The new life of the Chief, the cult hero finished with rugby until the phone rang

If Dale McIntosh was under any illusions of what life would be like coaching Brecon, he didn't have to wait long to find out.

"I knew it was different up here when I turned up to training and there was a John Deere tractor in the car park! One of the boys had driven to training in that and then had to shoot off home to the farm," said the Chief.

The Pontypridd legend took on the role at the mid Wales club two years ago, after leaving Merthyr. Since then, the two-cap Wales international has inspired back-to-back promotions.

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When the Welsh Rugby Union introduced a competitive National League Structure in 1996, Brecon found itself competing in the basement Division 8 Central. Now, amid changes in the Welsh game, the Parc de Pugh club will be playing in the Premiership next season.

Of course, McIntosh could so easily have not taken the job at Brecon.

"I was giving up rugby," admits McIntosh. "I finished at Merthyr to look after my mother, who was ill back home in New Zealand.

"I had to redirect my focus on that. Rugby was way down the pecking order. Brecon gave me a phonecall and asked to meet, saying would I be interested in taking them up the leagues. I actually said no at first.

"When I got back from looking after my mother, I was in a bit of a void so I said I'd do it, but I wanted to bring my two sons in. Through being in rugby myself, I'd missed my sons playing.

"I owed it to them. That was one of the reasons I was finishing at Merthyr, to watch them play. They're good boys so they fit in well.

"They've made new friendships and forged great relationships with the Brecon boys. They enjoy their rugby. The boys appreciate them as men and rugby players.

"They know me as well, so they know I'm committed and they don't piss about with me. They know what's expected of them. They've really enjoyed it and hopefully they'll continue to enjoy it.

"With Brecon, we discussed realistic targets, which were to go up every year until they were where they felt they wanted to be. It's all worked and paid dividends.

"We've had to work on the buy-in on the way, because a lot of people in Brecon are stuck in their way. They're used to playing rugby at that level and it's a huge commitment for these farmers.

"They're hard-working, honest guys and they've got to make a living. That commitment has to be weighed up. It's a lovely part of the world, they're lovely people."

In their first season in the Championship West this year, Brecon lost just two matches. Heading into the final day, they still had a chance of winning the title - only for Narbeth to pip them.

In going from Division 1 East to the Premiership, McIntosh has leaned on the locals while bringing in some outside talent - including former Wales and Cardiff hooker Kristian Dacey.

"Kris will be staying on," adds McIntosh. "A few injuries this year, but he's looking forward to it. We're just needing a bit of strength in some positions as you need that more as you go up the levels.

"Smaller towns and villages won't have that unless they accept having people from outside. When Andy Powell was coaching, they accepted that a little bit but there's still a bit of controversy.

"I'm just bringing good players in and the boys at Brecon know that. They soon forge good relationships and that's why we're all enjoying it."

However, despite that, McIntosh still feels there's untapped talent to be found in Powys, although there are naturally challenges as you move up the leagues.

"That's what we spoke about," he continued. "We felt that we didn't want the Powys boys to have to go to Merthyr or Pontypridd to achieve their goals, like in the past.

"We wanted them to be able to play at a very high level in a Brecon jersey. That's where we were originally on it and where we still are.

"Unfortunately, winning is a very complex thing. It takes a lot of commitment and lot of hard work, going to some very dark places. You need to commit but these guys are hard-workers - they're farmers.

"Their lifestyle is important to them. I had to try and make sure the rugby blended into their lifestyle. I'll tell you now, I'm losing a player this year who would be one of the first on the team-sheet.

"But we've got such a relationship that he wouldn't want to sell me short. He owns two farms and he just couldn't do it with the work involved. He's 28 but he can't commit to it. That's life.

"We need to look at where we are in this Premiership and, although we're excited about it, wonder whether we've gone a step too far. We'll soon find out. Personally, I don't think we have.

"I'd never take someone to waters that they couldn't swim in. I know for a fact we'll be fine in that league and we'll challenge. We'll have to bring some players in, but it'll still be a huge contingent of Brecon and Powys players - far, far more than any other club in that division."

When McIntosh announced he was stepping down from Merthyr two years ago after six seasons in charge, he did so with real fears for the future of the game in Wales.

Now, we stand on the brink of another big change, with the introduction of a new Elite Domestic Competition to sit between the professional game and the Premiership.

That new league is the reason Brecon find themselves in the Premiership, which now falls under the community umbrella, next season - but McIntosh still has strong views on the new competition.

"It's interesting to say the least," he says. "You've probably heard this from everyone, but the EDC isn't business feasible.

"They're not going to survive on the amount of games they're playing. The WRU will have to rethink that without a doubt. it's committing business suicide.

"I understand why they're doing it, they're trying to use it as a launchpad for younger players. But I'm big on these senior players being involved. The likes of Nathan Strong, Dafydd Lockyer and Craig Locke. When Alun Wyn Jones was younger, he looked up to those senior players at Swansea.

"I don't agree with it. I think there's a role for the senior player, as long as they understand their mentoring role in the squad. We'll soon see. I know the division we've gone into will be a tough division.

"You've got teams like Merthyr, Pontypridd, Neath and Bargoed in there. I don't think Pontypridd should be there, they're better than that. That's my opinion but I'm a Pontypridd boy. I think things will have to be reassessed. 14 games - seven home games - for me isn't enough.

"If you're a sponsor, you're thinking what am I getting out of putting in for that many games? I don't know if it's the right thing to do. I like a mix of young and old. I think sometimes you need a clip across the ear.

"It makes them better people and rugby players. Maybe I'm a bit old school, but it's never done me any harm having a thick ear!"

That said, the fact that some of McIntosh's former clubs won't form part of the EDC does at least mean Brecon are guaranteed some cracking matches next year.

"It's going to be unbelievable," he adds. "I said to the boys after our last game at Ystalyfera that they'll know what rugby is when they walk out at Sardis Road and they're calling you all the names under the sun.

"That's when you'll know about it! That's what rugby is. But we'll get them prepared for it, but until it actually happens, they won't know what's coming.

"But there's three great teams in this league, then the likes of Bargoed, Cardiff Met and Narbeth. It's going to be a great competition and we're excited about it, make no qualms about that."