When I look back and reflect on what has been an incident-packed season at London Welsh, my overwhelming feeling is one of pride.
As has been well-documented, our preparations for life in the Aviva Premiership were well behind all the other clubs both in terms of finances available and depth of playing squad. Most pundits wrote us off as cannon-fodder, with a couple suggesting that we’d fail to win a game and would effectively be relegated by Christmas.
Well, thanks to a massive effort from everyone – players, coaching and backroom staff and everyone else connected with the club – we managed to confound the doubters and pick up a few wins and some much needed losing bonus points to leave us sitting a couple of places above the bottom at the turn of the year.
Unfortunately, the attritional nature of such a tough league as the Aviva Premiership really hit home as the season progressed, with injuries to key squad members and of course, the player eligibility issue really taking the wind out of our sails.
Whilst at the time I thought the five-point deduction hadn’t affected us, maybe subconsciously it had an effect as we were suddenly bottom. It certainly seemed to help galvanise Sale’s performances.
I looked around the changing room at the end of the season and could honestly say that everyone was a better player than at the start of the year, we’d evolved as a side and everyone had given it their all. And you can’t ask for any more than that.
What’s important is that the club bounces back from relegation and continues to thrive – in whatever form that may be.
I was really proud that we could finish the season with a win – our first bonus point victory! As it turned out, we matched Worcester’s number of wins this season. One more could have made the difference – we’d targeted six – and there were desperately close games like the home ties against Saracens and Sale that could have tipped the balance. But, that’s rugby. The Aviva is a really tough league and fine margins separate wins from losses.
Despite the relegation, we’ve thoroughly enjoyed the Aviva Premiership and feel that everyone has developed as a player.
On a personal note, I was delighted to pick up the Player of the Year, Players’ Player of the Year and Supporters Club Player of the Year awards at the end of season dinner. I thanked the boys for making it to MY awards evening! But must acknowledge that it really has been a great squad effort this year and I was so proud to lead the team over the season.
Now it’s time for a bit of sun, sea and sangria whilst reflecting on an amazing rollercoaster ride…