Day 9 of the Coventry’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) 2017 poll results and this time it is 4th place that is up for grabs.
And you voted for:
And somewhat surprisingly Will is the first player from last season’s squad to appear in this year’s top 12 thus far, improving on his sixth place overall back in 2016. It’s testament to the way supporters have warmed to a player who was arguably only the second choice no 10 at the start of the 2016/17 season behind Tony Fenner but who, by April of this year, had been voted Players’ Player and Supporters’ Player of the Season.
And at the end of last season Rowland Winter perhaps paid Will, and Tony Fenner too, the biggest compliment of all by deciding that the position of fly half wasn’t one that he needed to strengthen over the close season. In came some big names in some key positions in the team, especially in the second row, back row and midfield – recognition that they were areas where greater experience was required.
No so at fly half.
Yes, the very talented and rather unlucky Ben Palmer has come in and at most other National One clubs he would have been playing regularly in the first team, but not at Cov. He’s come in to cover for Will and Tony Fenner, should it be needed, but as yet Will has remained an ever-present in the match day squad.
Surely, Ben will get his chance before the season ends?
Will has come a long, long way from the time he first played for Cov back in 2011 as a young and very promising 19 year old.
I remember him clearly back then, a rather tall, rangy fly half who played intermittently over the 3 seasons he was with us.
However, when he did get the chance he impressed, always looking to get the backs running and even back then being a better distributor of the ball than most in the league at that time. His kicking out of hand was probably the weakest part of his game, lacking distance in particular, something he seems to have worked on a great deal over the time he was elsewhere.
He never really got a decent run though, making only 21 starts and a further 8 appearances off the bench in the three seasons he was here and it’s incredible now to think that given the way he seems to accumulate points for fun these days, he only scored 24 points in total in those three seasons combined.
To put that in context, Will has played all 15 games so far this season, starting in all but one of them, and has already amassed 149 points. Last season he played in all 30 games (the only player to do so last season) scoring 244 points in total, ending up the second highest points scoring in the league, just 21 points behind Rosslyn Park’s Harry Leonard and had he not understudied Tony Fenner in the opening few games of the season, he would undoubtedly have come out on top. And Will is at a slight disadvantage playing for this current Coventry team as, more often than not, the option to kick the 3 points from a penalty is shunned in preference for the kick deep into opposition territory and ubiquitous catch and drive from the resulting lineout.
How many more points would Will have accumulated had we played it safe all the time?
And whose to say that with half the season still to go, Will won’t break the 300 points barrier this season although in fairness he’ll be hard pushed to beat the 2013/14 record set by Cliffie Hodgson of 367 points?
Will has benefitted to a certain extent from a series of injuries to Tony Fenner over the last couple of seasons, but in doing so he has made the position of fly half his own for the time being; no mean feat when you have a player as good as Tony F in the squad.
But gifted as Will his, he also trains phenomenally hard. Such success doesn’t come without plenty of hard graft and on the Thursday sessions he’s always out early practising his place-kicking and he’s one of the last to leave at the end, usually winding Scott Tolmie in a kicking contest of sorts.
He’s also out early on a match day and he’ll take practise kicks from all angles. It’s taken years of dedication to reach the level he’s now at, but along with all that hard work he also seems blessed with what appears to be nerves of steel as well.
To a degree, our home record only remained as good as it was last season because of the wins achieved by last minute penalties/conversions delivered from the boot of Will Maisey – who can forget the nerve-jangling finishes in the games against Plymouth Albion, Old Albanian and Birmingham Moseley before Christmas.
I think everyone has at some stage in the last couple of seasons worried that, given the time Will takes in his ‘run’ up to reach the ball (and I use that term in its loosest sense), at some point he’ll get chased down by one of the opposition wingers on a lucrative bet with his team mates.
You know he won’t, or at least you think he won’t, but that doesn’t stop you fearing the worst.
I get stick from a few guys that I walk too slowly to the ball and take too much time, but I quite like the way I do it – it adds to the excitement!
I have to admit, more often than not when Will takes a penalty or conversion, I’m silently singing an adapted version of Wigan Athletic’s ‘Will Grigg’s on Fire’, the terrace chant that caught the imagination of the nation last year, reaching no. 10 in the charts.
It might not have the greatest of lyrics but everyone knows the tune and had we crowds in their 000s I’m sure it would catch on – as it is, it should definitely go on the list of ‘Great Cov Songs That Never Were’.
In my head, Will’s amended version goes something like this:
He will score points, Will will score just more and moreHe will score points, he will score them allHe will score points, Will will score just more and moreHe will score points, he will score them allHe will score points, he will just score more and more.
