Turned upside down’
probably where the rot started,” he says.
“But we haven’t been paying for a number of years, not least because we haven’t been able to afford to.
“We did reach a point where we were bringing in boys from outside Maesteg, because over the years it became harder to attract local players. A few seasons ago we were calling around other clubs in the valley, but what we were getting back was: ‘Nobody wants to play for you.’
“I don’t know why that was the message. Perhaps the issue comes down to our not having grown our own players over a number of years.”
He said: “I suppose you could say we’ve been complacent in that we probably sat back and expected what’s happened over the years to continue, namely that we would be at the top of the pyramid in the Llynfi Valley and players would want to come and play for us.
“But the pyramid has been turned upside down.
“Maesteg Quins have risen through the divi- sions. We lost players to them and they have built really well. They have boys who went to school together and they’ve been central to what the Quins have done. “That’s the way it goes. “That’s what league rugby brought in.
“It’s OK people saying it was better when there was no league rugby, but we wouldn’t have had the competition we’ve enjoyed over the years.
“The era of 18 clubs at the top of the pyramid wasn’t sustainable. That’s why we went to leagues.
“It has given clubs chances to compete at a higher level.”
Maesteg are not alone in finding life difficult in modern-day Welsh rugby, but their plight has shocked many because it doesn’t seem so long ago that they were a force in the game, drawing with the Maori in 1982 and finishing third in the Welsh Championship four seasons later, beating Neath and doubling Pon- typool when both were immensely powerful.
After the club made public their plans to regroup, former England and Lions hooker Brian Moore was among those to sympathise, saying via Twitter: “I used to use my experiences playing away at Maesteg as inspiration before England v Wales games – sad news.”
Phil Davies and Rupert Moon also sent wishes.
Farmer says: “It is worrying for Welsh rugby generally rather than just Maesteg, because the number of boys playing the game these days seems to be getting smaller in Wales.
“Also, 20 or 30 years ago, we’d have thousands of people watching us on a Saturday afternoon or under lights in midweek.
“Now there’s a lot more things for people to do.
“And that applies to kids as well. They have a load more leisure options.”
It is hard to remember a decade like it in the club’s history.
Two past players who featured for the Old Parish in their pomp, Gwyn Evans and Leighton O’Connor, are in attendance for the game with Ferndale.
Wales and Lions man Evans became a byword for loyalty, staying with his hometown club when he could have left for pretty much any other Welsh side of his choosing.
“It’s sad,” he says, “but it’s partly down to the way rugby is structured. We had protection back in the old days, but things change and you simply have to try to make the best of it.
“There are four really good clubs in the valley, but, for me, Maesteg should be the one that the three others feed to. “They have the facilities. “If we were able to get the four clubs in the valley working in a coherent way to get one decent side, we’d have a very good team at Maesteg. But, of course, not everyone will think that way.”
Wales B international O’Connor coached Maesteg twice after retiring as a player. The occasion against Ferndale is especially notable for him as his sons Luke, a full-back, and Lloyd, a scrum-half, are playing.
“It’s an emotional day,” he says. “But it’s a great opportunity for the boys to play for Maesteg.
“Nowadays, clubs do their own thing rather than look to help the one side, which is fair enough because they all want success. Perhaps Maesteg have been left behind.
“But they’re a great club, on and off the field, and I loved every minute that I played for them. We worked hard on the field and played hard off it. That’s the way it was in those days. Let’s hope they get back to those days again.”
The bad news for the club is that it’s a long road back. The good news is they have a plan, based on exploiting their under-16s and youth teams. “It’s the way forward,” says Farmer.
“There’s no miracle solution, but the will is there for the club to start climbing again.
“I have sat down with the youngsters and told them they are the future of this club.
“Last season was our 140th year and, yes, it’s great to have all that history to look back on. Unfortunately, history isn’t going to help us in the here and now or in the future.
“The good old days are not going to keep the club going for the next 140 years. So a hard decision had to be taken and, hopefully, with a steady flow of youth boys coming through we can build and those players perhaps will be the first team in a generation to call this club their club.
“That is critical, a potential game-changer.
“There will be opportunities for local boys in senior rugby with Maesteg.
“We are viewing this as a new beginning.”