(by Howard Evans)
Good news for Aberavon rugby supporters is that the skipper of the ‘Wizards’ for the last two seasons, outside half James Garland, is staying with the club with no thoughts yet of retiring. Garland, who will be 32 in October, began with Bishopston Comprehensive School in Swansea and played his first senior game for Vardre RFC (aged 18) in a cup-tie at Narberth. Despite his grandfather playing football for Velindre, James’ father Nigel (a scrum half) and his uncles – Jonathan (another scrum half) and Martin (centre) all played rugby for Vardre, though Martin also played for Glais and Cwmllynfell. Their coach was often Lyndon Lewis, an Aberavon captain and current backs coach for the ‘Wizards’..
On September 23, 2006, with Jamie Davies injured, Aberavon turned to the 19-years-old Garland for a crucial home match against Cardiff. He made an amazing debut scoring 15 points in a 30-21 victory, but eventually was forced out of the club after having dropped a winning goal with the last kick of a match at Ebbw Vale, and then being immediately dropped. After leaving the Wizards he played with Swansea and Carmarthen Quins before joining Llandovery from 2011-12 until 2014-15 and scoring 520 points there under the coaching of Lyndon Lewis.
Then Lewis joined Aberavon and Garland followed his former teacher scoring 554 points in four seasons since his return. In league rugby alone he has scored 1,210 points for all his clubs, while for Aberavon in his two spells and 148 appearances he has scored 782 points from 25 tries, 211 conversions, 76 penalties and four drop goals.
He said: “I really want to get to 1,000 points for Aberavon before I retire, though I know I now have Aled Thomas and Gwyn Parks pushing me for the 10 spot. In fact I am looking forward to the prospect of competition to be honest, as I have been very comfortable for the last two seasons, so that is good for me.”
However, James injured his hand making a tackle against Ebbw Vale, and lost a toe-nail (!) yet missed only two games all season. “Yes I have got to get a scan on the hand, so hopefully that will be sorted.”
His biggest asset is his handling – just like a good cricketer, which he is with Clydach. “I was a wicket-keeper, but now am bowling and batting at number five, while my younger brother Liam
was the keeper last season, but this year he is in the seconds, because of his work commitments. Sport is in the family as LIam, Jordan (Jonathan’s son) and Kieron (Martin’s son) are all in the
Vardre rugby team.”
James works for Westward Energy Services and lives in Swansea with Becci and their one-year-old son, Dougie. Captaincy for next season is not yet announced, but James, hand permitting, will be there fighting for the outside half spot and with the exciting young Chay Smith joining four other centres and with David Pritchard fit plus two or three other scrum halves, the prospects are looking great for ‘Wizard’ fans.