He will score points, that’s what we signed him for.Will Maisey’s on fire, your defence is terrified
Will Maisey’s on fire, your defence is terrified
Will Maisey’s on fire, your defence is terrifed
Will Maisey’s on fire, na na na na na na na na na na na
…hardly inspiring until you get Mark Harrison leading the Cov faithful in a rendition of it to the unoriginal Wigan Athletics’ ‘Will Grigg’s On Fire‘ tune which os another of those ear-worms that just stays with you all day. Be warned.
If you play the clip, I bet you can’t help but replace the words with Will’s name:
…can you imagine the bar after the game in which Will scores the winning points to take us into the Championship…?
Heck, even I’d be in the middle of all that!
The stuff of dreams – or maybe not…?
Thinking about it, change ‘points’ for ‘tries’ and it would work for both James Stokes and Scott Tolmie as well.
By concentrating on Will’s kicking, I’ve done him a slight disservice for as good as his kicking is, there’s so much more to his game. Granted it’s what most supporters will focus on initially because it has won us so many games in the past season and a half, but what makes Will such an exciting player to watch is that he is always looking to get his backs running and he’s the best distributor of the ball in a Cov shirt that I can remember for a long, long time.
I was a massive fan of Matt Jones when he was at Cov and Matt arguably managed a game better than Will does at present, but Will certainly has the edge on him in terms of his distribution and he always seems to be able to open up spaces through judicious use of a range of passes he has in his repertoire.
In the likes of White, Brazier and Kessell. Will has benefited from having scrum halves who feed him quick ball and give him either room to make the break himself or to work space for his team mates to run into. For me, he’s more of a running fly half than we have been used to and whilst too often in the past we have tended to kick away good ball and rely on the chasers to put pressure on the receiver, Will doesn’t seem inclined to do so. I guess that is as a result of the instructions he’s under, but, for me, he is at his best when Cov are moving the ball forward.
I got the impression from an interview with John Wilkinson last season that whilst Will loved being at Cov first time round, he didn’t feel he got the opportunity he felt he deserved:
When I was first here I felt that my face didn’t really fit. I felt I had a few good games in my final season, but I was dropped without any real reason and then I found it hard to get my way back into the side. I felt I deserved a chance, but I was out of favour
With coaches now around of the calibre of Nick Walshe, someone who is regularly given credit by the players for helping them improve their own game, Will seems much happier these days and from what he says here, it seems that Nick W’s influence goes way beyond simply the confines of the training ground. That says as much about Nick W as it does about Will and is another example of the support players are being given at Cov these days.
I think that comes down to working with Nick quite closely…he spends a lot of time during and after training, even out of training – we’re on the phone quite a lot during the week – and he’s constantly letting me know what’s going well, what I can improve upon and how to improve, and then I try to take that out on to the field.
Under the currently coaching set up, Will says that:
I feel I’m performing more consistently, and I understand what I need to do in my personal performance to achieve that consistency week in and week out.
That understanding of one’s own personal performance seems to be a feature of the support that Rowland Winter and Nick Walshe have put in place and whilst supporters were never privy to the way the previous management team worked, it does seem as if everything is that little bit more professional these days, with players far more aware of their own targets and those of the team.
Elsewhere, Will has said that one of the things that has helped him better understand his own game is having to feedback to the coaches himself, rather than them to him – that self-analysis was something that RW said he would bring to the coaching set-up when he first arrived and it appears the players find particularly motivating.
Whatever it is that the coaches are doing at the moment, it certainly seems to be working for Will:
Confidence is one of the main things and the fact that I’ve got so many good coaches here at the moment, just guiding me along, helps so much
Like all players, Will is keen to challenge himself at the highest level and in every interview that he’s had with JW he’s mentioned how he would like to test himself in the Championship again, only this time with Coventry Rugby Club.
When he left Cov, Will went to Nottingham and had a season there and whilst he only made 9 starts he also had a further 10 games off the bench, scoring 89 points in total, a far better average then when he was with Cov in that first spell and reason to believe that 3 years on and having considerably improved all aspects of his game since then, he might well be right when he says:
I’ve had one season in the Championship, I really enjoyed it and I feel I’m capable of playing at that level.
And best of all, Will wants to do that with Cov:
I’d really like to get back there and it would be amazing if it was with Coventry – it’s the first club I was really part of, it’s my local team and the one I want to see doing well.
Now wouldn’t that be good….?
Current standings – Coventry Rugby Club MVP poll 2017:
Day 1 – Anthony Mototo (12th)
Day 2 – Phil Boulton (11th)
Day 3 – Heath Stevens (10th)
Day 4 – George Oram (9th)
Day 5 – Sam Tuitupou (8th)
Day 6 – Latu Makaafi (7th)
Day 7 – Nile Dacres (6th)
Day 8 – Luke Narraway (5th)
Day 9 – Will Maisey (4th)