Wales international Dan Baker had an 11-hour change of heart about joining Merthyr and moving to Aberavon instead.
The three-cap player was completely ready to hand over to the ferocious, only for him to review things before putting a pen on paper and decide to bond with the wizards after his departure from the Dragons.
“I saw the a story in the press for me, Tavis Knoyle and Josh Lewis will go to Merthyr, ”said Baker.
“I went there but I signed for Aberavon.
“Why did I change my mind?” I’ve worked with their coach Jason Hyatt before and I like how he trains and I like him as a person. He is honest, positive and enthusiastic.
“Also, Aberavon is only 10 minutes down the road from where I live, not 40 minutes.
“And I like them as a club. I played for them when I was with the Ospreys and I really enjoyed being there. I know a lot of the guys, like Joe Thomas, Rhodri Hughes and Sam Williams, so I’m looking forward to joining them and enjoying my rugby again. “
Baker was able to prove a significant choice for the Wizards.
He showed when he started for the Dragons against Ulster earlier this year that he can continues to operate at a high level, with his 14 carries overnight seeing five defenders beaten and 67 meters made for his side. There were also 12 tackles and no misses. Later, Sean Holley mentioned him in the same sentence as Scott Quinnell – “moving with fairly fast feet”.
Sure, the 6ft 2in, 17st 13lb No. 8 remains a tough man to stop and someone who almost guarantees to give a team a go.
But the Dragons chose not to restrain him.
“They have a lot of players in their back row, and they’re all good quality,” Baker said.
“When I went there, their rugby director Dean Ryan actually told me they signed me because I was proposing something different.
“But then I barely played.
“I only had two starts in the year and a half when I was there. I thought I did well in those games.
“I played against Ulster earlier this year and thought it was going well. I had the indoor Dragons man-of-the-match award but the next game I played just 10 minutes against Munster in a game we lost by more than 60 points It is difficult to change a game in 10 minutes.
“I obviously didn’t like the way Dean and the Dragons wanted to play. I was told I needed to get up and faster. Dean is right in his opinion, but my clothes were pretty decent and I base my game on that. I will always do my best to record high tackles and when I played against Ulster in my only start to the season, I missed nothing in defense. “
“I don’t know if they didn’t like me or the way I played.”
Despite anticipation of playing for Aberavon, Baker is less than impressed that he is leaving professional rugby. “I’m desperate because I’m only 29 and a lot of people I know tell me I can still do work.
“It simply came to our notice then.
“I just thank Abera for showing interest.
“I haven’t decided what to do with rugby. I signed up when I left school, so I know nothing else. All I know is rugby. It will be something new and different; I hope you like it. ” You can read more about Baker here.
Baker is not the only Welsh international released by the Dragons this summer, with Adam Warren also leaving. “I feel sorry for him,” Baker said.
“He’s a great player and a great guy, and then he comes in.”
You can read how Adam Warren was sidelined by the Dragons at the last minute here.
But at least there is an opportunity waiting for Baker. “I’ll stay fit and I’ll try to be faster,” he said.
“I don’t think I’m going to change too much at this stage, but I’m going to try to get better. I’d like to think I can carry the ball – I’ve been playing like this for a long time and it got me some Welsh caps. “
He has no doubts about his best coach at the regional level. “Steve Tandy was great,” he said.
“Allen Clarke was good too.
“What I liked most about Tandy was his honesty. He was always truthful and told boys how it was, but he also tried to help you. I played a lot under him and enjoyed it. We had an identity and knew how to play. “
It’s too early for Baker to be leaving the pay-per-play scene, but he feels he will enjoy playing for Aberavon and there’s every chance he’ll be proven right.