Playing Record : P34, W23, D3, L8, Pts for 528, Pts against 101.
Club Captain : Billy Bancroft
Leading Try Scorer : George Davies 13
Leading Points Scorer : Billy Bancroft 59
Capped v England : Billy Bancroft
Swansea RFC 1st XV 1896-97 Season.
Back row : W Messer, W Hill, J Evans, Geo Davies, Hopkin Davies
S Rice, WJ Williams, D Mainwaring, W Grey, HW Morgan.
2nd row : A Jones, WJ Bancroft (captain), FJ Gordon
Front row : D James, Dan Davies, E James, Robert Thomas
At the AGM of summer 1896 W J Bancroft was elected as captain. A position he was to retain for five consecutive seasons. His experience of the post as a stand in the previous season and as elected to the position in 1893-94 stood him in good stead. He inherited a squad growing in confidence and ability but ‘Northern Poachers’ were about again. Would his best players be kept at St Helens?
The game at this time was constantly being reported to the welsh Union through the violence of some players to each other and to the referees as well as the refereeing decisions. This is a picure familiar still today though perhaps not to the same degree. ( see news cutting in 1892-93 season entry). The WRU Minute Book pages of 12 November 1896 records comments from Swansea Club’s President James Livingstone: “A letter was read from Mr Livingstone with reference to the rough play now introduced by football teams generally & calling apon referees to meet out punishment unsparingly, but no resolution was passed thereon.”
Bad weather meant a choppy ferry crossing to Barnstable in October for The Whites (except Bancroft who hated boating and went by train) and a draw resulted in the first match of the West Country Tour. But Devonport and Cornwall County were both defeated and Swansea remained unbeaten by the end of the month. Neath were beaten by four tries to nil but the unbeaten record came to an end at the end of November at the hands of Llanelli with David James injured in the process and absent for several weeks.
With further injuries to forward Fred Scrines and stand off Evan James, a dip in form ensued. This season saw the illness and retirement from the office of Secretary to the Welsh Football Union of long time Swansea servant W H Gwynn who died shortly afterwards. The Western Mail of January 7th 1897 noted that the Swansea Club had undertaken to maintain W H Gywnn in Bridgend County Asylum where his family had been maintaining payment till December 31st. This was recognition by the club of his services to the Swansea club (he was captain twice and remained in a coaching / administrative role) and services also to the Welsh Union where he was the first paid Secretary till illness forced his resignation.
By the time of the end of season game against Birkenhead wanderers, the successes of the early part of the campaign seemed distant although only eight games had been lost. Eight more than last season had been won. George Davies was the top try scorer with (13) and Bancroft top points scorer again (59).
This season saw Wales play only one game in the Home Internationals as Ireland and Scotland were in dispute with the Welsh Union over accusations of professionalism due to the Welsh Union sanctioning a testimonial fund to Newport’s Arthur Gould. This seems now a drastic reaction but then, with the newly separated English Northern Union on a path leading to professional rugby, lines were drawn and opinions hardened. The Irish fixture was however, resumed the following season. Wales beat England (11 – 0) at Rodney Parade.