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Blog prediction results…player loyalty…Man of the Match v Hull…the Supporters’ Club

Back in July and August I invited readers to take part in a glorified end-of-season prediction, involving a number of areas relating specifically to Coventry’s performance over the season, both on and off the pitch.

Those who took part had to predict:

1 Total number of Coventry tries scored.                          
2 Total number of tries conceded.                                       
3 Tries scored at home                                              
4 Average home attendance                            
5 Highest home attendance                                 
6 Most points scored by Cov in a match  
7 Most individual points scored in a match                     
8 Total number of league points scored by Cov  
9 Total points scored for Cov                                            
10 Total points scored against Cov                                      
11 Number of bonus points won by Cov                      
12 Number of points scored by leading points scorer  
13 Number of tries scored by leading try scorer  
14 Total number of yellow cards conceded        

Tie break question: What will be the official home attendance vs Moseley 

Entries had to be handed in before the first league game in September.

There was no science to it and no great knowledge required of the team or individual players – it was just something designed to get the old grey matter working a little over the pre-season and something that could run the duration of the campaign.

As I said at the time, it certainly wasn’t one for the purists but it might provide some interest to those who like a bit of a speculative gamble whilst also providing a bit of interest at key moments over the coming months, having agreed to give updates every 10 weeks.

Initially, I have to admit the idea was hatched as an easy way of getting a fiver off Sam (I trust he hasn’t forgotten that bit of the deal), but I subsequently decided it would be good to open it up to others – and a fair few people took up the challenge!

As yet, I still have to work out just how those who entered have fared and whether it is in fact me who owes Sam the money.

However, I thought it might prove interesting to include the final tally in each of the 14 predictions. Just to sound a note of caution, unless it’s been confirmed either by John Butler on the Messageboard or on the official website, I’ve had to use either the NCA data or rely on rolling-maul.com and both are not without their limitations.  Surprisingly the NCA website has Coventry’s attendance this season at 21625 which seems to include the 3758 from Saturday, some 7500ish short of the actual figure.

Anyway, I’ll leave the data up for a couple of days before I start to look at the entries so as to allow time for anyone to challenge it. After Thursday I’ll go with what is included here unless otherwise amended.

To those who took part, I’ll email everyone with the final results – there is a small but extremely sought-after trophy for the winner whom I’ll contact directly to arrange delivery.

The results, then, were as follows:

NOTE: Many thanks to Bill H for spotting that the ‘Most individual points scored in a game’ column should read 19 and not 17, scored by Will Maisey v Esher. Statbunker had it down as 17. Apologies! Great spot by Bill…

Plenty of talking points there really and it’s pretty clear from the stats how we tailed off in the final third of the season, although fortunately it was more a case of the final 5 games rather than 10. That said, other than the most points scored in a game and the most individual points scored in a game (which I think were both achieved in the one win), Cov improved across the board on the figures from last season.

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One of the things that has most impressed me this season, and indeed last season as well, is just how close this group of players actually is.

There’s a real sense of camaraderie amongst them and I’ve not been aware of any unease or disappointment from within when players haven’t been selected. For much of this season, Rowland Winter has picked on form, certainly after Christmas anyway, and although injuries have meant that one or two fringe players have got important game time, there have been some notable players left out of the match day squad.

And that can sometimes make for a little dissention in the ranks – and I think it’s fair to say it has done in previous years.

The 2015/16 was one such an example. There was unease expressed by some of the players who were brought in by the then Head Coach Phil Maynard. The squad was heralded as one that would be a potential league winning one, only for the club to quickly find itself deep in the midst of mid-table mediocrity. There were all sorts of rumours of player dissatisfaction, rifts in the squad and a lack of opportunity.

Phil Maynard and Scott Morgan were unlucky in some respects because they did suffer a fair few injuries, especially in the back row, but even so a number of players  left (the likes of Sam Baker, Courtney Roberts* and James Tincknell for instance) whilst others didn’t feature as much as might have been expected (including Pete Weightman, Ryan Hough, Devlin Hope and Adam Parkins, although not everyone would be in agreement there!).

(*Courtney Roberts eventually returned to New Zealand following a serious incident at Broadstreet but arguably he shouldn’t have gone there in the first place, having produced several notable performances early on in the season).

