08:30PM, Thursday 31 March 2022
Maidenhead could have put their 'heads in the sand' and written the season off after losing two of their opening 11 London & South East Premier Division matches.
With the RFU having taken the decision to suspend all promotions and relegation following the pandemic - and with a new league restructure in offing this summer - Maids could simply have accepted the fate of a disappointing and challenging campaign and continued to play second fiddle to teams which looked to have the edge on them both physically and mentally.
Instead, they knuckled down in training, ripped up and revitalised their defensive shape, brought more depth to the squad through player recruitment, added a dedicated strength and conditioning coach and, slowly but surely, results have turned in their favour.
Since their 25-16 defeat to Brighton back in late November, Maids have won seven of their next 12 fixtures and head into Saturday's game at Sutton & Epsom as one of the division's form sides, having lifted themselves away from the bottom of the table and up to ninth, level on points with eighth placed Sidcup.
“The message is the same as it always was,” said Myke Parrott, the club's director of rugby.
“We’re not putting our heads in the sand and writing the season off.
“We're going to try and finish as high as we can. Hopefully the supporters can see what we’re trying to do.
“It looks likely we’ll finish eighth or nine depending on how we’ll do in the last three games.
“We finish with three really tough games and, absolutely, it would be amazing if we could finish the season well. It would help maintain and increase the buzz around the club. Saturday was one of the best days we've had as a club in a long time.
“All three teams had home games and we had 30 kids from the u6s, so we had a big crowd. The kids came on and did a running race against the first XV, it was a lovely atmosphere, and a big lunch as well, with three bonus point wins and a social afterwards. I’m really pleased in the direction we’re going in and hopefully take it into next season.”
He added: “Of course, that’s why it was so important we didn’t just rest on our laurels and write the season off in November.
“It was so important to address the areas where we need to strengthen because we knew that if we did finish the season strongly and had that momentum, and boys go away at the end of the season thinking we can compete in this league, or we’ve had a good second half, people start to hear that.
“We’ve already had players reaching out, saying they’re interested in playing for us next year and other sides. We had three teams out and I’ve just booked in a 4th team fixture which is brilliant. It’s great to buck that trend it really is.”
Parrott was also honest enough to admit that he and the club made lots of mistakes as they transitioned from the South West leagues into the London & South East Premier Division following the damaging COVID pandemic.
“I was always an honest player, and an honest captain, and I’m an honest DOR and I’m new to the job. I made mistakes, 100 per cent. I should have worked harder to add more depth to the squad early on, I took for granted or didn’t appreciate how many lads just wouldn’t be able to commit post pandemic. I should have got proper SNC coach in place earlier, rather than wait for October or November. So I’ve learned lots of things and it’s been a good learning curve for me and Mobbsy as well as the players.”
Visitors to Burnham Park Hall on Monday May 16 can undergo a ‘living with dementia experience’ as part of National Dementia Action Week.