Men and women in Taff Ely are seeing ‘net’ gains in their fitness and wellbeing, with the arrival of walking football and rugby groups in Pontyclun.

The Cwm Taf community is the latest to launch the walking sports, following the success of teams at Sardis Road, Pontypridd, and Cambrian in the Rhondda. Men and women of all ages are welcome, with an emphasis on having fun, making friends and improving fitness at a gentle pace.

The rugby and football sessions, which take place in Pontyclun Park every Wednesday morning, have been set up through funding by the Taff Ely Primary Care Cluster and with the support of Paul Nagle of Shednet, to work in partnership with Cafe 50. To join in, no experience is necessary, although the groups are proving particularly popular with men in their 50s and above, who played in their younger days and are keen to pull their boots back on.

Julius Roszkowski, clerk of Pontyclun Community Council, which runs Cafe 50, said: “Walking rugby and football launched in February and have proved very successful, with around 20 players turning up some weeks. Some people are in work and some are retired. Most have commitments in some form and so they can’t come every week, but that doesn’t matter as you can dip in and out.

“The walking football takes place straight after the rugby, and most players tend to stay for both. The guys who come really enjoy the camaraderie and having a laugh, and as it’s actually quite an energetic activity over the course of an hour, it’s great for improving fitness.”

With coaching from the Hapi Project for the first four weeks, the groups are now looking at ways in which they can develop and are planning to join a walking rugby tournament in May with other clubs. Some players are interested in becoming coaches, while there are also plans to make the sessions as accessible as possible for visually impaired players and other members of the community.

Walking rugby came to Cwm Taf last year, with healthcare professionals recommending the sessions as a form of exercise to improve patients’ physical health and mental wellness. The Taff Ely cluster wanted to share the spirit of men sheds, which run clubs to put older men in touch with others in the same position, share hobbies and beat loneliness.

A tournament was held at Sardis Road in December, with former Wales captain Ryan Jones – now head of rugby participation at the WRU – and Scrum V presenter Phil Steele taking part, along with members of the University of South Wales’ women’s rugby team.

Walking rugby and football are among a range of activities started by Cafe 50 and attracting members of the wider community, including people from Talbot Green, Llantrisant and further afield. A film club is being launched this month, while partnerships with local businesses and Taff Ely Ramblers will see further social and fitness activities lined up in the coming months.

Taff Ely cluster primary care development manager Janet Kelland said: “The cluster is keen to support the setting up of initiatives such as this, to allow the community to introduce activities and groups around something that interests them. Through volunteering and more formal training where needed, participants can then continue to develop and support these for the benefit of their group and the local population.”

To join the rugby or football teams, just turn up at Pontyclun Park from 10am on Wednesdays or contact Cafe 50 on 01443 238500 / [email protected] for more details. And for further information about other primary care services and cluster initiatives, please visit www.taffelycluster.com.

Pontyclun players are on the ball when it comes to health