Now there’s an argument to say that perhaps the players mentioned weren’t of the calibre needed to win us promotion – a fairly strong argument as it happens – but that’s hardly the fault of the players, being more down to the inability of the coaches to bring in the quality needed to improve the squad from the year before OR an overestimating of the ability of those they did recruit. Whatever the reasons behind the failure of the players coming in to make their mark, the general agreement amongst most fans was that it wasn’t the happiest of squads.

Two years on and the situation is completely different. This season, outside of Jimmy Litchfield and Waita Setu, most of the players who are leaving at the end of the season are doing so because of work commitments, injury or retirement and not for reasons of lack of opportunity or ability. I think it’s a fair bet that had Brett Daynes, Alex Grove, Anthony Matoto, Andy Brown and Tom Poole been able to stay on, the club would have welcomed them on top of the 23 or 24 who look to be staying on. In terms of retention, that’s pretty darn impressive.

Jimmy L has stayed with the club despite playing a lot of DS rugby and has remained an important member of the squad right up to the final game and has spoken publicly of his affection for Cov. Waita has also remained extremely loyal, although sadly injury has robbed him of the chance to stake a claim for a place in the team next season.

Cliffie Hodgson, Eoghan Grace and Tom Wheatcroft left early on in the season, but even then when it was clear that they weren’t going to get much game time, the club did its best to ensure they found other clubs quickly and with a minimum of fuss.

Probably even more surprising to me is that a number of players have remained at the club when it seems likely that they will have fallen further down the pecking order with the announcement of new players arriving from clubs in the Championship or Premiership.

Take the fly half position for instance. Both Tony Fenner and Ben Palmer would walk into most, if not all, match day squads in National One and yet they are probably down to third and fourth choices for the 10 shirt next season. Both can play elsewhere in the back division, but I think it says volumes about the spirit in the current squad that two such gifted players are willing to stay on and potentially do battle  with Jake Sharp and Will Maisey for a starting spot, or even a place on the bench. The expectation, from me anyway, was that one or other would chose to move on to get regular first team rugby elsewhere.

(I actually think Fenner might prove to be a better 10 in the Championship than in National One if he can remain injury free but that’s for another day.

You can’t buy that sort of loyalty, it has to be earned and Cov seem to be a club that looks after its players extremely well these days.

The same could be said of someone like Dave Brazier who will most likely be behind Pete White and an incoming scrum half, or Tom Jubb who will have to battle two new players coming in at 4/5, Adam Peters who can play in the back row as well as lock, Nile Dacres, George Oram, Cameron Gray who will be pushing for a place next season and who knows who else?

The lure of the Championship must surely an important factor in deciding to stay on, but equally so is being part of such a special squad that has already achieved so much together. Loyalty again, but this time to each other, perhaps?

There’s also opportunities to play second team fixtures against decent opposition and probably some Championship Cup games, although that’s by no means a certainty given the quality of the senior squad and some of the youngsters currently coming through the Development Squad or who are being brought in for next season.

However, probably an even bigger pull than any of those is the influence of the coaches.

Nick Walshe and Louis Deacon are proven not just at this level but also well above, with Walshe having been at Gloucester for a couple of seasons and Deacon having worked successfully in the England set-up with the U20s. They’ve taken what was a relatively young squad two years ago into the Championship in just two years, supported by some shrewd additions like Makaafi, Nilsen, Narraway and Tuitupou who have had a far greater impact than many would have imagined back in August.

And then there’s the Winter factor…

It must be hard to keep 30+ talented players on board all the time, even when things are going well.

However, not only does he possess the vision that was  needed to radically overhaul a club that was in serious decline when he took over on June 2016, he has also proven himself to be a great man-manager. He’s happy to make the difficult decisions and have those uncomfortable conversations that so many of us shy away from – the summary dismissal of Brendan Snyman was evidence of that – but he also seems more than able to keep his players happy, even when they’re not playing. He appears is able to command the loyalty of his players not by words but by deeds. It’s a rare gift but players seem to respect him and want to play for him whilst enjoying their rugby too.

I imagine that’s why the likes of Dave Brazier and Ben Palmer are staying on. They believe that by being here they will improve as players, even if the opportunities to play first team rugby are going to be even harder than they were this season. The challenges will be greater but if you have trust both in yourself and in your team mates and coaches, then most challenges are surmountable.

