The Twelfth Day of Christmas and the final day of the ‘Coventry’s Most Valuable Player’ poll results.
Today the winner who is finally revealed.
And the most valuable Coventry player, according to readers of this blog, is:
Drumroll please, Animal (in the absence of 12 drummers drumming)…
Well done, Jack!
As Peter Redhead commented yesterday, it was always going to take a special player to beat James Stokes in this poll…
…and that’s exactly what Jack is.
A special player.
Supporters can argue ’til they’re blue in the face as to who is the best player in the squad and still never agree and I guess that’s the same as far as this poll is concerned and who really is the most ‘valuable’ player to the club. Even the word ‘valuable’ is itself subjective and it’s worth remembering readers were asked to vote according to their own interpretation of what value is in this context.
Whatever differences of opinion there might be on that front, one thing’s for sure…
…Jack Preece is the best open-side flanker in the league,
Not one of, or even arguably.
Simply, the best (and I’ve avoided the obvious).
We knew when his name was added to the list of players brought in over the summer that he was highly-rated. He arrived at the BPA having just been chosen by his Moseley teammates as the Players’ Player of the Year at Moseley and had represented England Counties in February, alongside 5 Coventry players and another 3 who would be joining him at the BPA at the end of the season.
Three years ago ( the season ending April 2015), in a Rotherham side that finished a very creditable 4th in the Championship, Jack was also selected as the No.7 in the RFU Championship Dream Team (which also included Tom Kessell who was at Cornish Pirates at the time), picked by the coaches of the twelve Championship teams and for the second time at that.
Last season, Jack made the National One Dream Team, and in the burb that accompanied each player, he was described as :
a lot like Justin Tipuric – scavenging, tackling and stealing for 80 minutes. Preece established himself as a turnover specialist this season with unbelievable work-rate at the breakdown but it is his neat handling that sets him apart
some accolade, that.
Now I’m no expert at all, but for me it’s that ‘unbelievable work-rate at the breakdown’ that stands Jack apart from the rest, good as his handlings skills are. Neat? Definitely. But I wouldn’t have thought they were the defining skills that makes Jack the player he is.
The most impressive thing for me about Jack is the fact that he is so consistent, and consistent at a level where many even struggle to perform on their very best days.
It’s interesting how supporters have ended up choosing two very contrasting players at the top of the poll, with James Stokes being the archetypal playmaker and Jack Preece the ‘in your face’, ball-winning and ball carrying machine that just doesn’t stop.
And in many ways it’s appropriate that Jack should top the poll in the end as all too often it’s the players who score the tries who get the recognition and not the workhorses on whom they rely – although if Jack were a workhorse, then he’d certainly be no ordinary dray or draught/draft horse.
No, he’d be a magnificent Shire, a Clydesdale or a Suffolk perhaps, only without the punch.
And he’d most definitely be a rare breed…
Week in, week out, Jack is a constant thorn in the side of the opposition. He is relentless at times and has that great ability of being able to stay on his feet when he’s made the tackle, often resulting in the player with the ball having to hold on to it and thus conceding the penalty, or Jack ripping the ball free as he lets go.
It’s one thing to slow the attack down by putting in the tackles, it’s quite another to procure the ball as well and that is an area of the game that Jack has become something of an expert in.
To have a player in your side that can win 2, 3 or 4 turnovers a game is invaluable, especially if in doing so he can provide quick ball with the pace we have on the counter.
When I was in my teens watching the great Coventry sides of the late 60s and early 70s, it was always the artistry of Duckham, Preece, Evans, Rossborough and Cowman that captured my imagination. I’m somewhat ashamed to admit this, but the forwards, packed with big names too, like Fairbrother, Darnell and Cotton, they were just there to supply the ball to the backs.
It’s only as I got older and a little wiser that I really started to appreciate just how much ‘art’ is involved in much of what the forwards do..
…okay, it’s rather more Jackson Pollock than Auguste Renoir at times, but it’s still art nevertheless.
And amongst his peers, Jack is the consummate artist.
He’s got the perfect stature for a 7, similar to that of Neil Back (although perhaps an inch or two taller) and of more relevance to Cov supporters, Derek Eves. He’s solid and hard to put down and with a lower centre of gravity than most, he is less likely to go to ground. More often than not, when there’s a ruck formed, Jack will be somewhere near the centre of it, often with the ball in his his hands as he comes up for air.
At times the man is like a machine and he has an engine on him that just keeps going, a Rolls Royce engine in a CAT chasis.
Of his 12 starts this season (13 appearances in total), Jack has only been substituted on two occasions. He’s the ideal player to have alongside Latu Makaafi and, to some extent, Luke Narraway. Both are getting on a bit now and Latu certainly isn’t seen by Rowland as an 80 minutes man, so with only one back row replacement, Jack needs to be able to last the game. It’s one of the reasons I guess we’ve seen Scott Tolmie in the back row for the final few minutes on a couple of occasions this season.
