THE director of rugby of relegated Henley Hawks says the side “weren’t prepared” for the rigours
THE director of rugby of relegated Henley Hawks says the side “weren’t prepared” for the rigours of National League 1.
Despite sitting comfortably in mid-table in October, the team’s form dropped off as they finished bottom of the league and made an immediate return to National League 2 South.
Nigel Dudding says the league has improved since Hawks last competed there two seasons ago and more preparation is needed if they are promoted again next term.
Dudding said: “We are bitterly disappointed to be relegated. There was lots of early season optimism and by the middle of October we were mid-table.
“We felt competitive but injuries and unavailabilities conspired against us and we weren’t prepared for the whole season. In the end we failed pretty miserably.
“There were a lot of reasons for the drop-off in form. We found the going tougher than we thought, National 1 has moved on at a pace since we left it. Clearly we weren’t quite prepared to match those demands.”
The side’s poor form coincided with poor discipline, with a number of players picking up cards in matches. But Dudding says this was to be expected for teams scrapping at the bottom.
He said: “There’s probably a correlation between the sides at the bottom of the league and the number of cards.
“Frustrations creep in as you try harder to do things and there’s anxiety.
“That’s inevitable but I bet the statistics from the season before show we had very few cards.”
Dudding also admits that the Hawks may have relied too much on dual registration players from professional clubs including London Wasps.
He said: “The season before it worked superbly and meant we could rest and rotate the squad. There weren’t as many available this time around and it hit us pretty heavily.
“There was perhaps an over-reliance so we have to think of them as the icing on the cake. We don’t know yet what will happen next season but we are talking to Wasps and London Irish.”
Dudding says plans are “well ahead” for next season and he expects about 85 per cent of the playing squad to remain at Dry Leas.
He also expects coach Pete Davies to remain in charge.
Dudding said: “The playersÂ will have that experience of National 1 to take down to 2.
“We are also recruiting now and are talking to a number of players for next season. Pete will definitely be here next year and we are actually looking into increasing coaching.” Dudding also says youth will be given a chance and praised a number of youngsters from the Henley College who appeared for the first team towards the end of the season. He said: “Home-grown talent is always best and we have a very good relationship with the college.
“A number of those players made their mark at the end of the season with some remarkable performances and they have also been performing excellently in the second team, Henley Bulls.”
Dudding is confident of a promotion push next year and an immediate return to National League 1, where he hopes the team can avoid the drop.
He said: “The target is to get promoted and being in the top four would be considered a successful season. But National 2 will have moved on from when we were last there too.
“If we go back up we have got to make sure we are sustainable and prepared to compete and that may require more investment.”