We interview Team Solent Rugby member, Josh Berry to find out how the last season went for the squad. You can meet the team at this year’s Sports Fayre 2014 which will be held at the Guildhall Square on Thursday 25 September! Join the official event on Facebook.
Tell us how last season went for your team and did it reach your expectations?
This season was a lot tougher than we expected. When you’re trying to follow up from being promoted 2 years in a row it’s always going to get tougher in terms of standard levels. Some of the teams we have come up against in the Saturday league have been a huge challenge for us in terms of size and experience, but these games in particular are a huge learning curve for us a student/alumni team that is getting new players every year competing against those that train twice a week and have probably been team mates for years. Overall finishing 5th in the Saturday league is the start of something special, as it gives us another year in Hampshire League 1 for us to grow as a team and adapt to our opponents style of play.
Our season in the BUCS league could have reached higher expectations for everyone, fighting relegation is never easy when coming up against top sporting universities such as Exeter. Towards the end of the season, this definitely turned around, winning our last 3 games convincingly including games against Exeter university which was a real confidence booster.
How did last year’s Freshers settle in? Did you have many new joiners?
We did have a big turnout at trials this season, when you only have 1 BUCS team it’s tough having to turn down those that didn’t make the squad. For those that were selected the freshers have managed to settle in nicely, they have showed an outstanding level of work effort and commitment for the Wednesday BUCS team where they have been fighting for relegation. The main highlight for them was ending their season on a high, beating Plymouth University 114 – 5. It is also great to see certain freshers being selected to play in the Hampshire 1 League due to their stand out performances in the BUCS league.
Where did the team compete this year?
The squad this year has competed in 2 leagues, one being BUCS league Western 3A which is mainly made up of our freshers and 2nd year students; and the other being Snows Group Hampshire League 1, which consists of 3rd years and alumni (pretty much old boys). When competing in the BUCS league, a lot of travelling is required for these matches, having to travel to Exeter and Plymouth University. Hampshire 1 league tends to be more local, the furthest destination being the Isle of White.
Who can join the team?
We welcome anyone who has a keen interest in rugby to come and join us. Playing University rugby really does improve your performance as it can be a big step up from local club rugby. What is great to see in the Saturday team is that Solent graduates have decided to stick around and still play for the red and black, this is also including faculty members such as myself, Matt Bishop and Tom Morton. I do still think that we can aim to recruit more of the local alumni, as this will look to help the club grow in terms of numbers and experienced players.
How have the teams socials gone this year?
As I am now officially a Solent Rugby “old boy” I actually haven’t attended many socials this year, but for the ones I have attended, I can honestly say it still does not disappoint! When I started here at Solent University, our socials have always been an important factor, it’s something that brings the players closer together allowing us to gel together on and off the pitch.
What is a typical training session for Team Solent Rugby?
We aim to have 2 training sessions a week with our head coach Sheridan Easton and backs coach Tom Morton. The Wednesday team trains Monday evenings at Hardmoor sports ground, and the Saturday team trains Thursday evening at Test Park sports ground. A typical training session for us normally starts with a game of touch to get ourselves warmed up, followed by some dynamic stretching. We then engage in a team huddle to go over our recent matches played over the week, discussing positives and negatives. All basic drills we do for the majority of the session are always key factors picked up from our performances in recent games in order for us to improve; this was mainly our fitness levels and tackling at the beginning of the season. The final part of the session consists of us splitting forwards and backs, then coming back together for a run through.
What were the team’s toughest challenges to overcome this season?
The key factor that I feel affects all university teams is key players leaving, and new players starting every year. This is always a challenge as it’s hard for a team to gel together in such a short period of time. When competing in a Non-BUCS league (Hampshire 1), you can say it is very tough having to put out a team over the Christmas and Easter holidays due to the students heading home, however we did manage to deal with this. But overall our toughest challenge this season has got to be playing in a more competitive and higher standard league; some of the teams you come up against really does test your game ability due to their experience playing in Hampshire for a long period of time. I really do feel for our front row at times when they are coming up against 20 stone props in the scrum!
What are the plans in moving the team forward next academic year?
In terms of our BUCS squad for Wednesday rugby, you never know what is going to happen as you are losing a large majority of players every year. I’m sure that all university sports can agree with me on this; when you are recruiting at trials for freshers, you are praying to see some amazing players! Saturday league rugby is a huge growing factor for the university ever since we entered the Hampshire Leagues, and there is honestly no reason why we can’t eventually be competing in London League’s. As I am no longer a student but am still playing for them, it is just incredible to see how much they have developed as a performance rugby squad compared to when I first started as a fresher. All you can see is great things in the future for Team Solent RFC, if the commitment and mentality stays there; and of course if our head coach Sherry sticks around and leads us to the top!!