But he’s also prominent when Cov push forward too, especially being a ball winner and providing the opportunity for Cov to counter and turn defence into attack. He’s also not averse to making the hard metres via the crash ball or the short pass off the shoulder of one of his teammates. On occasions, Jack’s strength will enable him to break the first tackle, or at least make the half-break, providing him with the opportunity to keep the ball alive and set up the next player whilst also turning the opposition in the process.
When Rowland announced that Jack was on his way to Cov, he described him as:
…a tough and skilful player who can also cover hooker, and he has been one of the stand out performers at 7 in the league
and from reading something John Wilkinson produced for the official website, it appears that:
he is ticked as one of Cov’s front row options every week on the match sheet
Whilst I wish no injury to either Scott Tolmie or Phil Nilsen, I have to say I’d love to see Jack play the last quarter at 2 just to see how he’d get on.
It appears that whilst he’s not man for all seasons (preferring Winter, obviously… 🙂 ), he is a man for all positions, having apparently also played several games last season at centre following a spate of injuries at Moseley:
Alex Grove picked up a few injuries and when Tim Molenaar and Greg King both got injured after Christmas, it was a case of needs must and I had four or five games at centre
Whilst Jack is only at the BPA on a one-year deal, you’d hope Cov’s current position astride the summit of National One will be enough to keep him here next season as well, given he is ambitious enough to want to get back into the Championship:
A return to the Championship is a definite target for Preece and, he says, influenced his switch to Butts Park.
“It’s one of the reasons that I moved to Coventry, they’ve got great ambitions to be there and see themselves as a Championship club, and it’s so far, so good at the moment.
They’re doing what they set to do, everything is going to the plan they set out at the start of the year, and they’re doing it very well.
Surely it’s ‘we’?
Although Jack is keen to get back into the Championship, in his first season at Moseley he stated:
It’s a very different club and I’m enjoying playing here a lot more than my last year at Rotherham this season
and in his last season with the Yorkshire club he only made five starts (with a further 9 appearances coming off the bench), which is probably one of the reasons why he felt he needed the move – both he and George Oram left Rotherham to join Moseley at the same time.
Another is that he clearly isn’t a great fan of Championship rugby anyway:
and the other thing I like about it is that teams play a bit more rugby than they do in the Championship. It seems to be more about scrums and mauls up there, and it’s much more enjoyable when everyone is trying to attack and get the ball wide
which is comforting to know because if he likes playing in teams that give the ball a bit of width, he must love it at Cov. One of the concerns I have about possible promotion into the Championship is exactly what Jack expressed above – will the game lose something in terms of the excitement and enjoyment we are now experiencing under the current coaching set up at Cov.
Read the following and you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s the words of Rowland Winter, but you’d be wrong.
At the moment I don’t think we are quite ready and are really pushing for promotion next year.
“But if it comes this time around, we would certainly take it and see how we went in the league above.”
It’s actually Jack Preece talking to JW about the club he currently coaches and once played for – Old Centralians. Maybe Jack is another player for whom coaching is a possible post-playing career option. Currently playing in South 1 East, Jack is hopeful that OCs could make a return before too long to the national league structure.
I think he might be pushing his luck as regards a double celebration at the end of this season, in which case good luck to the OCs for 2018/19…
I don’t think anyone is going to be too surprised at Jack’s position in the poll even despite the quality of those he was up against.
I’ve had a trophy engraved with his name which I’ll drop off at the ground next week and I’ll ask Jack if he wouldn’t mind forwarding a photo of himself with it so that it can be added to a later post.
Once again, well done, Jack.
It’s much deserved.
A massive thank you to everyone who took part in this, the third ‘Coventry MVP’ poll.
At a lean time of the season in terms of news coming out of the club, it’s really meant as a way of maintaining a bit of interest in Cov whilst other repositories of Cov news and views are a little quieter than usual.
Each year the poll generates greater and greater interest, so in that respect it’s been a success and hopefully has provided those who read the blog with something to look forward to over the 12 days of Christmas.
It’s produced some interesting results this year and I still can’t quite understand how players of the quality of Knox, Trimble, Litchfield, Nilsen, Daynes, Fenner and the like don’t feature, and that’s without including the injured players like Brazier and Poole. It just highlights the strength in depth within the squad at the moment, I suppose.
Anyway, back to business tomorrow.
The timings couldn’t have worked out any better, really.
Happy New Year…
Final standings – Coventry Rugby Club MVP poll 2017 (in reverse order):
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)
Day 10 – Scott Tolmie (3rd)
Day 11 – James Stokes (2nd)
Day 12 – Jack Preece (1st)