This week Bill Carne met up with 11 year old Rhys Kennard and enjoyed a chat with him and his parents about the amazing range of sports which the youngster from Crundale thoroughly enjoys . . .

There can be few young fellers in Pembrokeshire who could lay claim to enjoying his sport more than Rhys Kennard from Crundale because the 11 year old is a keen rugby and football player, regularly attends the SAW Gym in Haverfordwest, trains with Pembrokeshire Harriers in sprint and middle-distance running, represented his school in cross-country running and has competed in junior triathlons and junior Iron Man events.

Not content with that little lot he used to swim with Haverfordwest Seals and really enjoys kayaking around the coastline with parents Gareth and Ann-Marie; but with the increase in school work they have to be pushed on the back burner for a while – but he still finds time for his hobby, which is the slightly noisier musical component of drumming, where he is already at Grade Three Level!

Rhys goes to Sir Thomas Picton School and it is fair to say that his favourite sport is rugby, which he has been playing since he was about 7 years old. He plays for Haverfordwest Rugby club and his coaches in a very successful side are Stephen Parry and Andrew Thicker.

They did well to reach the County Junior Finals day but they had to learn how to accept defeat in the final as he and his Haverfordwest team mates lost heavily to a very strong Tenby team

He enjoys playing centre but showed his adaptability when selected by Ken Davies to represent Pembrokeshire against other regions like Ceredigion, Carmarthenshire, and Dinefwr, slotting in as a strong-running second row and using his handling skills to good effect.

He enjoyed being involved and there is no doubt that one of the highlights was their achieving the double over Llanelli and scoring ten tries to the opposition’s two in the home match at Haverfordwest.

“It was brilliant,” said Rhys, “and our coach was pleased by the way we played, especially when we beat them at Kidwelly at the away match.”

 “Rhys is a very good young player who has really improved as his confidence has grown,” coach Ken told us, “and one of his real plus factors is his willingness to listen and eagerness to learn. He fitted in well with his team-mates and it is a pity that there is no further chance to play for the county for a few years yet, because of rule changes brought in by the WRU.”

Rhys also plays for his school team and enjoys practicing rugby with his older brother Darrell Newsham, who had trials with the Scarlets Academy when he was younger and now plays for Taffs Well in the national leagues. His rugby pedigree is continued because his cousin is none other than Simon Gardiner, who is a tough as teak prop with The Scarlets – whilst his favourite rugby player is Taulupe Faletau, the Welsh No 8.

On the football front Rhys has been playing since he was six and has been a keen member of Clarbeston Road Junior sides over the past two seasons and plays in defence for the under 12s, where his coaches are Dan Jones, Tigger Harries and Raff Barnett.

They train on a Monday evening and are currently fourth in the table – and the undoubted highlight for Rhys came last season when he scored from a free kick which he took on the half-way line!

Rhys has been going to SAW Weightlifting for over a year where he has learnt a lot there from Simon Roach and Justin Head, with a terrific atmosphere where the older lifters like Chloe Hood and Niamh Roach give him every encouragement too. He attends straight from school and dad Gareth is always waiting to take him home afterwards.

“They are very careful with safety,” dad Gareth told us, “and very patient when he started out by learning techniques with just a bar, minus any added weights, and although he naturally finds ‘The Snatch’ more difficult that the ‘Clean & Jerk’.”

Both techniques are coming on nicely and if his coaches think he is ready to compete then the Welsh Schools’ Championships are to be held in STP Sports Hall late in January and they might let him enter – but only if they think he is good and ready and the family are in agreement.

Rhys ran in the Oakwood County Cross-Country Championships for his junior school in Prendergast and did so well that he represented Pembrokeshire at the next stage in Carmarthen Park.

From there it was off to Pembrokeshire Harriers on a Tuesday night where he enjoys running middle distance and sprint, where he is coached respectively by Pete Freeman and Richard Jones – and is sure to be competing for the club in his age category next summer

Rhys used to be a member of Haverfordwest Seals but had to give it up in the last year because of time constraints but he still enjoys swimming and goes to the pool regularly. He represented his school in the Urdd Championships and had a great time.

“I came fourth in every event I took part in,” said Rhys with a lovely chuckle!

It has certainly helped him with his ‘Go-Tri’ attempts as he won at Haverfordwest in his age category, as well as doing well in Pembroke at the three sections of swimming, cycling and running.

The Kennard family have also been involved in kayaking at Haverfordwest Kayak Club and although mum Ann-Marie and Rhys have had to step back a little because of their other commitments they hope to re-join Gareth on the water around places like St Brides and Little Haven next summer.

“The club is superbly run,” Ann-Marie told us, “with the emphasis on safety as we initially had training sessions at Haverfordwest Leisure Centre’s pool before going out on the sea.

“We all enjoy watching porpoises and on one occasion a seal popped up within touching distance and almost leapt over my kayak, which Rhys thought was brilliant”!

It is great to see families involved in this way and Rhys Kennard most certainly benefits from the wealth of sporting experiences he has been given and takes on with terrific enthusiasm. He recently attended the Sport Pembrokeshire Awards Evening at Folly Farm with the squad at the SAW Gym and thoroughly enjoyed the experience – and could soon be back there on an individual basis if he maintains his current successes and total commitment to sport!