme.

This led to an appointment to training officials across the Midlands region, particularly ‘young officials’ which he held until he moved to Wales four and a half years ago.

Short in stature he may be but John makes up for this through a well-spoken dialect, certainly a revered asset when communicating on the pool deck.  John is a man who listens, connects and reasons before speaking, which instantly earns him the respect he deserves, in many avenues of life, swimming being just one of them.

He is an active soul, despite his advancing years and the fact he has survived two cardiac infarctions, the second of which now sees him with a refitted heart. He enjoys walking, “primarily with a golf stick for support” he chuckles “and I’m also hands on at present in a major renovation of my garden, weather dependent of course.”

Both he and his wife have embraced life in Newcastle Emlyn, where he is supportive of his wife’s Chairmanship of the U3A, whilst John takes responsibility for producing the monthly newsletter.

He is also a keen clay pigeon shooter, “but like my golf it is dictated by time, weather and other commitments” he smiles ruefully. “Thankfully I get to play snooker on a more regular basis and enjoy the Sunday quiz nights in the local pub where my broad shoulders come to the fore in supporting the teams above us.”

Moving to Wales didn’t end his association with swimming; when he relocated he identified Carmarthen Swimming Club as the ‘right’ club, explaining “naturally I applied for membership and I am currently active in training club officials once again after some persuasion from Denise Conlon”!  John is committed to supporting the Club events, Urdd galas, Regional and Swim Wales national events and often finds himself away from home for nights on end.

“I do get tired, but swimming is a family, and everyone is supportive of each other. Those times away from the pool deck are enjoyable and friendships forged which for me have lasted a lifetime”.

John came through the sport and was on the pool deck along with British greats like Olympic British Paralympian swimmer Ellie Symonds, Olympic, European and Commonwealth breast stroke medallist swimmer Adam Whitehead and Olympic, European and Commonwealth back stroke competitor swimmer Jo Deakin.

“Swimming is a very technical sport, where the officials are present to see fair play for the competitors in a sport where the dedication to training can see them spending 16+ hours a week in the pool.

“Technology advancements have helped officials enormously but we had to embrace them as they were introduced.”

Due to his involvement at British National galas John’s experience meant he cascaded the information and technology through the ranks, although he still enjoys the ‘old school’ technique of pen, paper and a stop watch.

The future is one based on tomorrows for John. “My calendar each year is planned meticulously, with swimming taking a primary spot as I enjoy retirement from being a Technical Illustrator and Exhibition’s Project Manager. Evenings spent with fellow swimming officials are a time to relax, reflect and reminisce’ he says with a smile, and enjoying his favourite tipple, a glass of red wine.

He has had offers for key job roles as a double for Santa Claus, notably in the lead up to Christmas “but I turn them down as it’s also a busy month for swimming!” Perhaps then not a humbug as John is a living tribute to the sport of swimming.

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Sport

Old Gold charged by FAW

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CARMARTHEN Town have been charged with allegedly playing an ineligible player in their 2-0 win over Llanelli Town on New Years Day.

A statement from the Football Association of Wales states that the charge relates to David Vincent who had been suspended having accumulated five yellow cards.

The statement reads: “The Football Association of Wales (FAW) has charged Carmarthen Town AFC under FAW Rule 38.1.6 and Welsh Premier League Rule 18 with allegedly playing an ineligible player during their 2-0 win over Llanelli Town AFC on Tuesday, January 1, 2019.

“The charge relates to the playing of David Vincent, who was suspended as and from December 28, 2018 for one match for the accumulation of five yellow cards.

“Carmarthen have seven business days until January 16, to respond to the charge. The matter will be heard by an FAW Disciplinary Panel at the earliest possible opportunity.”

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Llanelli and Llandovery through in Cup

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LLANELLI and Llandovery are both through to the second round of the WRU National Cup after they secured first round victories on Saturday (Jan 5).

Llandovery eased through to the second round as they scored a century of points against Championship side Beddau.

The Drovers scored 16 tries and 12 conversions with Corey Baldwin scoring four of those tries.

Kristian Jones also scored two tries and had all twelve conversions for a personal points haul of 34.

There were also braces for Joseff Powell and Carwyn Evans. Dino Dallavalle, Lewis Ellis-Jones, Lee Rees, Rhodri Jones and replacement Llew Smith also crossed the whitewash as the home side sealed a 104-0 victory.

Llanelli also went through after also beating Championship side Ystrad Rhondda 18-32.

Taylor Davies was first on the scoresheet for Llanelli and Ashley Sutton then added a penalty. Kalum Evans and Thomas Rogers then scored tries for the visitors while Sutton converted the second of the two.

