Like many people across the globe, South Wales Jets president and founder Liam Price had a difficult time during Covid. In fact the pandemic was the catalyst for mental health problems that saw him unable to get out of bed on the bad days. The path to a better place involved the sport of rugby league.
After playing both rugby codes, Price became a self confessed workaholic before Covid hit and he was suspended from his position on furlough.
“I thought I was losing everything,” Price, who now works as a maintenance manager for the NHS, explained to Everything Rugby League.
“It felt like everything I’d worked for was going away. So some days I would get up and go for a run or a walk in the mountains where I live and it would be fine. But then the next day I physically couldn’t get myself out of bed.
“Before that I was a typical rugby guy and didn’t really suffer from mental health issues so when I was going through that I couldn’t understand what was going on. As Covid progressed I realised it was a bit of depression and speaking to other guys they were going through exactly the same.”
Price reflected on what was missing in his life, the social aspects of being part of a team, and decided to do something about it. The initial goals were to start a charity side that raise awareness and money for mental health while playing the game they have always enjoyed on a friendly, casual basis.
“We were just going to enjoy the game rather than put too much pressure onto ourselves and raise money for charity. We played some sevens tournaments and beach rugby. We’ve done some walking challenges and stuff like that. Then because a lot of the boys had played rugby league a few of them asked if we could enter a team into the Welsh premiership. Last year was our first season, we went into the league as unknowns, and we went unbeaten winning the Grand Final and qualifying for the Challenge Cup.”
The entry of South Wales Jets into the Challenge Cup has attracted positive attention for the club with former Wigan Warriors prop Ben Flower and ex Widnes Vikings hooker Lloyd White helping to prepare the team for their Round 1 clash against West Yorkshire club Stanningley.
Price has lofty ambitions for South Wales that go beyond success in the Cup, including incorporating a junior development system and developing a sustainable model for the club long term.
“You hear stories all the time about boys at the end of under 16s or 18s and you may have three boys that sign for the Salford Academy. That’s brilliant don’t get me wrong, but what happens to the other 13 boys in the team? Because there is no pathway in Wales they go back to rugby union. Ben (Flower) and I are really keen on creating a junior section and pathway
“We know we’ve got too strong a squad for the Welsh competition and that’s not our plan to stay there for the long term. There’s a route in the Southern Conference League which is probably our next step. I want to do it properly so that it can be maintained and we can keep raising it up. It will be a proper avenue for youngsters to play rugby league in Wales.”
Price says he has a lot of respect for the Stanningley team that South Wales will meet in Round 1 of the Betfred Challenge Cup next weekend but is confident his team has the players to get the job done.
“They (Stanningley) have a good side and they play in a lot stronger league than we do. It’s going to be a tough challenge but we’ve got players that have played in League One and we’ve got players that have played the national side, and we’ve put them with a good group of youngsters. If we play the way we know we can, we’ll probably give them a shock. There’s rumors that as soon as they heard that we had Ben Flower involved they put some extra training sessions on. We’re not looking to make up the numbers, we’re looking to progress.”
Whatever happens in the Challenge Cup and which level the Jets decide to play at, the continuation of the charity element within the club is non negotiable.
“That definitely stays. We partnered with a mental health charity (Signposted Cymru) and we do one charity challenge a year. Not only that the guys pay subs every week and half of that goes to a charity donation. We will never lose that because that’s why we started. On our jerseys we have #AREYOUOK? and #ASKTWICE. The reason they ask twice is, even if you ask them twice, they might still tell you yeah I’m good but the mentality might change. Like, oh, he’s actually asking me because he cares.
“As a team we have referred 17 boys to the charity who have given them counseling and a lot of them have then come back and thanked me for saving them.”
Get behind the South Wales Jets in the Challenge Cup when they play Stanningley ARFLC on Saturday 13 January 1:30pm at Ciner Glass Stadium Ebbw Vale RFC.