Sometimes I get to feelin’
I was back in the old days – long ago
When we were kids, when we were young
Things seemed so perfect – you know?
Better sit back and go – with the flow
Cos these are the days of our lives
Queen – These Are The Days of Our Lives
One of the most exciting things about the influx of the new players last season was the addition of the four player coaches.
These were players who were reaching the final stages of their careers, who had all performed at the highest level of club rugby and beyond and who still wanted to continue playing, whilst also being keen to get involved in coaching so that they could remain in the game once retired.
For Cov supporters, more used to the norm of a Director of Rugby (or equivalent), supported by several coaches who tended to be ex-players (Dave Addleton, Pete Glackin etc), this was innovative and seemed to complement the youthfulness of the rest of the squad assembled by Rowland Winter.
Yes, we’d got used to Scott Hamilton’s input the season before, but that hadn’t really worked out as intended. The idea of having such a wealth of experience playing alongside a group of talented, but relatively inexperienced youngsters (at National One Level) was an intriguing one.
The four players in question, James Pritchard, Brendon Snyman, Boris Stankovich and Brendan Burke all had a real rugby pedigree and it soon became obvious that they were having an immediate impact. In particular, Boris and Brendon helped create a set of forwards that became increasingly dominant in the first half of the season, with Boris’ influence as a coach being obvious from the start. Snyman was more influential on the pitch and both quickly became key members of the match day squads.
They were the first of what Paul Smith, he of the Coventry Telegraph, would later term the ‘Coventry Galacticos’ – the big-name players in the squad who attracted the most attention. This season, it’s the likes of Tuitupou, Makaafi, Nilsen and Narraway, together with Grove, Brazier, Oram and Preece who have come in and caused the rest of National One to sit up and take note
Sadly, Snyman’s career as a player/coach at Coventry was cut short after he was undone by his own indiscretions, at least that’s how it appeared to those of us on the outside, although in fairness the club has always remained tight-lipped as to just why it was Brendon Snyman left.
James Pritchard had his moments as a player, but as defensive coach his aura waned a little as we shipped too many points in too many games and the Old Albanian game in December, a game in which we won by the odd point in 85, saw him relieved of his position and indeed his contract.
Brendan Burke, however, has played all too infrequently, and it was as the backs’ coach that he excelled, with Coventry producing some hugely impressive displays with the backs playing the kind of attacking rugby that we hadn’t seen since the days of Will Hurrell. We’ve only had glimpses of what he must have been like as a player in his heyday, especially in the pre-season games in 2016, but what we saw was enough to make us realise what a talented player he must have been in his pomp. A number of supporters who watched him play against Cambridge at the weekend commented on his ability still to control a game, and that’s after not having played a full game for well over a year…).
Boris was never going to stay for more than a couple of seasons and Cov was, in a sense, the victim of the success our pack had enjoyed under his guidance – the legacy of which still remains.
Last man standing is Brendan Burke and alongside Matt Price, he seems to be doing a great job coaching the Development Academy players, although I think Matt is more heavily involved mid-week at the moment.
An injury to Boris at around Christmas meant that for the second half of the season none of the player coaches were available to play.
Four great players, four very different stories.
So some successes and some disappointments, although in terms of their input as coaches/players, the only appointment that didn’t really work out was that of James Pritchard.
Without the coaches on the pitch, at times we lacked players who could control a game and, where necessary, slow the play down and play possession rugby to see out the win. Some of the games we failed to win away from home last season we lost because we lacked real leadership and experience on the pitch – Plymouth, DMP and Blackheath spring to mind. Even the home loss to Hartpury might have been avoided had we had a couple of older, wiser heads on the pitch.
When I mention leadership, I don’t mean the kind that Phil Boulton has brought to the team (and what a great decision that was to make him captain last season in the absence of Eoghan Grace and Tom Wheatcroft)
No…I’m referring to the kind of leadership that just comes with experience, the ability to lead by example, to keep a cool head under pressure. There are few better examples of this than in the game last weekend against Hull…14-3 down after the first 15 minutes, last season we might have panicked and shipped more points, but instead we just kept our shape, stuck to the game plan and won the game up front which enabled the backs in the second half to enjoy a lot more space to work in. Players like Narraway, Makaafi and Preece, one of the best starting back rows I can remember in a long, long time, made a huge difference.
And then we had Brett to come on off the bench….
Eight of the new signings played on Saturday and whilst not all of them were 30 plus by any means, they were all experienced, with at least nine players who had played representative rugby for their country in the starting line-up and another two on the bench. It’s along time since Cov were able to boast a stat like that.
And it might well have been more…
Rowland Winter spoke several times last season about the youthfulness of the squad and the need to add some experience to it and, having seen the difference that seasoned players like Stankovich, Snyman, Pritchard and Burke had made early on, in he brought Tuitupou, Makaafi, Narraway and Nilsen…all 30 plus and probably expecting Coventry to be the last club they’ll play for before hanging up their boots as professional rugby players.
