"Secretary, Gower Park Limited"
"As the first of the Directors to take a turn at writing the front piece in this year's programme, at the outset might I say that it is a real pleasure to be able to welcome our visitors Newport and all rugby supporters to the Gnoll today for the opening of our "home" season.
"And what a season it promises to be. Apart from rejuvenated Wales hosting the Rugby World Cup and an exciting draw in the European Cup, we can contemplate the thrills and spills of the Welsh /Scottish League which sees Edinburgh and Glasgow join our competition as well as the return of the "rebels" Cardiff and Swansea.
"Talk of Cardiff returns us neatly to our visitors Newport who overcome their old rivals in last Saturday's televised match by 18-13. Of course, both teams were missing their World Cup stars but there is nothing like a win to launch a new season - particularly with talk of an Anglo Welsh League in the air!"
"We at Neath have firmly set our target as a place in such a competition if it gets off the ground. Skipper Rowland Phillips has even set his sights on a top two finish. It was vital therefore that we enjoyed a winning start at Dunvant last Saturday and Neath's aim must be to keep that record intact today."
"Coach Lyn Jones, in keeping with the high standards which we at The Gnoll expect, was not altogether happy with the quality of play at Dunvant. However, the squad have worked hard this week to improve and all are aware that it will take a bigger effort to overcome Newport."
"Moving briefly to matters off-field. Again, it has been a summer of change for Neath Rugby in that last May saw the beginning of restoring local decision making to Neath Rugby with the appointment of four local directors (five including Neath Athletic's Huw Lewis who is the WRU District D representative) to the Board of Gower Park Ltd."
"Since May, the new group have been busy reviewing procedures and setting up a business plan within the existing budget as we strive to become "professional" in all we do. To this end, the Board must increase revenue and we believe that we have taken a key step towards this with the appointment of Matt Singer as our Commercial and Marketing Manager."
"Matt is very keen to make Neath a "community" Club. Without the full backing of the locality (individuals, groups, businesses etc.) professional rugby cannot survive and several initiatives have been, are being launched or will be launched to promote this aim."
"Alongside its professionals, modern rugby still requires a lot of voluntary support and the Board are grateful that many of last season's volunteers continue to iend some assistance. There is much to be done and those who feel they can lend a hand (on matchdays or during the week) are urged to contact me via the Club Office."
"For the meantime, on with today's game. Enjoy yourselves and don't forget to support the Blacks here at The Gnoll next Saturday against Cardiff (kick off 2.30pm) and, before that, on Tuesday evening when we visit Cwmavon (kick off 6.00pm)."
"Chief Rugby Writer, The South Wales Argus"
"What do Allan Lewis and Graham Henry have in common? Apart from being heavily involved m the Welsh Rugby step-up, Henry as coach and Lewis as backs' selector they both want to keep the lid on things - and both have got a real job on their hands to do just that."
"Henry is keen to play down the massive level of expectation which has built up over Wales' chances in the World Cup. Wales have won eight games in a row for their best record since 1975-76 and the Millennium Stadium has been full to its permitted capacity for all the pre-World Cup warm-up matches. And Henry urges fans to lower their sights. Some hope!"
"Lewis is saying much the same when it comes to Newport. He is anxious to lower the level of expectation among supporters given that many of the summer signings will not be available until November. Again, what a hope!"
"The past few months have produced an explosion of activity on the transfer front at Rodney Parade, the like of which has never been seen. It all began at the end of last season, which proved hugely disappointing. Chief Executive Tony Brown moved quickly to keep Lewis on board when he had the chance to move to Cardiff or Llanelli. From that point players arrived thick and fast, mainly high quality ones with a major reputation and career on the international stage. Brown provided the huge financial outlay as both he and Lewis set about bringing world stars to Rodney Parade."
"Peter Rogers was the first, a declaration of intent that Newport meant business. He has now established himself in the Welsh team and performed so well that he is regarded as one of the finest loose-head props in the world. Fijian lock Simon Raiwalui, Wales replacement scrumhalf David Llewellyn, London Scottish hooker Damien Cummins, former Wales fullback Justin Thomas and Bridgend fullback Gareth Cull all signed on. That presented big progress from previous years as Brown and Lewis, acting in tandem and with huge mutual respect, showed they intended Newport to make a mark. But even that paled into insignificance compared with what was to follow. The real bombshell which shocked Welsh rugby was the signing of Shane Howarth, not just out of the blue but from under the noses of arch rivals Cardiff, who had Howarth lined up. At a hastily arranged Press conference - the first of several at Rodney Parade - Howarth explained how impressed he had been with Brown and how the deal was done in days."
"But Brown was not finished yet. At another Press conference to announce the signing of South African centre Andy Marinos, a player with Welsh qualifications who was quickly drafted into the Wales squad. It was suggested Springbok Gary Teichmann might be available. Brown moved in and within weeks Teichmann, captain of South Africa in a record winning 17 tests, but harshly dumped after a losing streak, was at Rodney Parade. Within days he had signed as well in a move which shocked the rugby world. Fellow South African Franco Smith also followed suit after missing out on the World Cup Squad."
"That makes a total of seven internationals and a Super 12 player recruited by Newport this summer. As a result, membership has rocketed and Newport have been the talk of the media."