There might well be other reasons too that I haven’t thought through, but I really did think we would lose more of the current squad than we have done, not because they aren’t up to challenges of Championship rugby but because they just would be content at having to be possibly third or fourth choice behind some big name players next season. I think it’s fantastic that they have committed themselves to the club for another year or two and shows just how strong the spirit amongst the players is.

And that might be a real plus next season when things don’t go their way quite as much as has been the case this season.

I realise there might be a fair bit of disagreement on this, given it’s all down to conjecture, but I thought I’d just blog out loud, as it were…

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The results of the Hull Ionians Man of the Match poll were as followed:

  1. Will Maisey – 24%
  2. Rob Knox – 21%
  3. George Oram – 15%
  4. Jack Preece  – 11%

A reminder that on this occasion, being the final game of such a tremendous season, the sponsors gave the Man of the Match to the whole team.

Cop out or right decision?

The clue’s in the name for me.

Will Maisey breaks through the defence on his way to scoring Cov’s opening try. Does anyone else think it looks as if Tom Jubb is holding hands with the Ionians defender…? (Photo courtesy of John Coles…)

Congratulations, Will and thank you to everyone who voted.

Whilst all three of the above players outside of the top spot had strong games, Will scored 13 points, including what was a pretty special individual try that opened the scoring and settled the nerves somewhat.

I had wondered if Rob had done enough to top the poll – he, too, scored a fantastic solo effort and given this was his 100th appearance as well, I thought he might just get the nod, but in the end it was the all-round game of Will that seems to have found most favour with those who voted.

Once again, both George Oram and Jack Preece have figured in the top four. Certainly they are two of the most consistent performers in the polls this season and they must be contenders for the Player of the Season, both Supporters’ and Players’ I would imagine.

Many thanks also to those who have taken part in the other polls over the course of the season. By no means a true reflection of how everyone at the game might have voted, they do however give a sense the way the decision might have gone had it been up to the supporters and not the sponsors.

There have been games where over 250 people have taken part, so they have been a popular feature of the blog this season and they’ll probably make a return next season as well, although in what form I’m not sure.

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Just a final shout out to the Supporters’ Club.

I’d just like to add my own very personal thanks to all members of the SC Committee for all that they do behind the scenes to make the supporters’ experience so much better one# than it might otherwise be.

Not forgetting everything they do to support the club as well – the equipping of the medical room for starters.

They meet regularly and I know that they are in regular contact with each other, working on various ways of further improving the benefits that supporters already enjoy through the Supporters’ Club.

The current committee give of their time selflessly and have worked closely with the club to develop even stronger links and some of the changes we have seen over the past year or so would not have come about without that partnership.

I know membership can now be renewed for next season and new members are always welcome. For further click here: Coventry Rugby Supporters Club

Great stuff and long may the SC continue, its role will become even more important as we move into the Championship.

Thanks everyone…

Tim

To Steve, Phil, Rich, Quent and absent friends – thank you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6 replies »

  1. Tim, I much appreciate your blog and always take the opportunity to read it and vote on the MOM polls. Regarding the blog prediction competition results, I think number 7 – Most individual points scored in a game should be 19 (Will Maisey away to Esher scored a try and 7 conversions). Interestingly, this is less than the 21 points scored by Mr Penalty Try against Fylde at home.

    • Thanks, Bill, thank you for your kind words. And that’s a great spot! Statbunker awarded the try to Emery but in the official website it’s down to Will Maisey. Will amended…hugely impressed!

  2. Tim, To me your comments and observations have been an important part of the enjoyment of following the team both home and away throughout this championship winning season. Thanks and have a nice break.

  3. There was a wonderful atmosphere of inclusivity at the post match celebrations on Saturday. No one was forgotten. From the head coach to the volunteers. That could be why everyone wants to be part of next season and more. Well done to all, and great reading in the blog. It’s helped me reconnect with Cov.

  4. And thank you Tim. Your blog is a great addition to the Coventry Rugby experience and something I always look forward to reading. It is full of information and thoughtful topics and a bit of fun. MOM poles are always interesting and I enjoy being able to cast a vote.

    • Thanks, Alan…it was a great occasion and as you so rightly point out, the inclusivity from top to bottom gives the club that real family feel. The excitement seems to as great off the pitch at the club as it is on it. A fantastic season capped off by a real celebration of all things Cov.

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