It comes as no surprise that Callum MacBurnie had a ‘few other options’ available to him at the end of the season. Most clubs in National 1 at least would interested when a player of Callum’s experience and ability comes onto the market.
But in the end he opted for Cov and I, for one, am delighted he has.
I imagine there must have been a temptation for him to move on, given the disappointing season Coventry have endured; a season that has mirrored his own and one severely disrupted through injury.
John Wilkinson’s excellent article on Callum, hopefully the first of several to feature players new and old who will be with us next season, served in many ways as a reminder of just what we’ve been missing for much of this season.
We’ve seen a fair few players tried out in the centres since September – Knox, MacBurnie, Tincknell, Hutchinson, Worth, Hodgson, Smith and Woodburn (!) immediately spring to mind – but for me, the two who stand head and shoulders above the rest are Knox and MacBurnie. It’s small wonder, therefore, that Rowland Winter has retained the two of them in the belief that they can be central to his attacking game plan over the coming season.
Whilst Hurrell, Knox, Rundle and Lespierre took most of the plaudits last season, Callum was in many ways the lynchpin that held the backs together. Extremely reliable in defence, he seldom misses a tackle, has excellent hands and a quick, sharp mind that is in tune with those around him.
If play breaks down, it’s seldom because of a MacBurnie error.
Every team needs a Knox, and for every Knox a team also needs a MacBurnie.
It’s a centre pairing to build a back division around…and with Dan Rundle literally waiting in the wings, it’s looking as if this season’s woes will be quickly forgotten come September.
And it’s not difficult to see why Callum has decided to stay. There is already a nucleus of a back division approaching that of the 2014/15 season, with Cliffie Hodgson, Sam Smith and Caolan Ryan to throw into the mix. Ryan has been impressive when playing at 15 and a fit Cliffie Hodgson could make a welcome return to the fly half position vacated by Matt Jones.
Ok, we’re unlikely to recruit another player of the calibre of Will Hurrell, but the new DoR will doubtless be bringing in players to complement those already here and given that he intends to bring with him as style of rugby that involves:
energy, high-tempo, moving points of attack, all-round skill sets to attack at every opportunity
it seems pretty certain that the backs will be far more involved than they have been this season.
It must have been music to Callum’s ears when he heard this and so unless there was a particularly tempting offer from elsewhere, it must have been an easier decision to remain at Cov for him than for some of the others in the squad, or at least for those who had a decision to make.
I’d was surprised to read that this will be Callum’s sixth season at Cov. Sixth!
If someone had asked me I would have said 3 or 4 at the most. Where has all the time gone? And at 26, he still has his best years ahead of him.
In the Coventry Telegraph article, Callum seems more than happy that there will be an additional weekly training session, adding that one of the reason’s Coventry haven’t been as competitive this season as they should have been is perhaps down to the fact that:
we haven’t had the squad together for more than two nights. If you can get together three times a week it is always going to be better
He clearly is a player who is committed to improving himself and he adds that he has been given areas to ‘work on’ over the summer. An even stronger, fitter Callum MacBurnie is something to really look forward to.
One of the most interesting things to come from the article can be found towards the end of the piece when Callum says:
it will be an intense pre-season, everyone has to buy into what is wanted.
And whilst I’m sure he’s in no way suggesting this hasn’t happened this season, I do wonder sometimes whether this might have been a problem with some of the players early on in the campaign. The season started with Phil Maynard and Scott working together, with probably Phil the more proactive in bringing in players. There was talk every early on in a difference of opinion ( I can remember even as early as the Cardiff game in August) and then Phil was moved sideways and Scott was given the title of Head of Rugby. Whatever the reason, it must have been unsettling for the players.
Callum says that the squad has been in limbo for 6 weeks or so over the appointment of a new DoR, causing uncertainty amongst some of the players regarding their positions in the club come April.
However, even as early as September there appeared to be some strange selection decisions with players seemingly confused by what was happening on and off the pitch – and although I do accept that is just a perceived opinion on my part, it is one that has been shared elsewhere, too.
That’s why I think that Rowland Winter’s dismantling of the present squad and the assembling of what amounts pretty much to a new one, with a few ‘old’ faces, is the right thing to do. Any player or coach signed by the club will have met with Rowland and will have listened to his vision – they will not have signed on the dotted line without buying into it and that gives a far more solid foundation to the squad than perhaps was the case this season.
And because there seems to have been a greater openness about the way things are being done in the last few weeks, as a supporter I, too, understand some of what that vision is – certainly far more than I have done over the last couple of seasons. And I am also being given the option to buy into it as well.
Okay, I accept that I’m given the choice to do so every season but the point I guess I’m trying to make is that this year, more so than in many recent seasons, I also know what it is I’m buying into.
And that’s strangely empowering. I just feel I know what to expect and can judge the team, the coaches and RW accordingly once the season starts to get under way. It adds a degree of accountability into the process which hasn’t been here this season because in truth I haven’t really known what style of rugby Cov have been bringing on to the pitch.
It’s certainly a refreshing approach and the fact that the intention is to play an open and expansive game next season is going to endear him to many supporters. If you’re contemplating splashing out £168 on a season ticket, then the thought of watching Callum MacBurnie bossing the midfield and unleashing the likes of Rob and Dan makes it a lot more palatable.
The prospect of another season’s rugby similar to that which we’ve watched this season might have deterred a few from digging so deeply into their pockets.
It’s great to see Callum has pledged his faith in Coventry for another season and that he still has ‘unfinished business’ at the club, something which hopefully refers to Cov’s pre-season hopes of promotion rather than as it actually sounds, like a line from ‘Mack the Knife’.
You know the one:
There’s a tugboat, huh, huh, down by the river don’tcha know
Where a cement bag’s just a’drooppin’ on down
Oh, that cement is for, just for the weight, dear
Five’ll get ya ten old Macky’s back in town
Mack the Knife
Well ‘old’ Macky is, indeed, back in town next season and the Coventry squad will be all the better for it…especially when he scores the winning try to beat his former club, Moseley, should they be joining us in National 1 next season…
…now there is some unfinished business – for Coventry supporters, if not for Callum. He comes across as being less of an extrovert than some in the present squad, but maybe he’s going to turn out to be something of a silent assassin under Rowland Winter…?
Our very own Mack the Knife…
And , if for no other reason than it’s such a classic, here is Frank Sinatra’s version which is my personal favourite, although the purists tend to go with Bobby Darin’s..