At the half way stage in the season Gaz Lewis reflects on our return to National 2 North and looks forward to the New Year…
At a time of reflection as Head Coach I am obviously reasonably happy with our position in the league table. Despite some very narrow losses earlier in the season we have had some outstanding performances. To a man everybody has played their part so far and long may it continue.
Following out ‘invincibles’ season it was essential we looked into the mirror and recognised how we needed to improve. The gulf between the National 3 North and National 2 North is vast and as a coaching group we were fully aware we needed to develop our game plan further and condition the group for the physical demands of stepping up a league. Recruitment and retention of players is a huge and often unseen part of the operation. Enormous time and effort is put in by key personnel to ensure not only do we conduct ourselves in a professional manner but continue to select on character not just playing rugby ability.
A lot of work has been done behind the scenes and we have an incredibly driven squad. In recent seasons I think we have created an environment in which players can thrive. With this is mind we recruited the vastly experienced Adam Blades, the returning Declan Thompson, strong ball carrier Joey Carly and one of our stand out players so far Dickie Piper in the forwards. Following the departure of top point scorer Chris Bell we brought in Jonny West, Will Milner and the Yorkshire Carnegie young guns Harry Davey and Ollie Fox on dual registration deals. Every single one of these boys have bought into our culture.
The lads regrouped for preseason training on 27th June and were put through a punishing preseason programme. Together with an adaptable game plan and a big focus on the fundamentals of the game such as set piece and defence we prepared to test ourselves against the brutalities of National 2 North.
Opening round defeats against South Leicester, Hinckley and Tynedale emphasised the fine margins between victory and defeat. However, the importance of team spirit can often be overlooked and this togetherness and belief in one another came to fruition on the 23rd September when we finally got the monkey off our backs with a resounding 22-13 victory over Macclesfield.
Although away wins had been hard to come by with a draw at Otley and defeats at Stourbridge and Chester, like buses they come in two’s. An excellent opening away win at Sheffield was backed up with one of the best performances on the road in my time as head coach at Leicester Lions. The post-match celebrations were something to behold as the lads (and dads) celebrated long into the Huddersfield night (Jonny ‘The Melted Wheely Bin’ West has only just got out of his Dinnington Dog house).
Two weeks ago the Huddersfield faithful witnessed an epic encounter between ourselves and Sedgely Park. The game resembled a boxing match as both teams traded blows. With ten minutes remaining we were eight points down but the resilience and character of the players saw them turn it around and snatch victory from the jaws of defeat with minutes remaining.
In the opening fourteen rounds we have seen a team with real attacking threat and a hard, uncompromising defence coupled with a solid set piece. They enjoy each other’s company, have a work hard, play hard philosophy and go out on a Saturday intent on creating even more memories. Last Saturday’s victory in the South Yorkshire snow was clear evidence of this.
What you see on a match day is only the end product. What many don’t see is the hours on the training ground, age grade coaching, monthly squad meals and social interaction the lads have created in developing our club culture together.
Support home and away has been nothing short of immense. It is greatly appreciated by the players so please keep up the encouragement.
What we have is special and EVERYONE plays their part. UP THE FIELD!!!
Have a wonderful Christmas and Happy New Year.