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Recollections of a coach
A welcome to the Wanderdome – Pushing on following good early progress. After good progress and a couple of consecutive promotions I joined a team as Head Coach with huge momentum and confidence in 2009/2010 season after Christmas and saw the team comfortably secure promotion to Midlands 1.
Preparation for the 2010/2011 season was based on balancing all of the individual talent that the team had, fight and determination they displayed regularly with a an improved team attack and continuity. We knew that as we moved into the Midlands 1 league that defences would be more organised, we would have to work harder in defence and that in order to survive (or better) we would have to offer more threat.
The players engaged well and we introduced a more structured phase play which built on the relatively small and mobile pack of forwards and encouraged to play with an open mind and some risk. I could feel at time both players and supporters questioning this approach when we succumbed to an unforced error, turnover or interception but the players were buying in and we were getting results. After a successful first season we secured our place in the league, grew in confidence and proved that we were perfectly at home a this level.
The following season saw us build again and spent the early part of the season in contention for promotion but ultimately fell away in the new year with a slightly shallower squad than our title rivals but playing with continued bravery and a focus on attack and continuing to give young players the opportunity. With good scalps against the league leaders we had an appetite for another promotion and a debut in the national leagues.
Our reputation and camaraderie attracted other player from the region and 2012/13 season was our best yet. Neck and neck with the ‘well resourced’ old hales for the entire season we were pipped to the post for automatic promotion but secured a play of spot. The team had achieved that by sticking to its values of playing a loose attacking style but also being able to really dig deep and work for each other whn our attack was misfiring. This was epitomised non more than an away game against Lichfield where we suffered multiple injuries but came through to secure a win at the death.
Playoff day A Sunny day at the Wanderdome where the lack of facilities were made up for by pop up bars and a big crowd. It couldn’t have got off to a worse start. Our scrum and
line out had been faultless all season but we came up against a heavy and dynamic team from Ilkeston who scored twice early and looked a level apart from us. They raced to a 17 -0 lead. To compound this Si James broke his arm early in the game defending our own line and left us hooker less. I intentionally have not mentioned too many names but Russ Marsland who had been with the Wanderers throughout its journey epitomised what the club was about. He stepped up under huge pressure and took on the hooking duties.
What happened next was remarkable, phase by phase minute by minute we eaked our way back into the game and by full time had drawn it all square. We had momentum the lads believed and we knew that going into extra time we had to attack and score first. We did and our journey to the national leagues was completed.
I have been lucky to have experienced some special changing rooms with various teams but the feeling in the room of absolute joy, total fatigue and complete respect for each other is one I know those involved will never forget. We did it and we did it our way.
Aside from the players who evolved their games, played out of position, rotated for the good of the squad and bought into our philosophy there was a huge amount of effort that had gone in behind the scenes from Stu, Crawf, Gaz Owen and of course Sean who was very much a part of the success in April 2013.
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