2010 Welsh Regional Championship - Introduction and preview

17-Mar-2010

There may be a thin veneer of polish covering Welsh banding, but it is buffed up well from success of late.


BrangAs with just about everything in Wales, there is a wafer thin veneer of shining gloss that covers the truth that invariably lies beneath the surface. Nothing is quite what it seems at times – just look at the travails of its rugby team.

Surface

On the surface there will be plenty of shout about in Swansea on the weekend, as the Principality boasts the current World, European and British Open champion, the current National champions in the First and Second Section, as well as the Pontins and Yeovil winners.

And there is a fair bit to crow about that the rest of its bands are doing rather well too: Three contenders at the Royal Albert for the 7th year in a row, two consecutive National wins at Harrogate in the First Section, three wins on the bounce in the Second, and bands coming in the top 10 in both the Third and Fourth Section last year.

Veneer

The veneer is buffed up better than a personal wax on a Brazilian beach ball player.

However, just scratch a little below the surface and things, like sand in a bikini bottom, start to chaff a bit.

Distorted

Cory’s excellence in the top section over the last decade has distorted the picture.

Only Tredegar in 2008 has beaten them here in the last decade. Although all three bands came in the top 10 at the Albert Hall in 2007, you have to go back to 2004, when two came in the top six and to 2003 when a band other than Cory gained an automatic qualification place.

At Harrogate, Wales has undoubtedly benefited from its small numerical size, with the sections perhaps a more accurate reflection of the true playing state of its banding than other region.

Accident

That has been a bit through accident rather design though.

This year the Second Section contains, four bands promoted up from the Third and one relegated from the First in a 12-band field.  That in turn means just six bands in the Third, of whom two are returnees and two are promoted from the Fourth.

Like a Welsh version of ‘Countdown’ – it’s a bit too complicated for its own good.

The good news though is that if everyone turns up then overall numbers will be up this year, with the likes former champions Parc & Dare looking to make a mark in the First Section. More encouragingly, North Wales is sending more representatives than of late, with Oakley Silver, Rhyl and Ruthin all making appearances.   

Bit thicker

Despite the loss of a number of bands over the past decade or more (with 2008 First Section National champion, Newbridge absent this year), the good work of the three Welsh band associations (like the witches in the Wizard of Oz, they come from the North, East and West ) and organisers of contests such as the Welsh Open, that thin veneer may be getting a bit thicker.

There is always a warm welcome in Swansea, which benefits from substantial support from the local authority in getting the Brangwyn Hall at a premium discount.

Phil Morris and his team provide two very slick days of competition that is invariably all over at an hour for everyone to get home in time for the Sunday evening service in the chapel or a pint in the local pub.

That’s a polished finish not many other regions can boast about. 

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