Gareth George also scored while Rogers grabbed his second try to which Sutton added the extras to seal the win.

Carmarthen Quins were agonisingly knocked out of the first round after a late Rhys Jones penalty gave Ebbw Vale a 19-20 victory.

Aled Thomas scored an early penalty for the Quins to level things up but the Vale took the lead only for Osian Knott to score a try to which Thomas added the extras to level the game at 10-10.

The Vale took the lead again but a Thomas penalty on the stroke of half time kept them in it at 13-17.

Thomas then kicked two second half penalties to put the Quins ahead and it looked as if they would go through but Jones had other ideas as his penalty won it for the Vale.

Newcastle Emlyn bowed out of the competition as they were beaten 21-36 by Premiership strugglers Bargoed.

The Emlyn were very much in the game at half time with the score at 21-22 in favour of Bargoed but they took control in the second half to seal their passage.

The draw for the second round was made on Tuesday (Jan 8) and it saw Llanelli drawn away to fellow Premiership side Pontypridd.

Llandovery were given a home tie against Trebanos who saw off Maesteg Quins in the first round.

Those ties will be played on the weekend of January 26, but before that all sides return to Premiership action on Saturday (Jan 12).

The Quins face Bargoed looking to respond to their Cup defeat while Llandovery are at home to Bedwas and Llanelli are away to Merthyr.

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Sport

Blacks hold on to deny Seagulls

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BURRY Port held off a strong second half comeback from Fishguard as they earned victory by a single point in a thrilling game which finished 35-34 in favour of the Blacks on Saturday (Jan 5).

The Blacks were on a five-match losing streak while Fishguard were looking to bounce back after being beaten by Pembroke in their last game.

The game started at a frantic pace with Burry Port’s Luke Ruddal gathering their own kick at kick off and piling on the pressure on the Seagull’s try line, and with quick ruck ball Ruddal darted over for the opening score.

The Blacks definitely had a spring in their step and looked dangerous with ball in hand, a cross field kick looked as if it would bring another score only for winger Tom Davies to just lose control. This didn’t stop the Blacks and from a driving lineout 10m out and the home pack rolling to the try line, the referee awarded a penalty try and yellow card for collapsing the maul.

Burry Port continued to apply the pressure and tried hard to make the extra man count and with Youth winger Tom Davies making up for this early mistake finished a fine try, A penalty soon after by outside half Ceiron Thomas stretched the lead further.

Fishguard however were in no mood to roll over, a rare outing into the Burry Port half saw a lovely cross field kick work perfectly for Ed Bendall to run in unopposed.

This started a period of good play by the visitors and forced Burry Port into some errors and giving Penalties away, and with good field position managed to force another try from close range through Chris Shousha.

Photo by Darren Harries

Burry Port hit straight back with a move on half way slicing the defence apart for winger Tom Davies to race in for this second and the bouns point try.

The game continued to be played at a frantic pace and Burry port were enjoying themseleves, another excellent team try was finished off by that man again Tom Davies who completed his Hat trick and surely left Fishguard to much to do to get back in the game, score 32-10.

The last play of the half from the restart saw Fishguard regain possession and manage to put the Blacks under pressure and after a few advantages from the referee for Burry Port ill-discipline saw a yellow card given to Burry Port.

With Fishguard knowing a penalty wasn’t enough to get back in the game they opted for a scrum and after a few phases a missed tackle allowed Ben John to cross under the posts and give them a lifeline for the second half.

The second half was a totally different affair with Burry Port looking to protect their lead by opting for territory rather than possession and resulted in them kicking far too much ball away.

Fishguard seemed to enjoy having the ball more and with some powerful runners in their ranks started causing Burry Port problems. A few loose kicks were capitalised on by the Fishguard back 3 and after another fine cross field kick saw them get a well-deserved try, scored by Jordan James to make it 32-22 and bring the Seagulls back in the game.

Burry Port failed to convert a few chances and the supporters could sense a bit of uncertainty creeping in. Another yellow card added to the worries of the Burry Port team, and a break by the visitors led to another try from Ed Bendall and the momentum had most definitely shifted to the Seagulls.

The score was now 32-27 and both sides knew the next score would be vital with time running out.

Finally Burry Port stopped kicking the ball away and after a long phase of ball in hand worked their way up field and once in kicking range forced a penalty which fullback Ben Williams put over to put the Blacks a crucial 8 points ahead with only a couple of minutes remaining.

Fishguard had already secured a try bouns point and even though there might not have been enough time to get the two scores needed for victory there was a losing point up for grabs and to their credit they managed just that with the ref calling last play and Fishguard managing to keep the ball alive and James crossed at the death for his second to also get an important score which could prove crucial come the end of season.

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