THE BIG INTERVIEW: Planning for a big season in National 3 with Bury St Edmunds
- Credit: Archant
The nervous excitement of a year ago has been replaced by a quiet assurance at The Haberden.
On September 7, 2013, Bury St. Edmunds were preparing for their first shot at National 3 rugby on the back of 100% record that saw them lift the London 1 North title that previous May.
A big crowd turned up on a sunny day in Bury to herald a new dawn, only to see the bubble burst by Old Elthamians who left 36-30 winners, despite a late salvo from the hosts.
If there had ever been any doubt about the increased quality of opposition that Bury would face, it was quashed in that first game
What followed for players, committee members and supporters alike was a season of learning that turned boys into men on the field.
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“I am not sure we knew what to expect, there was a bit of nervous excitement,” recalls Hogg, whose team start their season at Gravesend tomorrow. “We knew it was going to be more difficult and it proved to be a learning curve on the pitch.
“The big thing we picked up was about the attrition at this level and perhaps we did not have the quality in depth. That is something we have tried to address.
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“From the club’s point-of-view, we had just come off of an unbeaten season and I think it took a while to get used to losing a game.
“People learned to be realistic in terms of their expectations and we adjusted very quickly.
“That said, we do have ambitions, we want to move on and we hope to do that this year.”
Jack Heald has arrived as head coach and Northampton Saints’ academy coach Jon Curry now working with the forwards.
Despite losing two of last season’s star performers in Ben Radmall and Casey Stone, the club have boosted their ranks with a mix of overseas talent, players from the RAF and, most significantly 10 junior academy players.
“In losing Casey and Ben, we probably lost two of our first XV but a positive thing for us is that we have brought in a number of junior academy players, as well as young recruits from around the region,” explained Hogg.
“From a club point of view, bringing through junior players shows that the pathway is working right the way through, while the likes of Josh Goldspink and Shaquille Meyers are young players that have come in from elsewhere, who have featured at a higher level and have that experience and age that was maybe missing last year.
“We have also worked actively to recruit some overseas players with UK/EU passports and they have brought in to play in key positions. Hopefully they will allow the younger players to develop and leave a legacy behind when they depart.”
SIGNIFICANT NEW FACES
“Loma Kuvalu has come into play in the back-row. We have also brought in a young player from Ipswich called Connor Adams, while we have Sean Davis too,” said Hogg.
“Loma will help develop those younger players and in a year’s time, when he moves on, they will have hopefully benefitted from his experience.
“Sergi Lzagueri is a Spanish under-21, who we will do a lot of work with over the first half of this season. After Christmas he will hopefully be pushing a bit more towards the first team.
“Platon Moisiadis is a Greek international and we have the opportunity to develop players like him, for whom the standard of coaching is perhaps not as high back home.
“Hopefully he will return home a better player for it.”
OFF THE PITCH
Hogg explained: “We want to make sure we work at as high a level as possible.
“ It’s nice to know that we are at a level that certain clubs in the region aspire to be at and we are aware that they are on our coat tails.
We are always looking at ways to improve and the challenge is to be better than last season.”
ON THE PITCH
New head coach Jack Heald gave his verdict on pre-season and his hopes for this season.
“Fundamentally, last year was relatively successful but we want to improve on that and we have good strength in the squad which helps with competition for places.
“That improves the training environment and the intensity, because they know if they don’t perform, there is a player ready to take the jersey off their back.
“Our job as coaches is to manage the players’ expectations. Some will have a few chances, some will have one or two. They have to take them.
“The majority of teams in the league will be looking at a finish in the top-four or five but we are going to know The serious contenders after the front end of the season has finished.”
Hogg added: We need to raise our consistency and need to get in a habit of winning six or seven on the bounce, rather than winning two or three then losing two or three.”