Others, too, were recruited, the likes of Grove, Dacres, Oram and Brazier, all experienced but with many years of rugby ahead of them, so their situation is slightly different.
And what a difference these four senior players in particular are making already. They are players with proven track records, until this season all playing at least Championship level rugby and all highly regarded and respected in the rugby community. It’s still early days, but we’ve seen enough already to understand why RW was so keen to bring them in and it is clear that not only are they still fit enough to play at this level, they are also highly motivated and, most importantly of all, have come here to win promotion for the club.
These are battle-hardened warriors who will bring their experiences of having played with some of the best players in the country to Cov – and we can only be stronger for it.
Their arrival is really no more than a variant of the player/coach experiment last season. Sure, they won’t be coaches in name (with the exception of perhaps Luke Narraway), but they will be working closely with some of our less experienced players and in the best of all possible places to do it…on the pitch and in real match situations.
I was a little unsure as to how much of an impact these players might have when rumours first circulated that several big name players were on their way to Cov. I do feel guilty saying that, but those with long memories will remember Cov has brought in players with big reputations in the past, only to have their fingers burned – remember the fanfare that greeted the arrival of Will Johnson, Martin’s brother and a Leicester and England player himself?
Hardly a success that one…
But the only regret I have now is that in the last couple of years we’ve seen 8 players at Cov, all of whom have played successfully at the highest level of club rugby and even international rugby in some cases, but approaching the end of their careers. What would they have been like as 27/28 year olds, in the prime of their rugby playing lives? What a sight that would have made, especially wearing a Cov shirt…
Which leads me to ask the question…
Which of the more ‘senior’ players who have come to play for Cov in the last two seasons would you most have wanted to see play for Cov in their prime?
You can only choose one of them…the reasons for your choice are entirely personal – it might be the impact that player would have on the team or just the joy of watching them play on a weekly basis.
Any one of them would have been a privilege to watch, but if only had the one choice, who would it be?
I was in two minds to include Phil Nilsen because, at 32, he’s younger than the others, but he is one of the big name players to come to Cov this season, having been included in the Greene King IPA Championship Dream Team last season, the year Carnegie reached the playoff final. He might not thank me for including him, but it is purely out of respect and the hope that he finishes his playing days with Cov.
I am so not looking forward to bumping into him in the next couple of weeks)…
Better sit back and go – with the flow
Cos these are the days of our lives
As with all the blog polls, all you need to do is click on the circle next to the player of your choice…
So, which player would you most like to have seen playing at the peak of their career and wearing a Cov shirt?
Following a post a couple of days ago in which I mentioned how much supporters would appreciate the chance of watching recordings of Cov’s games, perhaps made available to members only via the club website ( What do points make…? ), I was contacted by Stuart Linnell, who will be a very familiar name to anyone who has listened with any frequency to local radio over the last 20 odd years.
Stuart is passionate about his sport and is really excited about the potential rugby has in Cov at the moment. He felt that the link Cov now has with Coventry United could well be very useful with regard to the live streaming of games, and presumably (and this is an assumption on my part) to the recording of games, or at least the highlights, for supporters to watch at a later date.
Coventry United, and I have to own up and say I wasn’t aware of this, already stream live video of their home games (and possibly their away ones, too) so presumably they have the necessary equipment required to get something similar up and running for Cov Rugby…?
Or if they don’t possess it, they know someone who does.
Now I’m sure it’s not as simple as just filming a game and streaming it live onto the club website, but the fact that Cov United are able to do it, with substantially small crowds and presumably on a pretty small budget, must make it worth investigating?
It might be that the two clubs have already been in discussions on this subject, in which case I can only apologise for intruding, but it is something that would be of interest to a large core of Coventry supporters, including the many hundreds who follow Cov from afar. Live streaming might, I guess, impact on attendances which is such an important part of the club’s revenue, but that doesn’t mean the club couldn’t make a bob or two out of producing a library of recorded games.
Anyway, Stuart kindly passed on contact details of contacts involved with Cov United who might be able to go into the details of how the streaming works, should Cov be interested – I’ve passed those on to the Supporters Club to do with them what they will.
Would there by much interest in having either live streaming of Cov games or the opportunity to watch recordings of previous games to watch at home, rather than at a set date in the clubhouse which is, to a certain extent, self-limiting?
Yes, I think there would be, and for both the National One and Zoo Sports’ Shield games, although I accept I have no real evidence to back that up, other than anecdotal.
Anyway, many thanks to Stuart for sharing the information.
At least it has raised the question as to whether the streaming of live games is possible – there’s no harm in enquiring.
Here’s hoping it is…if not soon, then at some stage in the not too distant future.
A very gaunt and ill-looking Freddie M singing These Are The Days of Our Lives, recorded here when he was in the final stages of his battle with AIDS